Jewish Facts of Life
The most recent Jewish holiday on the calendar is not one that you will find commanded in the Scripture, but it is a holiday devoted to celebrating the Scripture. It is called Simchat Torah, Simchat meaning joy and Torah (Law) referring to the first five books of the Bible.
Jewish synagogues follow a traditional schedule of readings from the Torah each week, so as to complete the five books of Moses each year.
This year Simchat Torah was from sunset last Saturday, October 14, until nightfall on Sunday, October 15.
It is traditional to say a prayer that can be recited on any joyous occasion:
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olam She-heche-ya-nu Ve-ki-yi-ma-nu Ve-higi-a-nu Liz-man Ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Children are included as much as possible in the synagogue celebration concerning the Torah. All the Torah scrolls are paraded around the sanctuary seven times, with singing and dancing. Since the scrolls would be too heavy for children, they join the parade with flags or toy scrolls. As many people as possible, including children, will be called up to recite the traditional blessings over the Torah readings.
The Torah reading will include the last portion of Deuteronomy and then immediately begin reading once again from Genesis. In this way the Jewish people affirm that we are never finished” with the reading of the Torah.
In the News last week
According to Ynet, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Gillerman, estimated that the world’s reaction to North Korea’s nuclear test would serve as a precedent to the West’s treatment of Iran.
This month 20 years ago
Rita Levi-Montalcini won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on October 13, 1986. Born in Turin, Italy, Levi-Montalcini had begun her research on nerve cells at the University of Turin. She, along with all other Jews, was banned from the university in 1938, and then forced to flee from the Nazis. She immigrated to the United States and joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1946. It was there, in 1951, that Levi-Montalcini first hypothesized the existence of the nerve growth factor. Between 1953 and 1959, she worked with collaborator Stanley Cohen to identify nerve growth factor as a protein. For this work, Levi-Montalcini and Cohen shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Their work had significant effects on cancer research, and has also been important in work on Parkinson’s disease.
- Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 832-833
- Rita Levi-Montalcini, In Praise of Imperfection, My Life and Work (New York, 1988)
New York Times, October 14, 1986.