Simchat Torah – Rejoicing in the Torah
Moriah Taasan-Michaeli, first year fellow in the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL)
A few nights before the festival of Shavuot I had a dream like none I have ever had before. One of the thoughts running through my head while studying that week turned, in my dream, into a real learning issue to be tackled and contemplated. I awoke and felt I had stumbled upon something which I simply had to develop further. A few nights later the scenario repeated itself, and an idea I started toying with at noon materialized – during the course of my nightly visions – into a workshop dealing with matters of family purity, a topic far more important than anything else, as far as I am concerned.
I exert great effort into the study of Torah, which requires ceaseless investment on my part all year round just to scratch the surface. Although I rarely let myself delve into the depth of the ocean of Torah to taste new wisdoms – it suddenly dawned on me that Torah study has become an inherent part of me, my very identity, the material of which my dreams are made and an integral part of my daily routine, and for that matter, my nightly ones too. This realization was an enlightening experience – one of satisfaction, joy and love. I derive satisfaction from what I do; I take joy in the potential it holds for me, and feel great love for Torah study itself. I suddenly felt firsthand what the Mishna in the tractate of Avot meant by “…. make yourself fit for the study of Torah, for it is not simply inherited…” Laborious work, intensive study day after day, and often nights as well, ‘made me fit’ for the study of Torah, and turned me into a vessel capable of containing Torah and its teachings.
Moreover, the act of studying which started off as a “mission” to be accomplished during the course of the year, slowly but surely turned into a beloved hobby, so much so that it became easy for me to put aside a book I was reading or a movie I was watching and revert to the study of Torah from the mere thought of expanding my knowledge. But not without some frustration; if I had initially thought that following a year of intensive study in the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership I would feel more knowledgeable in Torah, lo and behold: the more I studied and the more deeply I delved into Torah, the more I came to realize the truth which lay in the ancient words expressed by those far wiser and greater than me – Torah is infinite. The more you try to grab, the more you are made aware of how little you know, how much more there is still to know, and how many things you might never come to know. But this realization, instead of causing despair, poses a challenge and whispers from between the books – come on, you can do it! The whole world of Torah is spread out before you, so taste as much as you possibly can.
And all the dreams, all the pleasure I felt and the insights I obtained converged into one special moment: my eldest son and I had just finished counting the last day of Sefirat Ha’Omer with a blessing, having not missed even one day – and tears welled up in my eyes. I turned to him and explained that I was deeply moved by the fact that we were about to accept the Torah once again. What I did not tell him was that I was deeply affected by the fact that I am fortunate enough to be a part of the world of Torah scholars; and that since the time women stood at Mt. Sinai with the men and received the Torah from the mouth of Hashem Himself, there has been no generation before our times in which Torah study for women has flourished to such an extent. Through my learning I have joined a historical revolution not fathomed even by the great scholars and sages whose teachings I study.
The very next day I found myself standing with the rest of the congregation as the Torah was read. I could actually feel the mist that dwelt on the mountain as I was listening to the Ten Commandments, and it felt as though they were speaking out to me. I felt the Torah being given to me as a precious vessel to be cherished, like water quenching a thirst, like oil healing the weary body; but most of all – I felt that it is an inherent part of my world for which I give thanks every single day.
So the next time you want to say to me or to any other woman who learns and breathes Torah ‘Good for you for studying Torah,’ say instead: ‘How fortunate you are! How blessed you are for being able to study Torah!” Believe me, that reaction is far more appropriate.
(This article has been translated from the Hebrew online publication “Mitnachlot BaReshet – Online Pioneers”)