Simchat Torah Gems - 5771

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10 pages for Simchas Torah and Hakafos

These Simchas Torah Gems are filled with innovative, inspiring material that explain and elucidate many of the prayers and songs we chant on this holiday. They are intended to both entertain and educate the audience. Rich with Jewish wisdom, wit, and joy, they will add to the festivities and impart greater meaning to both committed Jews and casual congregants. Below is a synopsis of the Gems.

A Short Simchas Torah Speech
How many Jews does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: All of them. One to change the bulb, and the rest to talk about how much better things were with the old bulb. Sometimes we forget that Judaism is not about complaining; rather, the essence of Judaism is Simchah, joy. We will describe how and why using deep and humorous stories. And we will see how one of the great transformative moments in Jewish history came about through the infusion of happiness. And we will relate it all to the song "Rejoice and be Glad in the joy of the Torah."

No High-Speed Journey to Spirituality (p.383 - before hakafot or any time)
I once saw a poster for a twelve step recovery program that read: "The elevator to recovery is out of order. Please use the twelve steps."  In Judaism we have 613 steps and no elevator. A discerning account about the Alter Rebbe and Hakafos gives us the reason why.

How Do We Ignite a Mind to Torah? (p.385 - first hakafah)
In this song and prayer we say, "The Torah of G-d is perfect and complete. It restores the soul."  This is a profound statement with repercussions for us as modern Jews. Interestingly, the Sages of the Talmud and a famous Italian writer record parallel stories that illustrate the power of the Torah. We'll examine them both. Then see why contemporary Jewish educators are frustrated, and what we need to know about how to ignite our children's minds with the Torah and restore their soul.

Please, G-d, Save Us Now (p.385-387- any hakafah)
Each Hakafah begins with three verses, all of which begin with a short and urgent prayer, "Ana Hashem -- Please G-d."  The mood of these lines does not correspond with the rest of the prayers and Psalms that are so rich with praise and imagery. What is their meaning? Illumination is found in a wonderful behind the scenes story of Ariel Sharon putting on tefillin at the Western Wall during the 1967 Six Day War.

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall (any hakafah)
Do you know what the real problem with Humpty Dumpty was? How are rabbis like the king's horses? And how does all of this teach us to keep the tradition of adding new learning for the coming year?

Righteousness and New York City's Mayor (p.387 – sixth hakafah)
We say in the prayer "The laws of G-d are true, and righteous - together."  The law of G-d is defined here by two words, "mishpat" and "tzedakah." These two important words always enjoin us to see how Judaism is a faith of love: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself; you shall love the stranger; and you shall love your G-d." A moving story is related about one of New York City's beloved Mayors who lived this ideal.

Torah: Inheritance or Bride? (p.484 - Torah reading. or any time)
A sign hanging over a Jewish-owned bank read: The founder of Christianity saves. Moses invests!  "Moses invested" in us and we -- his people – should become investors as well. How do we do this? We will look at "trust fund kids" who inherit money from their parents, and how a bride is courted.  This will take us to the heart of our relationship with the Torah, and how to invest in our children.

Helen Keller's insight into "L'Chayim ve-livracha" (any time)
Why do we toast, "For life, and for blessing?" Helen Keller said something insightful that illuminates the terms of the Jewish toast. A man is fabulously wealthy.  He is a billionaire with a private jet, a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, and a vacation home in Martha's Vineyard. He has plenty of L'Chayim, but no Ve-livracha.  We wish for both.

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