Not only are the High Holidays not over, they've hardly begun. As we approach the climax of the season, it's a time to gear up for the pinnacle of Jewish inspiration, known as Simchat Torah (and Shemini Atezeret - Shemini Atzeret is the last day of Sukkot with Simchat Torah being the following day).

You might be a bit surprised since these are generally not spoken of as High Holidays. Simchat Torah (the day the cycle of weekly Torah portions is completed and restarted) is not even a biblical Mitzvah - it's not written in the written Torah at all! It is a custom that arose over time, only becoming known as Simchat Torah well after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some insight as to why Simchat Torah is so crucial to the High Holiday season - or better said, process - can be found in the story of Genesis which is read in Synagogues the world over on Friday. We read how our universe was created in six days, and how the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created on day number six three hours before sundown and the start of the first Shabbat. (The old story goes that God created Eve, and she wanted a companion, so God made Adam for her on condition that she would let him believe he was made first :))

Then the story of the snake convincing Eve and Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge unfolded. Both Adam and Eve were strongly reprimanded by God for not listening to him and eating from the citron tree that was the tree of knowledge.

Adam's punishment was that he would have to work to make a living, feed his family and survive. Adam was booted from worry-free paradise and landed on problem-filled earth as we know it. For the next 5778 years Adam's descendants would toil, worry, be hired, get fired, take out loans, fail, succeed, fail again and experience the bumpy ride of putting food on the table.

As Bernie Sanders would say, that's just not fair. Adam makes one mistake and for the next six millennia the entire human race must break their backs to earn a living? What happened to forgiveness and another chance?

This is where Simchat Torah comes in. Adam and Eve's life in paradise was akin to the spiritual experience of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. While many of us find it a bit difficult to truly feel that Yom Kippur services are paradise, the overall goal is to try as much as possible to detach from the hubbub of life and focus on soul-centered spirituality, prayer and song. Just like Adam's life in paradise - detached, unearned pleasure.

Sukkot however is all about taking that inner inspiration and making it real and relevant to you. Not you the way you are sitting at Kol Nidrei, but you (you know what I mean).

That Sukkot experience culminates in Simchat Torah. We take the Torah, and just enjoy. We dance, say some L'Chaim, and remember that being Jewish is a blessing because it turns the most routine elements of life into inspiration and joy. Saturday becomes Shabbat, turning twelve or thirteen becomes a Bat or Bar Mitzvah, dancing becomes Simchat Torah, a dollar becomes charity, an outdoor hut becomes a joyous Sukkot experience. That is a High Holiday. High because you are involved - the real you.

When Adam was booted from paradise it wasn't a punishment, it was entering real life and boundless opportunity. It was going from the detached spirituality of Yom Kippur to the down to earth joy of Simchat Torah. 

Rabbi Avrohom