Simchat Torah This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   Although I grew upin a Catholic home, I have spent the last year learning about and embracingJudaism. I have had many positive experiences, but so far none has impacted memore than the celebration of Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah is a holidayrecognizing God's gift of the Torah to Moses. The scrolled parchment is re-rolledto the beginning verse, and the celebration includes singing, dancing, and wavingbanners and flags.

For this festival, I visited a conservative synagoguewith my best friend, who is Jewish. Neither of us had been there before, but wewere greeted by a group of friendly congregates and were made to feel at home. Wewalked to the sanctuary's entrance and stood in awe of the large Ark (where theTorah is kept) and the beautiful sanctuary. I was lost in the majesty of thesynagogue.

We went to the room where the celebration was held, whichcontained chairs in a semi-circle around a small bookshelf. We sat at the centerof the arc and soon dozens of other people came. The celebration started, and theRabbi asked us to stand and come into the center of the room. As we gatheredtogether, creating a circle within the semi-circle, we began to read from theprayer book. Knowing only a little Hebrew, I read as best I could. I could seemany Torahs on the table, covered by talit (prayer shawls). I think there were12, and my friend said there were more Torahs there than she had seen at one timebefore.

When the prayer ended, we were asked to hold hands. Twelve peopleover the age of bar and bat mitzvah (which is 13) went to the front where theRabbi and his wife stood. They were each given a Torah to carry. The singingbegan and the people with the Torahs started to dance and sing as others joinedin one by one. The ritual of carrying the Torah and singing was repeated 12 times(since there were 12 Torahs), which took a while, but every minute was sowonderful the time seemed very short.

Before the celebration was over, Igot to dance, sing and hold a Torah twice. Even though I was not part of thiscongregation, I was still able to carry one of the most holy objects in Judaism.If I had dropped it, I would have had to fast for 40 days. Thank goodness Ididn't!

When all the Torahs were carried 12 times, the dancingstopped. We put them back on the table and covered them with the talit. Then wewent back into our circle, took out our prayer books and began to read. Someprayers were said to thank God for bringing his people together to celebrateSimchat Torah, and the evening came to an end.

The time I spent holdingthe Torah was amazing and had much spiritual meaning for me, even though I didnot understand all the feelings in my heart. I fell in love with the Torah andthe religion a thousand times over. I had been looking for spiritual meaning forsuch a long time in so many places and finally I found it, holding a very oldscroll called the Torah.

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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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