By Rabbi Lazer Brody
On Simchat Torah, we spend hours dancing with the Torah scrolls, both at night and during the following morning. We rejoice at our annual completion of reading the Torah, and during the same festival, we begin to read the Torah from the beginning once more. Surely, this is a joyous holiday; but why do we dance until our clothes are literally soaked and until we can barely stand up?
Reb Natan writes (Sichot HaRan, 299), "It was my custom to see the Rebbe [Rebbe Nachman of Breslev – LB] every year after Simchat Torah. He would always ask me if I truly rejoiced on the festival. Many times he told me how the community celebrated in his house and how much pleasure he derived from their joy. Once, the Rebbe spoke to me about Simchat Torah in the middle of the year. He asked me, 'Do you now feel joy in your heart? Do you feel this happiness at least once a year?' … The Rebbe very much wanted us to be joyous all year round, particularly on Simchat Torah… The Rebbe told me that once on Simchat Torah he was so overjoyed that he danced all by himself in his room."
We learn several amazing lessons from the above discourse. First, that Rebbe Nachman attributed tremendous importance to being joyous on Simchat Torah; second, that Rebbe Nachman was very concerned that his Chassidim were joyous on Simchat Torah and derived enormous gratification when they actually were; third, that Simchas Torah is the time to harvest happiness – "joy in the heart" – for the whole year; and fourth, Rebbe Nachman himself danced as an expression of his joy.
Two special occasions in Judaism are the best-known times for dancing – weddings and Simchat Torah. The two are strikingly similar: A wedding is the celebration of the newly-created bond between bride and groom; Simchat Torah is the celebration of the renewed bond between the Torah, the spiritual bride that's betrothed to the People of Israel, the groom. The more a bride and groom rejoice in one another, the more fervently they dance. Rebbe Nachman had lofty goals for Reb Nosson, his chief disciple. Rebbe Nachman wanted Reb Nosson to attain the level of perfect, unblemished love of Torah. Therefore, he would question Reb Nosson every year about the latter's degree of happiness on Simchat Torah, for clearly, the level of one's rejoicing on Simchat Torah is the barometer for one's true love of Torah, as we shall see in the following parable, with Hashem's loving grace: Continue here...