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    The wedding parody – Simchat Torah

    The historian Cecil Roth had a theory that Simchat Torah was modelled on a wedding.

    Writing in the London Jewish Chronicle in 1934, Roth described the customs that Jewish communities developed for wedding celebrations and showed how Simchat Torah became a communal parody of a wedding.

    The real-time bridegroom was a king for a day. His arrival under the chuppah was accompanied by hymns in his honour, he was showered with sweetmeats, his head was garlanded and when he was called to the reading of the Torah the chapter in the Book of Genesis about the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah was read from a special scroll.

    Step by step the celebratory procedure was followed in honour of the Chatan Torah and Chatan B’reshit on Simchat Torah.

    The only difference was the identity of the bride. At a wedding there was of course a real-life bride decked in festive garments; on Simchat Torah the bride was the Torah itself.

    The whole occasion celebrated Israel’s love affair with its Torah. Where Scripture said that the Torah was Israel’s heritage (Morashah K’hillat Ya’akov), the sages had a play on words whereby they read, not morashah but me’orasah, “betrothed”.

    The Jewish people and the Torah were betrothed to one another, their destinies intertwined with God looking on benignly and in joy.

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