On the festival of Simchat Torah, we celebrate the completion of our yearly Torah portion reading cycle with rejoicing, dancing, and singing. Jewish people worldwide celebrate their close relationship with G-d, with an open declaration of their love for Torah study. Torah is known as a light; the study of Torah can light up even the darkest of paths. The study and practice of the Torah is the route to choosing blessing throughout life rather than curse or light rather than darkness. The word Torah comes from the Hebrew word hora’ah, which means to teach. Just as a creator provides a manual with his creation, so too has the Creator provided a "manual" for his Creation. When we follow the teachings of the Torah, we find clarity throughout life. If we would embrace Torah as a gift of light, we would see Simcha Torah from a different perspective.
The Torah was created long before psychologists and philosophers studied human behavior. The Torah embraces every subject, whether psychological or philosophical or scientific.. Ethics of our Fathers quotes, “Judaism melds ethics and morality with ritual and civil law into the total code of behavior contained in the Torah…”
The Torah sets prescriptive solutions that positive psychology is now bringing to the forefront. Positive psychology brings positive moral emotions to the frontier, which serves to improve the lives of individuals in society. Although moral development is often thought to be a slow, lifelong process, powerful moments of elevation are key in helping us in their spiritual development. Our feelings of cynicism can be replaced with feelings of hope, love, optimism, and moral inspiration.
Incivility, on the other hand, serves to undermine us. Author Christine Porath and her colleagues found in their 2007 study that incivility greatly reduced work performance, collaboration, and creativity. People who were badly treated were found to suffer from short-term memory loss and recalled 20 percent less than usual. These effects were not limited to victims but also those who witnessed uncivil, immoral behavior.
“Even with one-time, relatively low-intensity incidents [of incivility], participants who had been treated rudely were not able to concentrate as well.” (Porath et al., 2007)
The Torah offers the opportunity to learn by the moral examples of our ancestors. Once we realize this, we will not take the celebration of Simchat Torah for granted. Our observance of the Torah ensures that we live a moral and civilized life. We express our gratitude to the Creator on Simchat Torah for providing us with the Book of Light to ease our journey in this world.