The what appears to be the final day of the Sukkos holiday is, outside of
Israel, called Simchas Torah (and in Israel, is Shemini Atzeres and Simchas
Torah). On this day, we read the last portion of the Torah, V'zos HaB'racha.
We celebrate this completion of the past year's cycle of Torah reading and
the beginning of this year's Torah reading cycle. We sing, dance and express
our joy over having the Torah and being able to learn the Torah. We dance
seven circuits around the Bimah, from where we read the Torah. Traditionally,
all are given an opportunity to dance with the Torah during the festivities.
There is a firm basis for this custom.
The Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was the center of spiritual life before the Bais
HaMikdosh, the Holy Temple was constructed in Yerushalayim. Hashem gave Moshe
the instructions on how the Mishkon and the vessels used within were to be
constructed. Among these instructions, we find a change in language in one
instance. By the construction of the Shulchan ( Shmos 25:23), we find the
following: "_You_ shall also make a table." By the Menorah, we find (Shmos
25:31) "And _you_ shall make a Menorah of pure gold." However, but by the
Aron, the ark, we find a change (Shmos 25:10):And _they_ shall make an ark."
The command for the ark was directed towards the entire nation of Israel, as
opposed to the commands for the other vessels, which were directed at Moshe.
Why was the instruction for the ark specifically given to the nation?
The Medrash Rabbah (Shmos 34:2) states: "AND THEY SHALL MAKE AN ARK." Why is
it that in reference to all the other vessels we read 'And you shall make',
but in reference to the Ark it says, AND THEY SHALL MAKE? Said R. Yehudah ben
R. Shalom: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Let all come and occupy
themselves with the Ark in order that they may all merit the Torah.'"
What makes the Aron so special, that those who "occupy themselves with the
Ark . . . may all merit the Torah?" In general, the large vessels used in the
Mishkan were constructed with rings attached. In these rings, poles were
placed, so that when the Mishkan had to be moved and therefore the vessels
had to be moved as well, they could be carried with the poles. When the
vessels were at rest, the poles were removed. This, however, was not the case
with the Aron. The Torah writes (Shmos 25:15) "In the rings of the ark shall
be the poles, they should not be removed from it." Even when the Aron was at
rest, the poles had to stay within the rings.
The Sefer HaChinuch (96) writes that at the root of this commandment is the
fact that the Aron, which contains the original Luchos, the tablets upon
which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, is the dwelling place, the
sanctuary of the Torah. The Torah, embodied by the Aron, is at our core, it
is our glory. We must treat it with every form of respect and honor that is
within our ability. We therefore were commanded not to remove the poles, for
fear that we might need to move the Aron quickly, and in our haste we will
not check to see that the poles will support the weight of the Aron, and it
could fall. Because we must show the utmost respect for the Aron, we must
make sure that it never falls, and we therefore keep the poles affixed at all
The construction of the Aron, the object which symbolizes the holy Torah, was
given to the entire nation of Israel. Because the entire nation would be
occupied with the construction of the Aron, they would all have a part in the
Aron, and in turn, the Torah. Hence, the nation would all have a stake in the
Torah, and would merit to delve into it and study it. However, this gift
which we all have a part of must be respected and revered. We must be able to
take it with us where ever we may go, without any fear that our travel will
cause the Torah any disrespect. We must ensure that the Torah is always
cherished and protected, no matter where we are or what we do. On Simchas
Torah, everyone gets an opportunity to dance with the Torah scroll. Everyone
gets an opportunity to be occupied with the Torah, just as the entire nation
was occupied with the construction of the Aron. All are given the opportunity
to embrace the Torah, to hold it dearly and tightly, to take it with them on
a dance, in a fitting display of love and respect for the Torah. It is a
dance for eternity.