Traditionally, the walk to shul on the eve of simchas Torah is frigid. Women and children, walking together, bundled in their warmest coats, make their way to the shuls. Their footsteps follow the sound of joyous stomping and heartzig singing.
This year was different. For starters, there was the weather. It was warmer and damper than anything I can remember. And then there was the wind. The stroller was immensely difficult to push, and the hood of my jacket kept blowing off. And as we neared the shul, another thing hit me. It's so dark! I felt like something must have been wrong. Where are the brightly lit minyanim? the joyous dancing of the men?
It wasn't until I turned the corner and stood on the block of my shul that I realized something was indeed wrong. The shul across the street from my own was completely black. A bunch of excited bochurim watched as an emergency repair vehicle and a number of police cars attempted to resolve the problem. We all quickened our paces, eager to discover if our shul was plagued by the same blackout. Even before the building came into view, we knew the answer in our hearts. "By this time," I thought to myself, "we can usually hear the feet stomping and voices singing. Something is wrong."
Walking up the path to the women's entrance, our fears were confirmed. It felt like makas choshech, complete darkness in every direction. But as we snaked around the back of the buildings, our heads lifted. It was faint, but distinct: the sound of simchas Torah dancing. A boy was outside. "There's a blackout," he cautioned. "But they are in the entrance hallway, there is an emergency light there."
We went into the shul. It was eerily dark and still. But from the corner of the women's section, coming from the main hallway, we heard the dancing. It was louder now. And so we stood in that doorway and took in the surreal scene. Two small emergency lights hanging in one corner, a bimah in the middle of the room, and about twenty men surrounding it, singing, dancing, rejoicing in the Torah.
The entire room had a special glow. It's felt brighter than those ever-dimming emergency lights should have made it. But a glance back into the middle of the circle shows me the three lanterns: three sifrei Torah. And suddenly I realize; they aren't just enlightening the room, but our lives.
Next I heard all of the men jumping. "Moshe emes v'soraso emes!" And here we are, not just saying, but living it. Perhaps the situation could be made easier by a couple of phone calls to procure a backup generator, but we aren't doing that. The very Torah that we rejoiced over that night teaches us not to. Instead, Hashem provides the light. It doesn't make sense. It shouldn't be this bright, but it is. Hashem is showing us how He helps those who live by the mantra "Moshe emes v'soraso emes."
My four-year-old niece is slightly confused. "A Yid can't turn a light on yontif, right?"
"No sheifele," I explain.
"Bu the goyishe workerman can turn it on, right?"
"Yes, he can. If Hashem wants him to."
"But Hashem can't turn it on, he's a tatty! I guess he tells the workerman to turn it on."
I smiled at her simplicity, her emunah p'shutah. But when I thought about it, she wasn't wrong. They will fix the light- when Hashem tells them to. And He did. Just as the sixth hakafa was drawing to a close, the lights turned on. Without missing a beat, the men begin a new song: "Layehudim haysa Ora!" And as the bima is dragged back into the main bais medrash for the relocation of the dancing, I muse about the beauty of the special hakafos I had just witnessed. The yetzer hara had tried his best to deter us from feeling simcha that night. But he was successful only in dimming the lights; he didn't dim our joy.