Simchat Torah in my shul is pretty happy with lots of dancing on the ground floor, and lots of women watching from above.
Normally, this arrangement is fine with me. I, actually like to be on the second floor, where on a regular Shabbat we don’t have many women, and I can see and hear everything, follow the prayers and the Torah reading. Not on Simchat Torah though.
This is one day a year when I go to a special place. It’s a small private house, where the man is gone to shul and the Sefer Torah is waiting for us, women to take her our, care for her, read her and invite every woman in attendance to an aliyah.
I do not have the right words to describe the feeling I get when called by my Hebrew name to make a blessing and stand while a very learned woman reads the ancient text with the right trop. The first time it happened five or six years ago, I wasn’t able to start the blessing for several minutes. I cried. This time was the first year I didn’t, I was thinking of the power of learning, desire, and reverence of this small group of women doing what they need to do on this special day. One day, maybe I will be able to read? At least by now I can read the text and follow everything. I can finally pray in Hebrew!
Dancing with the Torah is magical. I think about all my relatives male and female who did not get this chance at all, whether because they were prevented to do so, or because they chose to themselves. And I am dancing for all of them, for my father most of all.
I am hoping to continue with my women learning group that I called “Midwood Pop-up Beit Midrash” – by now I can’t live without it!