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    Rejoicing on Simchat Torah – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Who worked out the way to celebrate on Simchat Torah?

    Painting by Emmanuel Levy

    A. It may have been borrowed from the Festival of the Water-Drawing (Simchat Bet HaSho’evah) on Sukkot, about which the sages say: “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Water-Drawing Festival has never seen rejoicing in his life”.

    The festival had its golden era (literally since lighting golden candlesticks was involved) at the time of the Second Temple, when people not only celebrated the end of the harvest but symbolically beckoned the rains without which next year’s crops would not survive.

    The festivities, including dancing, singing and juggling, were so intense that one of the rabbis said, “When we rejoiced at the place of the water-drawing our eyes saw no sleep”.

    Simchat Torah as a populist day of joy owes a great deal to this precedent.

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