Simchat Torah with Rabbi Eliezer Berland Shlit”a

Rav Eliezer Berland shlit"a during Hakafot Shniyot -- Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

Simchat Torah in the shadow of our Rebbe Rav Eliezer Berland shlit”a has always been legendary.  Our Rebbe Rav Berland shlit”a is bound to the holy Torah with all the fabric of his soul and being, learning Torah at every free moment and not taking his head out of the books.  The simchah in learning Torah is visually recognizable to all on Simchat Torah.  It’s known that anyone who wants to rejoice in Simchat Torah until “the roofs crack” should come to Shuvu Banim along with Rabbi Eliezer Berland shlit”a and dance and rejoice in the honor and completion of the Torah.  Also, this Simchat Torah, we merited to spend with the Rav shlit”a.   Before you is the full report from the beginning of the Chag to the completion of the Hakafot Shniot at the conclusion of the Chag.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland shlit”a at Hakafot Shniot — Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

The Evening of the Chag

At close to 6:00 pm the Rav shlit”a arrived at the giant Succah and immediately began the Minchah prayer.  Immediately following Minchah, he began Maariv and the sanctification of the Chag with great vitality and niggunim as is customary.

The Minchah prayer — Erev Chag — Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

Hakafot of Maariv

After Maariv the Rav shlit”a began with “Ata Hareita Da’at” and began the Hakafot.  At the beginning the Rav went around inside the giant tent and afterwards went out to the city streets together with the Torah scrolls for Hakafot for more than two and a half hours.  At the beginning, they danced on Rechov HaAyin-Het where the giant tent is located, back and forth three times, doing three hakafot, between each hakafah the Rav and the community singing and dancing with great vitality and fervor.  Afterwards, the Rav headed towards Rechov HaNeviim, and during the ascent there turned to the direction of the Russian courtyard, entering the square of City Hall.  In the middle of Kikar Safra, the Rav stood for the fifth hakafa with more than a thousand people surrounding him – men, women, and children who came to rejoice in Simchat Torah.  The Rav began with the song “MiPi E-l” with everyone jumping in joy and dance.  Afterwards, he headed back to Rechov Shivtei Yisrael and returned to Rechov HaAyin-Het with singing and dancing, with the Rav only interrupting for the sixth hakafa and the beginning of the seventh hakafa.  On entering the giant tent and reaching his place, the Rav completed the seventh hakafa, beginning the Torah reading.  The Rav went up for the Aliyah of “Kol HaNe’arim” of Simchat Torah evening.  At the conclusion of the Torah reading, the Rav concluded Maariv, announcing that at 5:00 am would be Shacharit in the giant tent.  He then returned to his home on HaHoma HaShlishit, accompanied by hundreds with singing and dancing.

Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

Shacharit and the Completion of the Torah – Simchat Torah Day

On Simchat Torah day, the Rav came out at 5:15 in the morning from his house in the direction of the giant tent, with the community escorting him.  On the way, the Rav began the song “Baruch Hu, Elokeinu…”  After about ten minutes of walking, the Rav arrived at the giant tent and immediately began Tikkun Chatzot from “Ura na” and “Shaarey Tzion” as is customary on Shabbat and Chagim.  Afterwards, the morning Zemirot with great vitality and arousal, korbanot, Shacharit like on every Shabbat and Chag, dwelling on the songs “Hoshea et amechah” and “HaNechmadim m’zahav” and “Ki kol peh lecha yodeh” in Nishmat Kol Chai.  Afterwards, Shema Yisrael, and the Amidah.  After the repetition of the Amidah, the Rav said the blessing for Hallel and began singing Hallel with awesome enthusiasm, close to an hour.  Afterwards, the Rav made kiddush and gave a short shiur about the greatness of dancing during Simchat Torah, that dancing on Simchat Torah is higher than the prayers of Rosh Hashanah.  He then announced a break so that the entire community could have an aliyah to the Torah.

The Rav left the tent and entered an apartment which was prepared in advance so that he could rest.  Because of his great weakness, the long walk, and his medical situation, the Rav didn’t come out for Hakafot.  Only at 1:15 pm, he left the apartment for the tent and made seven hakafot around the bimah.  Afterwards, because of the late hour, he began saying “Yizkor” and afterwards the Musaf prayer, which lasted for more than a half-hour, with him singing “vekarev pezureinu” and “vehavieinu l’Tzion Eirechah,” with the giant community of close to a thousand people singing together.  This was followed by Tefilat HaGeshem, the prayer for rain, with arousing melodies.  After the prayer began the Torah reading.

Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

The Rav shlit”a was honored with “Chatan HaTorah.”  At the end of the Torah reading, he roared “Chazak Chazak v’nitchazek.”  Afterwards was “Kol HaNearim” with tallitot spread over all of them.  After the Torah reading and the conclusion of the prayer, the Rav said the Tikkun HaKlali together with the community.  The Rav then returned to his home, announcing that Maariv Motzei Chag would be at 7:30.  At close to 8:00 pm, the Rav came out for Maariv, the prayer lasting for some forty minutes.  After the prayer, the Rav gave over a short shiur about the level of dancing all night until five in the morning.  One of his grandchildren then said Havdalah in a loud voice, and the Rav shlit”a returned to his home.

Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

There is No Simchah Like Simchat HaTorah

At 12:30 am at night, the Rav shlit”a arrived from his home at the giant tent, and immediately began the verses of “Atah Hareita,” beginning to dance together with the whole community, thousands of people from all walks of life dancing and skipping with awesome joy in honor of the Torah.  The legendary Shuvu Banim band of Rav Moshe Revach and Rav Yalon Yitzchaki played the music, with the additional participation of known musicians with holy music and fiery simchah.

The legendary Shuvu Banim band during Hakafot Shniot — Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

The Rav shlit”a danced for some two and half hours almost without interruption and with great vitality, saying the verses of the hakafot between each one.  At 3:00 am, the Rav shlit”a left the hakafot for his home, saying that the dancing would continue until 5:00 am in the morning – the time of the Shacharit prayer.  The dancing continued with full strength until 4:30, and then they left the giant tent with the Torah scrolls in the direction of our Beit Midrash, where the Torah scrolls were placed in the Torah ark with singing and dancing.

Photo credit: Machon Keren HaTzaddik

Fortunate are we that we merited to finish the Torah and to dance together with our Rebbe Rav Eliezer Berland shlit”a, the Chatan Torah in its simple meaning, learning Torah day and night.  It’s only left for us to say:

“Blessed is He – our G-d, Who separated us from those who err, and gave us the Torah of truth and planted eternal life within us”

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