Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“ויטע ה’ א-הים גן בעדן מקדם“
“Please HaShem answer us on the day we call out to You!… Be joyous and be glad on Simhat Torah!”
The joy of Israel reaches its peak with the joy of the Torah, our covenant and unity with HaShem, causing us to be truly close to God on this day, and indeed ‘the King will answer us on the day we call’ (Ps. 20).
The poskim root the ‘mitzvah’ of joyously commemorating the completion of a book, tractate, etc. in Torah to Abayei’s statement in the Talmud: ‘when I saw a Torah scholar complete a tractate I would make a holiday for the Torah sages’ (Shabat 119a). Why is the completion of a matter in Torah so connected to joy?
Aside from joy attached to Torah learning in general, as it says ‘the laws of HaShem are straight, gladdening of heart’, we may also point to the concept of ‘completion’ as being an additional component to the outburst of joy at such occasions. In general, it is important to note that the concept of ‘completion’ takes quite a dominant role in Judaism, such as the obligation to prefer blessing on a ‘complete’ and whole piece of bread, fruit, etc. first, even if of poorer quality, over a sliced piece of bread, fruit, etc., even if they are of better quality. We can explain the concept of ‘completion’ by the concept of unity, saying that only something that is complete and whole has the quality of oneness and unity, for a matter that is missing something, no matter how small, is still not ‘one’ with the matter it is missing.
In this way, Shaar Hahatzer explains the drama in regard to the burial of Yakov in Maarat HaMachpela, saying that the clincher of claiming the Maarat HaMachpela for the Jewish People was the burial of Yakov, ‘the Patriarch of completion’, whose offspring were completely accepted as the Jewish People (unlike Avraham – Yishmael, Yitzhak -Esav). As pointed out in last week’s issue, the concept of completion and unity is crucial for the true achievement of joy. Therefore, when Israel completes the 53 portions of the Torah on Shmini Atzeres it is no wonder why this day is so well-known after the joy of the completion of the Torah, ‘Simhas Torah’, on this day.
Indeed, the Zohar points to these 53 portions as being numerically equivalent to the word ‘Gan’, a matter that is reminiscent of both the last and first portions of the Torah. The last portion culminates these 53 portions, and the first portion Breshit teaches us about what happened in ‘Gan Eden’, the Garden of Eden, and about its aftermath. Furthermore, we can say that one can reach such bliss and joy in the study of the Torah, that one experiences a type of ‘Gan Eden’ in one’s lifetime.
In Hebron, the Entrance to the Garden of Eden, all these ideas come together, as Hebron means unity conveying the messaging of completion, and also hints to the Torah, as we are taught: ‘Hebron – this is Torah, for one who occupies himself with it is called a haber.’
Real Stories from the Holy Land #92:
“One Erev Shabbos I didn’t have enough money to make provisions for Shabbos, so I turned to HaShem in prayer for help. Soon after, someone turned to me and asked to give one of the avreichim in my yeshiva a 1000 NIS, and I ‘happened’ to fit in this category…” (A.B.S)
Sources: Igros Moshe O”H II, 97, Shulhan Aruch O”H 168, 1, Shaar Hahatzer 370, Tikunei Zohar 29b, Zohar Shlah 160a