All Synagogues share a yearly calendar for readings from the Torah (Five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Each week Jews in Synagogue read the same section from the Torah, and during the year we go from the beginning of the cycle "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." to the end "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face..."
Today was Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah), the last of the fall holidays in the Jewish calendar, which marks the end of one Torah reading cycle and the beginning of the next. We read the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis. There is a lot of rejoicing (hence the name) with singing and dancing. This is reinforced with much wedding imagery. The Torah is often compared to the wedding contract between God and the Jewish people. The reading is conducted under a makeshift chuppah (wedding canopy), and the reader of the end of Deuteronomy is called the Chatan Torah (bridegroom of the Torah) and the reader of the start of Genesis is called the Chatan Bereshit (bridegroom of Genesis).
Simchat Torah is, by my count, the seventh holiday starting from Rosh Hashanah just three weeks ago. At most three of those can coincide with a Saturday (which happened this year), so we have at least four, and in other years up to seven, extra days in Synagogue. Even on a "light" year, with three overlapping Saturdays, this is lots of extra Synagogue time, and I know I am not the only one who finds this fairly exhausting.
However I was able to cap off this year's festival season this afternoon with a wonderful bike ride with my friend Hillel Bromberg. He led me on a 20 mile route out to Weston and back which was 80% overlapping with the route of the ride Jason Glasgow and I took last Monday. It was an afternoon ride, and so at the warmest time of the day, but at 60 degrees (F), about the same as last Monday at 8am. We had sun and clouds, lovely fall colors, and light traffic. I was about as out of breath at the Campion Center as I had been last week, and noticed that I really am stronger about an hour into the ride (or is it after the first hill, I still don't know). I am strongly aware that these rides are among the last I will get this year before the real cold sets in, and am grateful for each one ... Thanks, Hillel!
Furthermore, I am really enjoying extending my connections with friends by riding with them, which is structured yet relaxed, and has a route but not a goal. Venture Cycling has its rewards.
Technorati: cycling friends Simchat Torah Genesis Deuteronomy