By Jessica Lipinski, Director of the Early Childhood Centre at Holy Blossom Temple
Last week I was honoured to be a part of the Simchat Torah celebrations at Holy Blossom Temple, carrying a Torah during the third and seventh hakafot. It was wonderful to be part of such a joyous event!
Everyone was dancing, singing and waving flags- feeling the true meaning of the holy day. After hearing Cantor Maissner and Rabbi Splansky chant the last and first words of the Torah, everyone gathered in the Philip Smith Hall for dessert and more dancing. Looking out on the group of revelers dancing with Holy Blossom’s 10 Torahs, I couldn’t help but feel very fortunate. Fortunate to have the freedom of religion and expression that so many around the world don’t have. A freedom that up until that day I took completely for granted.
My father grew-up in Soviet Russia where it was forbidden to practice religion and under the state doctrine of atheism most religious institutions were closed. While many Jews secretly practiced their religion (my grandparents included), public displays were strictly prohibited- unless it was Simchat Torah. Every year on Simchat Torah Russian Jews were permitted to congregate outside of synagogues to celebrate their holiday and assert their Jewish identity. Once a year they were free to express their Judaism, to dance and to celebrate without fear of persecution. How lucky am I to live in a country that embraces diversity and allows me the freedoms that my own father didn’t have growing up? Lucky indeed.
The High Holy Days are serious and often solemn and Simchat Torah is a truly the opposite- joyous celebration and the meaning of the holiday is certainly not lost on me.