Sephardi Simchat Torah
For Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, I traveled to Lakewood to spend the holidays with my friend and her family, who happen to be Sephardi. I have been to quite a few Shabbos meals with Sephardic friends before, but had never spent an entire Yom Tov with a Sephardi family. As I usually observe, people are people, they just have different customs. My friend's family is warm and friendly. I was welcomed into her home, teased by her brothers, handed babies to hold and even helped out in the kitchen a bit. (Though my cooking doesn't hold a candle to my friend and her mother's traditional Sephardic cooking - I can't even begin to describe the amazing food.) We poured over old photo albums, told stories and shared a lot of laughs. I went to shul on Simchat Torah to watch the men dance. The big difference I noticed was the Torah scroll. I have seen pictures of Sephardic Torah scrolls before, but I had never seen one in person. The cover was a beautiful, silver, cylindrical box that surrounded the Torah scroll. To read the Torah from it, the scroll was stood upright inside the box. Because of the weight of the silver box, the scrolls were not danced with, but the shul also had a couple Ashkenazi scrolls that they did carry. Watching the men dance and sing, I was struck by the joy they felt at celebrating Torah. It was like being at a wedding (without live music) where the Torah was the chosson and kallah wrapped in one. Or maybe each of the men was the chosson and Torah the kallah. It really was beautiful to watch. The kids joined in, jumping up and down, singing and dancing and having a great time. The only drawback was that the women didn't dance. This is one thing I always find a bit annoying about Simchat Torah. I don't really understand why women aren't encouraged to dance on their side of the mechitzah, and I have been to places where the women do dance. I was tempted to start my own dancing circle, but I was in Lakewood so I decided to respect the traditions of the community I was in. All in all, I was very happy that I spent the time with my friend's family. Throughout all of the Yomin Tovim this season, I have been fortunate to have wonderful people open their homes to me and make me part of the family. It was something that I appreciate even more after recently moving and feeling a bit misplaced. It is special to know that I have so many homes, rather than none.