A True Simcha on Simchat Torah

Torah Scroll

It was a Simchat Torah service like any other until the rabbi and cantor started handing out blue medical gloves.

Confused, the congregants pulled on the gloves. Next, the rabbi positioned us in a circle. It was our first Simchat Torah with a new rabbi, so this was uncharted territory for the 90-year old congregation. The Torah was then handed to the first person in the circle and unwound around our social hall. The scroll kept unrolling until the parchment containing the whole story of our people encircled us.

The children were standing in the middle of the circle. The rabbi, starting at the beginning, Bereshit, walked around the room with an abridged version of our history, explaining the different spacing and unique blocking of letters. I went to a Jewish day school for nine years, followed by Hebrew High School. I was a USYer, a member of the synagogue board, on the board of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, and on the parent council of the PJ Library, so I am no stranger to Jewish life, but this particular experience--seeing my children encircled in the Torah took me by surprise.

I was moved. I felt connected to our past, to our people. In a secular world, where I have to explain to my children that neither Santa nor the Easter bunny are coming to our house, I felt like I belonged. Not just to a congregation, but to a legacy.

The Torah was carefully re-rolled and gently placed back in the Ark. The children danced and ate ice cream, and I hope that one day, as my parents looked on at me that night and I looked on at my children, they will look at their children being encircled in a Torah and feel that feeling “Wow, I belong here.”

Mandi Gross is a congregant at Congregation B'nai Israel in St. Petersburg, FL


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