This week, on Monday night and Tuesday, will be the incredibly joyous holiday of Simchat Torah.
The holiday commemorates the conclusion of the annual cycle of the Torah reading, and the start of the new one. Traditionally, communities celebrate by taking all the Torah scrolls out of the Holy Ark and dancing round and round in many circles called Hakafot.
Actually, the Chabad community celebrates two nights of joyous dancing with the Torah.
And, it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the same night as our brethren in the land of Israel.
In the Diaspora, the end of Sukkot is observed as two days. The first is Shemini Atzeret – this year Sunday night and Monday, and the second day is Simchat Torah.
However, in the land of Israel, they observe Shemini Atzeret with Simchat Torah on one day.
But what does one do when they do not feel joy?
There was once a young couple who was engaged to be married and met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask for his advice and blessing before their wedding.
The bride asked if she could have a private word with him. She told him she has real anger management issues and knows that it will inevitably tear apart the marriage. She wanted his encouragement to break off the engagement instead of suffering the humiliation of a failed marriage.
The Rebbe encouraged her to go ahead with the wedding plans, saying, “G-d willing, you will have children and they will teach you patience. You don’t need to worry. Meanwhile, volunteer to help young children in the hospital and this habit well help you in your relationship.”
I found each year no matter how I felt prior to the holiday, when I enter the shul and just start dancing with my fellow community members or my children, I immediately feel an overwhelming sense of joy.
The act of dancing with your feet elicits within your soul an upbeat feeling of hope. No matter how you felt prior, getting up and doing the motions of joy will ordinarily bring you joy.
So dance it, feel it and repeat.
Happy Simchat Torah.
Rabbi Mendy Alevsky directs with wife, Sara, the Chabad House at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, serving the Jewish campus community and University Circle.