As Sukkot comes to an end, we immediately welcome the festival of Simchat Torah. On this holiday we conclude our annual cycle of Torah reading as we read the very last Parsha, VeZot HaBracha. Our celebration of the completion of the Torah is quite unique and interesting. Traditionally, the entire synagogue celebrates in several ways; firstly, there is widespread circle dancing. Secondly, we do not finish our Torah reading by just concluding the Torah, we also begin the book of Genesis once again.
What do these unique celebratory styles have in common? What does it tell us about our community?
The circle that we create in our Torah by reading from both the last verses of the Torah and the first verses and the circle that we create with our joyful dancing both hint to the same principle: community. A circle has no beginning and no end. It has no first, second, or last. It does not let anyone be less than or more than. Instead, it reinforces the notion of inclusion. It ensures that everyone has equal say and equal opportunity.
Oftentimes groups can become overwhelmed with cliques or lashon hara, gossip. These “conversations” make us feel left out and unwelcome. When you’re in a genuine community, everyone is accepted and loved. We are all respectful and open minded of each other. Each person has different perspectives and is unique in their own ways. In BBYO, we strive to make our Kehillah inclusive and welcoming. We are diverse and want a place that all Jewish teens can call home. As we head into these holidays, take the time to open up your circle to those who are feeling ostracized or alone. No circle can ever be too big!
Tess Rittenberg and Perri Schwartz, All Abilities Inclusion Task Force
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
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