open Torah scroll

By Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple

Simchat Torah is probably the only religious festival anywhere that celebrates a book.

Most religions – Judaism too – make grand occasions out of historical anniversaries. Many celebrate great thinkers, mentors, martyrs and spiritual leaders. Many have times of supreme joy interspersed with times of supreme tragedy.

But no other religion makes such a great event out of opening a book, reading it and reaching its close.

The book is of course the Torah. We give the day a name – Simchat Torah: our rejoicing over the Torah and the Torah’s rejoicing over us.

Imagine, a people with all its gamut of tzaddikim and sinners, deniers and doubters, that has added to its scriptures by creating its own Literacy Day and making it a great popular festival.

Whatever criticisms can be voiced about the Jewish people, no-one can ever say that we had no interest in education, no love of books, no way with words.

No other religion has given a bookcase such pride of place in its place of worship.

Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at

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