Songs for sharing the joy of Torah! Make meaning, memories, and music with these tunes as you celebrate Simchat Torah. Jewish people all around the world read the same portion of Torah each week and then re-start the annual cycle of story sharing on Simchat Torah, which begins on Monday evening. This is one of our most joyful holidays- it is customary to DANCE with the Torah scrolls in the community to celebrate.
1. Roll It Back – Marc Rossio
Marc Rossio, AKA ‘The Marvelous Toy’, writes songs that exude energy and this tune is my most favorite. The circling movement of the fists to indicate that you ‘roll it back’ is key to enjoying sharing this song to its’ fullest potential! Since the Torah is read from a scroll, they must be ‘rolled’ back to the beginning so that we can start from Genesis. In many communities, the entire scroll is unrolled as we celebrate another cycle of sacred learning. I love Marc Rossio’s simple song because it brilliantly lends itself to super fun dance gross motor practice that also helps participants understand the ritual associated with the holiday.
2. Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule – Miss Emily
I was commissioned to write a song for elementary school children based in the text:
“What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it.” (Talmud Shabbat 31a).
When I present this song, I sing the verses to the learners, explaining that this song tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. I’ll share that it is about a student who went looking for a teacher who could teach the whole Torah while standing on one foot! Then, I’ll inform them that their job is to help me with the chorus- the part of the song that happens again and again- and that this song has an extra tricky element- that we are going to practice balancing on one foot as we sing it! I’ll have all the kids stand up, take a deep breath, find ‘their piece of floor’ (because they’re going to be wobbly and you don’t want them to knock each other out), and try to balance while I sing to them:
Treat other peopleEmily Aronoff, Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule
How you want them to treat you
This rule is golden
This rule is true (switch feet if the singers are struggling)
Don’t do to others
The things that would make you feel sad
Think about others’ feelings
You don’t know they day that they’ve had*
*I re-wrote this line post-production- it was originally ‘No matter if you’re happy or sad’.
3. One by One – Ellen Allard
I love the simplicity of this song- I repeat the lyrics frequently throughout the year to help prepare kids familiar with the concepts of how Torah is consumed- in small doses- prescribed collectively- so that we can encourage the cycle our ancestors began.
One by one every week we read the TorahEllen Allard
Its letters we speak
Precious stories to tell
Lessons for us to learn very well
Start at the beginning, go right through
Til’ the end then we start anew
4. The Yad Song – Eliana Light
This catchy tune from Eliana Light is the first song I remember learning from her. She was polishing the presentation at a conference. I believe it was a NewCAJE sometime in the 2010s and I still remember how I admired how thoughtful she was in asking for feedback as she selected the appropriate movements to accompany this song.
5. Sweet As Honey – Dan Nichols
A sacred early childhood tradition in Judaism involves a child’s entrance to formal learning being sweetened by the literal consumption of honey as they learn to write and trace letters. Dan Nichol’s terrific tune includes the blessing for studying Torah- and includes the refrain we hope to code into our communities: Torah learning is SWEET! For extra fun, I might encourage my youngest singers to stick their tongue our when they sing ‘on our tongue’ to add a layer of silly that increases engagement in a meaningful way.
6. Rabbi Ben Bag Bag – Jeff Klepper
The enthusiastic dance moves make this song- watch at the .33 mark to learn the moves!
This song balances silly and simple with an important big idea beautifully. Before I share it with children, I might present an anticipatory set of questions:
- Do you have a favorite book? How many times have you read it?
- How many times do you think you/your parent/your Rabbi have read the Torah?
- Have you ever learned something new from something you thought you already read or watched?
7. Am HaSefer (People of The Book) – Jay Rapoport
Jay took this phrase originally coined by Islamic literature and explained it in a simple way to help its’ singers (and their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex) understand the meaning of this descriptive nickname. It explains the origin story of our sacred book and assigns a critical ‘why’:
At first there was nothing but thoughts and ideas
Tales of our people, passed down through the centuries
Parents taught their children, that’s how it got around
Until we had the bright idea to write all this stuff down
That is why they call us the people of the book
Our stories made us strong, some words was all it took
If you think you’ve heard it all before, take another look
We are Am Hasefer, people of the book
Carved on two stone tablets we got the first ten rulesJay Rapoport, Am HaSefer
The rest came with the Torah wrapped in an animal skin scroll
Today we can surf the web or read it on a screen
Now it’s up to you to fill the spaces in between
8. Big Torah – KidZimra
I’ve used this admittedly cheesy recording strongly reminiscent of The Wiggles really successfully as a movement song- if you’ve got enough plush Torahs to share, then distribute those beloved stuffed scrolls and use this song for movement cues to help get pumped up for Torah dancing!
9. Little Torah – Rachel Buchman
This is a sweet, soothing ditty that I use when I pass a small Torah around a group of kids- it works well in groups of 5-10 or so kids. I enjoy the ritual of passing Torah from one set of hands ot another- but it can sometimes drag, so I try to encourage the kids to pass every two line.
10. Dancin’ Song (Ivdu Et HaShem B’Simcha) – Miss Emily
Full transparency: I recorded this song because I needed a tool that would allow me to sometimes take a much needed break from singing to catch my breath- so this movement song that works for Simchat Torah and any other day during which we want to serve God with joy (which is any day of the week that ends in ‘y’ I think 😉 )
If you want to sing it without the recording- make this into a zipper tune, adding ideas and movements from your own environment.