Tomorrow night we begin to celebrate the Holiday of Simchas Torah, as Jews throughout the world mark the time period by singing and dancing with the Torah. This is the culmination of the great Holiday season that began with Rosh Hashana and now draws to an end. As is obvious, there is a connection between Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succos, and Simchas Torah. There is a progression that every Jew is guided through in these days, to advance from recognizing and the coronation of Hashem, to repenting from fear of the ramifications of our sins, to serving Hashem with love. We now end the high point of this season with great rejoicing and deep happiness, moving forward with a focus of serving Hashem with joy.
When we conclude the year long process of reading the Torah, there is a very interesting costume. We give the last aliyah, the last honor of being called for the Torah reading, (Called Chassan Torah), to a Torah scholar. We give the first aliyah in the new reading of the Torah starting from the beginning of the book of Genesis, (called Chassan Braishis), to any generous member of the community who helps to support Torah. What is the difference between these two opportunities to be called to the Torah? Why does one go to the scholar, while the other goes to the supporter of Torah?
The commentaries tell us that a beautiful lesson is being taught with this regarding supporting Torah study. We are all aware of the distinction made in Jewish law between supporting Torah study before it is studied, to supporting it after it is studied. Before one studies, if someone wants to buy a share in the merits of the Torah that his friend will study, it is permitted. Our history is full of individuals who supported a scholar and allowed him to devote his full time to his study, and thus shared in this scholarís Torah evenly.
Once the scholar has already studied, no money in the world can now buy a share in his Torah.
This is the message contained in this custom. For Torah that was already studied, for the part of the bible that we have already read, there can be no one other than the scholar himself who gets the aliyah. It is simply too late to buy into that Torah. However, if one wants to acquire a partnership with a scholar for what he will touch in the future, such as the Chasan Beraishis, that is open for whoever wants to do so.
As our New Year begins, and as we rejoice ourselves with reading and studying the Torah, let us find the ways to become a real partner in the serious study of Torah!!!