Simchat Torah: The Festival of Ingathering the Torah

We call the last day of the festival Simchat Torah, because we rejoice and eat a festive meal to honor the completion of the Torah (Rem”a, Orach Chaim 669:1)

וקורין יום טוב האחרון שמחת תורה, לפי ששמחין ועושין בו סעודת משתה לגמרה של תורה – רמ”א אורח חיים תרס”ט, א
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The second Luchot were given to Moshe on Yom Kippur, after G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Chassidut explains that earning the Torah through our repentance is an even greater source of joy than being gifted the Torah (as we were originally on Shavuot). This is why we rejoice with the Torah on Simchat Torah, which follows Yom Kippur, much more so than we do on Shavuot.

While this explains the connection of Simchat Torah to Yom Kippur, yet the holiday on which we actually celebrate Simchat Torah is Shemini Atzeret,  which by very name –shemini, the eighth – indicates that this holiday is a continuation of Sukkot and not only of Yom Kippur. Why?

One of the names which the Torah gives for the holiday of Sukkot is חג האסיף, the Festival of Ingathering. Rashi (Shemot 23:16) explains: “For all summer the grain dries in the fields, and on Sukkot they gather it into the house before the rainy season.” Accordingly, notes the Midrash (Yalkut Shimon Emor 654), of the three times that the commandment to rejoice on the holidays is mentioned in the Book of Devarim, two of them are said in the context of Sukkot.  This is because the joys of the grain budding in the spring and being harvested around Shavuot, are incomparable to the complete joy of actually having brought the grain in to your home (i.e. Sukkot), when it is ready for your eating pleasure.

In spiritual terms, the agricultural cycle represents: the budding of our relationship with G-d through the faith instilled in us on Pesach, harvesting and receiving the Torah and its commands on Shavuot, and then bringing the harvest into our homes on Sukkot, after fully implementing and incorporating the mitzvot into our lives.

This is why we celebrate the Torah that we received on Yom Kippur through teshuva, the second Luchot, as a continuation of Sukkot, the Festival of Ingathering. Having “tasted” sin and distance from G-d, and yet determinedly returning to Him through Teshuva, the complete penitent has shown that the Torah and mitzvot are truly ingrained in him; they have been fully “gathered into his home”. Now he truly has what to celebrate.

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—Likutei Sichos vol. 29, pp. 231-235


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