Simchas Torah – Enhancing the Simcha Appropriately

From a Shul perspective, Simchas Torah is an amazing climax to the Yomim Noraim period. In some places the davening and the hakafos is all that is needed to feel the joy, but in others, especially those with a cross-generational population, the Torah’s prescription of supplementing the spiritual Simcha with food and drink is often appropriate.

The Simchas Torah Kiddush is a tradition in many Shuls, with the Chassanim who were honored with the special Aliyos of the day often sponsoring the Kiddush. One issue that comes up is whether alcohol is served. Many Shuls have banned alcohol due to some abusive usage by teens or adults. In Shuls with no ban, it’s always wise to make sure a responsible adult is supervising the alcoholic beverages. It’s also important to keep in mind that although a L’Chaim can enhance the day, moderation is always called for.

Another issue is the placement of the Kiddush. In many Shuls the Hakafos come first and then everybody in the Shul gets an Aliyah. After a person has received their Aliyah they often head toward the Kiddush. In some Shuls the format has been altered, so that the individual Aliyos come first and then the Hakafos start. After the 3rd Hakafos, a 15-20 minute break is taken for the Kiddush. This makes it a more equitable affair and everybody gets to enjoy the Kiddush together.

With all the energy and comradeship during Simchas Torah, many Shuls have a communal lunch to keep the Simcha going. It’s a nice ending to a great davening. If you can surmount the issues of organization and cost, it’s a wonderful opportunity to extend the Achdus.

A final issue is the timing of the Hakafos with the tension between those who want them longer, usually the teens and young adults, and those who would like to fulfill their requirements with shorter hakafos. In fact one Shul advertises 5 minute Hakafos. Experience Gabbaim can usually navigate this issue and the traditional mock battle to determine when the 7th hakafah is a fun conclusion of the dancing.

Like any group event, there will also be issues, but hopefully the energy and Simcha of the day will keep most participants happy.

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