The end part of Sukkos is called Simchas Torah – when we celebrate the ending (and subsequent beginning) of reading the Torah portions throughout the year. Therefore it’s a great celebration with feasting, dancing and singing but the main mitzvah of the holiday is to be happy and joyful.
There are MILLIONS of books, blogs, seminars, movies etc. that are devoted to the topic of happiness and how to achieve it. People sometimes look to religion to find happiness… it’s an entire industry!!! Making people happy
Our Jewish religion is no different — we are taught that what we can accomplish with tears, we can also accomplish through sheer joy. This applies to the ecstasy we feel on Simchas Torah – compared to the seriousness and tears we feel on Yom Kippur.
My question that I pose to all of you out there – and I pose to myself as well:
WHY DO WE NEED ALCOHOL TO BE HAPPY?
Alcohol has NOTHING to do with Simchas Torah (as opposed to Purim where the famous Gemarah speaks about drinking wine on Purim) – but it has absolutely nothing to do with Simchas Torah! Other than using it as a means to find that inner happiness….
So I ask again – why do we NEED it to be happy?
Why must we use a substance that is dangerous to our physical health in order to obtain happiness??!! Can we not be jubilant without it? What does it say about a person that cannot find inner glee and contentment without relying on chemical alterations of the body and brain?
I pose this question to my readers not in order to try and answer this question – but really to find an adequate answer that satisfies me.
I’ll admit, when I was a teen (and young adult), I saw people drinking, saying “lechaims” on Simchas Torah and Purim and I thought it was “cool.” It seemed that all the fun stuff happened when people were a bit tipsy. Who didn’t want to be part of that? And the lesson I saw was that alcohol = fun! Of course, it was in a ‘kosher’ setting – during Shul etc… and it was ingrained in my brain that booze was perfectly acceptable. It was hip to get drunk and “happy” and I hate to say this but it was so funny when it led to somebody throwing up (more to talk about!)
My Perspective Changed…
But once I got married – suddenly my perspective shifted. Actually, a woman from my Shul planted a little seed in my brain one year (while I was still on my “alcohol is cool” kick) when she made a comment about the stupidity of drinking. With such passion on the matter, she would tell us, about the father who comes home from Shul piss drunk — he could barely walk home – so he needed his children to help balance all the way. This woman is older than me, a mom, and therefore was able to look at the situation from a deeper understanding of the situation. She saw that a parent needs to be a parent and be responsible. A father who needs his children to “walk him home” because who knows what will happen if they’re not there – well that was the epitome of abhorrent in her mind.
Well, back then me and my friends thought this lady was nerdy and sooooo boring. Comon, lighten up! It’s fun, it’s cool… no one is getting violent or dangerous, we’re all just having a good time!
Saying a Lechaim Is One Thing….Getting Pissed Drunk is Another
But that’s not the case with everyone who drinks on Simchas Torah. Sure, some of us can down a few drinks, get a little buzz and start to act happy. However, then there are those who don’t stop at just a few drinks and end up taking it too far.
So once again I ask – why do we need it?
I grew up in a town where my Shul became a first rate circus on this holiday. (even the Rabbis of the Shul left town for the holiday to get away from it!) The men acted like the clowns, french kissing each other rolling around on the floor in pickled herring, while the women enjoyed front row seats to enjoy the spectacle. The children, traditionally divided by sex would hold forts and wage battle using fallen Chestnuts as ammo (usually resulting in someone running into Shul crying hysterically to find a mom – since obviously the men were too plastered to do anything). The teens, well the teens usually were smart enough to go to NY for Simchas Torah – although the one year I did that, I found nothing but more filth and disgusting behavior.
I guess as an adult maybe I’m turning into a prude. Who knows?
All I know is that this year, I’ll be here in Kentucky in my new Shul – where honestly I don’t know how they do things here. What I do know is that I’ll be running a children’s program with wholesome and fun activities for the kids – so they can have a more positive and less traumatizing Simchas Torah than I did.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to join the discussion and answer this very difficult question.