In “Gods Change, Prayers are Here to Stay,” the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wrote:
The Jewish people read Torah aloud to God
all year long, a portion a week,
like Scheherazade who told stories to save her life.
By the time Simchat Torah rolls around,
God forgets and they can begin again.
Of course, it isn’t really God who forgets, it is human beings who need the reminder. So, every year at Simchat Torah we finish reading the book of Deuteronomy and begin again with Genesis.
Traditionally, to mark Simchat Torah, we dance with the Torah cradled in our arms, sing, eat sweet treats and visit with our friends. But in this year of the coronavirus pandemic, everything is different.
Temple Emanu-El and its school have acknowledged that difference, embraced it and come up with a way to create a special kind of celebration: Trekking Through the Torah, a walk on the East Side of Providence through the 54 portions of the Torah.
Emanu-El and its religious school designed 54 yard signs, one for each Torah portion, with a picture that evokes something special about the portion and a brief synopsis. The signs will be placed in yards within about a half-mile of the synagogue. Some yards will also be decorated in the theme of the portion.
Simchat Torah falls on Oct. 11 this year. The signs will be in the yards Oct. 6-16 for people to enjoy. To request a map of the signs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RONNI SALTZMAN GUTTIN is director of education at Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.