How exactly did orthodox circles begin to associate Simchat Torah with "Social Mayhem"? To us guys, the thought process maybe as simple as "Hey, this may be my last chance to finally ask out that girl I've seen over the machitza 100 times during the holiday season." And to girls, the thinking is obviously "What else are we gonna do while the guys do shots?" But when looking closer at the spiritual roots of the holiday the reasons may become a bit clearer.
First off, its clear, that Simchas Torah is a serious time for celebration. The Torah says of Succos "V Hayitah Ach Samayach" translated loosely as "Let's Party likes it's 1999." The superfluous term Ach – Only– is the key term here, since it is generally used to exlude something, and our Sages teach us it is here to include and extend the mitzvah to be joyous during Shimini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. What's the deal, you ask? The Vilna Gaon explains, that on Simchat Torah, Joy is all we got! No Lulav shaking, No Succah Hopping, – we are ONLY left with happiness! Hence the term Ach, includes, and sets the tone of our day for Pure Happiness.
Ask any married person, what was the happiest day of their life, they'll probably say their Wedding Day. Interestingly enough, the kabbalists teach that Simchat Torah was the day that Yaakov Avinu married Rachel Imaynu. You remember the story, Yaakov had worked 7 years, and then received Leah. But for Rachel, He got her on credit, subsequently working 7 years after his marriage. This idea of getting things on "good credit" is an interesting idea that weaves its way into our holiday of joy.
Think about it, we all have earned some good credit as Jews. All of us have recently been in shul for a serious amount of time, and many of us, since the beginning of Ellul, have really been trying to focus on changing our sub par religious practices. Our time is one of the most precious things we have, and dedicating it to Hashem earns some good credit ratings in the spiritual realm. Heck we gave up NFL Sundays!
It is for this reason, says Reb Shalom Ber of Lubavitch, that on Simchat Torah we celebrate via dancing, partying with the Torah – we've earned some awesome spiritual points, and we party to open our hearts and souls to receive all of G-d's blessings. Not a surprise, the Hebrew word for credit is "hakafah", how cool is that!
Speaking of the hakafot, you know we encircle the bima 7 times. Sounds familiar, right? 7 times goes the bride around the groom, 7 years Yaacov worked on credit, Yeah, this is getting weird. The Maaglay Tzedek explains, the bride walks around the groom 7 times paralleling the 7 times the Jewish People walked around the walls of Jerico, overtaking the city from the spiritually bereft Caaninites. The Jewish People's 7 rounds, spiritualized the contaminated city to an all-time high, so too the bride's 7, creates a holy force field and bond between her and her beloved, making the Jewish wedding one of awesome purity and spirituality. When we dance the Hakafot, we also create a new powerful spiritual bond, one that connects and purifies us with the One who grants us our happiness for the coming year with generous credit.
Now back to the social scene stuff. As we've seen, Simchat Torah has in it happiness, undertones of receiving blessings on credit, wedding themes, and of course dancing! If there is one thing that scores major points with the opposite sex, it's dancing. (how else do you explain John Travolta's continuous popularity?) But our dancing here has to be focused on the Spiritual. Says the Avnay Nezer, the secret of dancing is the moment, even for a second, where one rises from the ground and breaks free from all of the mundane. As we dance with the Torah, we attempt to break free from all of our life's problems and focus on the big picture, the important stuff, the spiritual and the spectacular. Which is exactly why the social scenes arise. It is something in the celebration air, a feeling that something wonderful is about to happen, and with only a simple "hello" a universe of happiness can introduce itself for an eternity.
Dance hard this Yom Tov, I guarantee it will pay off. You have good credit.
send additional insights to talmudic warrior Isaac Galena