In 1663, the celebrated diarist Samuel Pepys visited a London synagogue on Simchat Torah eve and discovered Judaism at its messiest, most cacophonous glory. He chronicled the ceremony, describing how the scrolls of the Torah were removed from the Ark and danced around the synagogue by the community, young and old.
In askance, he wrote of the experience in his diary: “But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this.”
Oh well, we are not an orderly people.
Pepys would find little difference 350 years later, were he a blogger visiting Israel, Tweeting about his trip and sharing pictures on Instagram. Using the hashtag #שמחתתורה, he’d post snapshots… but he wouldn’t be the only one. Thanks to the Internet, there’s a lot more diarists around today — here are a few of the images they’ve shared via Statigram.
- Photo by sivan_salman
You can see more Simchat Torah images on Statigram. Read the full October 14th 2013 entry in the Diary of Samuel Pepys online. Thanks to Miriam Schwab of Illuminea for pointing out the Samuel Pepys entry.