A few months ago, I finished a novel that I had been living with for quite some time. Weighing in at 720 pages, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was both of sufficient length and sufficient intensity – a meditation on one man’s ability (or lack thereof) to overcome serious trauma and abuse – that the story had really gotten into my soul and settled there. When I eventually turned the final page, I felt a palpable sense of loss.
My professor, Dr. Steve Brown, used to say that Judaism should have a blessing for completing a book in the same way that our tradition has blessings for so many other life experiences. When we encounter something profound and inspiring in the natural realm – a rainbow or a large body of water or a particularly beautiful tree – Judaism provides us the words with which to register our awe and appreciation. When we encounter the same in the creative realm – be it a majestic piece of literature or music or art – we often feel moved by a similar impulse for gratitude and praise.
This Monday night begins Simchat Torah, our annual celebration of the Five Books of Moses. Unlike when completing a work of fiction, we perhaps can feel somewhat less at sea when reaching the end of Deuteronomy for we immediately roll back and begin again with the creation narratives of Genesis. And unlike with fiction, too, tradition does supply us with words to say upon completing Torah as a whole and even upon finishing each individual book as we recite hazak, hazak v’nitchazek – be strong, be strong, let us strengthen one another! I like to think that these words capture the same brief sense of sadness that I felt when closing Yanagihara’s thick tome so many weeks ago. We can feel a bit glum upon finishing a book that we have come to love and so could use a little bit of extra strength to persevere.
We hope that you will join us Monday evening at 5:45 PM for our free Simchat Torah dinner followed by Ma’ariv services and hakafot beginning at 6:30 PM. Dancing will be led by Academy grades K-8, each of whom has decorated a life-size version of one of the letters in the words Simchat Torah (in Hebrew) with which to begin their assigned processional. There will be singing, shtick, and lots of fun treats. All ages are welcome!
The festivities then continue on Tuesday morning when we will be honoring three very special individuals as our hattan Torah, the groom of the Torah selected to take the final aliyah of Deuteronomy, and our hattan and kallat Bereshit, the bride and groom of Bereshit selected to take the first aliyah of Genesis. Jonathan Lehrer, chosen for his incredible dedication to our High Holiday choir and leadership of our congregation as past-president amongst many other involvements, will serve in this first role and will be escorted down the aisle under a beautiful chuppah (wedding canopy) as we celebrate his service to our community. Gabe and Annabelle Jacobson will next enjoy similar treatment, as we thank them for their contributions to Social Action, Ritual, Ushering, Men’s Club, and Sisterhood in addition to being ever-ready to help us make minyan whenever called upon. Please help us to fête these worthy honorees and to celebrate our congregation’s abiding love for Torah!
I have read a number of different books since finishing A Little Life and yet that one, somehow, still remains with me just a little bit; such it is when we read something that truly touches and moves us.
I look forward to seeing you over the holiday and wish you Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Annie Tucker
|Oct 26, 2016||A Little Life||Rabbi Annie Tucker|