i was in shul on Shminni Atzeret, listening to the reading of Kohelet, and wondering why it's read on Succot. my dad says it's a simple process of elimination. the only chag and megillah left after matching up the pairing ones are Succot and Kohelet. according to the Artscroll chumash, Succot is a holiday of joy. there is relief that the Yomim Noraim are over, and the harvest is complete, and with unrestrained joy comes inappropriate behavior, so we read the words of Shlomo, to remind us that all is futile. having said that, it is extremely difficult to keep up with the reading, because it is read so fast. it's not helped by the fact that every pasuk starts with the words "ki" and ends with the words "tachat hashemesh" one i lost the place it was hard to find it again.
Learning how to appreciate Simchat Torah was hard. once i reached the stage where i was too old to sit on my dad's shoulders and collect candy from the men dancing, it became easy to sit on the other side of the mechitza and complain about the boring unfairness of it all. but then one year i sat next to a neighbor of mine who was crying softly as the torah reading was completed. as i looked at her face, i realized that she was crying tears of happiness and then i realized that underneath all the merriment and dancing, there is an aspect to the chag that could make you want to cry tears of joy. all you have to do is sit think for a minute about how lucky we are to be the Chosen Ones.
we daven at two different shuls on Simchat Torah. at night we go to a shul where there is a lot of great dancing. during the day we go to a shul where this a lot of great candy. of course the candy-collecting is restricted to boys and little girls, and sister2 lamented the fact that she has no younger siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins to collect candy for her, but my aunt always brings great chocolate for the women upstairs. but far surpassing the great candy, is the davening and the tunes. once the dancing has cleared away, and the screaming babies have been brought back to the babysitters, the real simchat torah is displayed. with regal coverings and silver crowns, the sifrei torah are the center of the shul as the chazzan and the gabbaim dance and bow with the scrolls as the whole congregation as the entire congregation sings the joyous tune of Agil V'esmach, and proclaims the exhilaration and sanctity of the day.
they say that Rosh Hashana, is the longest day of the year. but in my mind, Simchat Torah takes the prize. it's the only day when shul doesn't end till two, the only day when we don't eat lunch till 4. of course, it's the only day (besides Purim) when kids are allowed to eat unlimited amounts of candy. when i was little, i used to collect enough candy to last me until right before Purim.
the hardest part of the chag is taking down the decorations and dismantling the succah. last night we managed to take down all the decorations and chains in record time. I'd like to think it was that we were infused with energy. but it was probably the fact that it was very cold outside, and much warmer inside.
but long after the glitter and tinsel has been packed away, and the leftovers have been eaten, the little glow infused from the week of y't will linger and keep through the start of the winter.