Thursday, October 24, 2013

Simchat Torah in Edmonton

This is a guest post by my dear friend, Rabbi Daniel Freidman of Edmonton, Alberta.  Dan is my drasha chevrusa, which means that we speak every week and prepare our sermons together. He has posted before on Amerabbica on the topic of women Rabbis. He is a truly inspirational Rabbi, and the way that he has brought the entire Edmonton Jewish community together is something that the rest of us should observe and strive to emulate.

Simchat Torah in Edmonton - A Model of Community Unity
How will our children remember Simchat Torah?   While the dancing and merriment are important factors to ensure they recall their Jewish upbringing with pride, joy and passion, the Jewish community of Edmonton had a very special experience this year.
At the conclusion of Simchat Torah services in the various shuls around town, rabbis and laypeople from across the denominational spectrum converged on Beth Israel to celebrate together as a community. 
Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Friedman welcomed everyone and expressed his gratitude to all for coming.  “On Simchat Torah, we don’t learn the Torah.  We dance with the Torah, because when it comes to dancing we all dance on the same two feet.  For one day a year, we can put our intellectual differences aside and celebrate our heritage together.”
Conservative Rabbi Kliel Rose of Beth Shalom Synagogue told the story of watching his father one Simchat Torah. “My father was in his year of aveilut [mourning] and he rose and danced with the Torah.  I said ‘Aba, but you’re an avel!’ He replied something that changed me forever, ‘Son, today is Simchat Torah and we must rejoice.’  I am honoured to be here today, friends, celebrating with the entire community on Simchat Torah, our most joyous day of the year.”
Chabad Rabbi Mendy Blachman, director of adult education at Chabad of Edmonton, spoke about continuing the impact of Simchat Torah into the year ahead.  He suggested that everyone present choose something positive that they could add to their Jewish observance.  Rabbi Mendy was so inspired by the day’s events that he became the most active bidder for next year’s Simchat Torah honours at the shul!

The gathering culminated in a joyous dance as members and rabbis of all the congregations locked arms in celebrations.  May every Jewish community share our simcha – the simcha of achdus, Jewish unity!