This Simchas Torah, the program at Ahavas Torah in Scottsdale, Arizona, was unique, just like the shul and the Jewish community there. This shul hosts a vibrant, young community and many visitors and guests. There’s a warm, welcoming atmosphere and a strong connection to Torah and mitzvos. Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, the rav of Ahavas Torah, led a stirring Hallel that was so beautiful it would be hard to describe in words. I would say that it is worth a trip to Arizona just to hear Rabbi Shoshan lead Hallel.

Walking to shul, you see mountains rising in the distance, rocks, sand, and all shapes and sizes of cacti like the majestic Saguaro cactus, Teddy-bear chola, and Barrel Cactus that dot the land. Wildflowers like purple Lupine, pink Ocotillo, magenta Fairy Dust, flaming red, and yellow desert blossoms, adorn yards, while tall palm trees stretch to a cerulean sky. Songbirds and cactus wrens chirp, and the sun flames. That’s Scottsdale, Arizona, in September. Hashem’s exquisite creations added to the inspiring yom tov experience.

On Shemini Atzeres, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Weiss, Program Director of Olami, taught a thought-provoking shiur. He raised the questions of why we have salt on the table at Yom Tov meals and Shabbos meals, why women bring salt to the table, and why do we do mayim acharonim if there is no Sodomite salt anymore. He shared fascinating answers to these questions. The main lesson of the salt, which used to act as a preservative, was that it reminds us to chase after things that last – that are eternal. He also emphasized the idea that when you give, it lasts forever.

On Simchas Torah night during the Hakafos, Rabbi Shoshan taught an enlightening shiur for the women about the comparison of Avraham and Noach; during the daytime Hakafos, Mrs. Risa Brumer, Director of Olami Arizona, shared an inspiring shiur that focused on the importance of finding joy in the process and not worrying about the product, and on the idea that the essence of a Jew is gratitude.

As the rose-colored sun sank behind the mountains and this special time of the chagim ended, the beautiful memories of Simchas Torah in Scottsdale will linger.

 By Susie Garber