Many Waters Cannot Quench Love
Based on Parasha U’Likcha by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
by Braha Bender
Visit Israel and you’ll see them dancing. It’s probably happening somewhere right now: a hachnasas sefer Torah is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every time.
They hold the precious scroll close as a mother holds a baby. Their eyes close with a soft smile irradiating their faces. They shift their weight in quick, rhythmic succession from foot to knee to ankle, back and forth in a gentle, energetic freefall of limbs and music. It’s more than a dance. It’s an embrace, the most profound of celebrations.
What do you call a Jew’s relationship with the Torah? One word: love.
Love stories can be complex, and if nothing else lengthy, but one thing is certain. Love transcends the rational. Love may be a choice, and may be a verb, but once it has begun, love shoots deep roots into the places within a human being where speech barely penetrates. That’s what you will see on their faces, the people holding the Torah scrolls and dancing at a hachnasas sefer Torah anywhere around the world. You will see a pleasure that words can barely describe, a connection that transcends and yet somehow is also intrinsic to the foundation for all times and places.
The Torah has been called the Jews’ portable homeland. Indeed, the world has almost swallowed us whole yet the buoy of Torah continues to bare us up despite the best intentions of nature. History sees nations come and sees nations go. The Jews continue to dance with their precious scrolls.
Yearly the Torah is completed in synagogues around the world on the holiday of Simchas Torah. The fifty-four Torah portions that are read, one or two every Shabbos, come to a close with Parashas V’Zos HaBracha, and the synagogue erupts in dancing. Because Jews don’t finish reading, and learning, and living, the Torah. Jews celebrate another milestone, and yet another, year after year after year, because our generations continue and the Torah continues with us. We are entangled, meshed together in an inseparable web of soul and ink and parchment and meaning. We dance. We sing. We hold the Torah scrolls close to our chests.
Simchas Torah is a holiday of profound joy, like every hachnasas sefer Torah, not because joy is a commandment, although it is, but because we are overjoyed to be commanded. The Torah is precious because it is His love letter to us. He spoke to us at Sinai and the conversation never ended. And never will:
“Many waters cannot extinguish the fire of this love, nor rivers wash it away.” (Shir HaShirim-Song of Songs 8:7) “Love is Torah.” (Talmud Sotah 21)