"Perry Mason." "Ally McBeal." "LA Law." "Boston Legal." "The Practice." "Judd for the Defense." "The Defenders." "Law and Order." And so on, and so on. If you like to binge-watch, you could literally spend years focusing on television shows that deal with the law. We are fascinated by the intricacies of the legal world. We love to watch what happens, especially when there are those who do not follow the law and get caught. So, what is it that we are really obsessed with here? Is it the law itself, the law breaker, or the law maker?
Today, as you read these words, Jewish people all over the world are actually celebrating law. Sometimes the name of this day actually makes it on to a civil calendar -- Simchat Torah or "Rejoicing in the Law." Perhaps it may strike you as a bit strange, a holiday simply devoted to the joy of law. In our case, it is the law that specifically relates to Jewish life, otherwise known as the Torah. The word "Torah" can be understood in several ways. Primarily, Torah refers to the first five Books of the Hebrew Bible, which, of course we share with those who hold holy the Christian Bible. Perhaps you've either visited a synagogue or watched in a movie or on TV where Jews read from a scroll that is rolled up and placed in what is known as an "Aron Kodesh" or "Holy Ark." The word "Torah" also can be used generically to mean "teaching." It is related to the same Hebrew words for "parents" or "teachers."
But back to today. Simchat Torah celebrates both the end of the cyclical reading of the Torah and the beginning. In synagogues all over the word today, the last words of the book of Deuteronomy are chanted, immediately followed by the first words of Genesis. The obvious symbolism of this act is to reinforce the idea that in our tradition, our "laws" are never ending.
Indeed, the same might be said for our civil laws, the American legal system, or for that matter, the legal structure of many governments. But here is where we part. Picture our own United States Supreme Court, if you will. Traditions still exist that date back to when they first sat together in 1790. Judges wear black robes and observe a solemnity that underscores the primacy of the law.
But imagine if you will: What if the justices all of a sudden, jumped up from their seats and starting dancing around the courtroom? Perhaps they might carry law books and kiss them as they danced. Perhaps they'd encourage others to join them in their "rejoicing of the law." That's exactly what happens in a synagogue on Simchat Torah. We do not just read or study the law; we show our love for Torah. "Ki hem chayenu v'orech yameinu -- for They are our life and the length of our days." Every day we recite these words for our love of Torah, because we know that our very existence depends on them.
Samuel Radwine is the cantor for Congregation Etz Chaim in Bentonville and cantor emeritus of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Email him at email@example.com.