Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com
Your discussion of women and Simchat Torah did not help my relationship with the chag. I have no particular desire to dance like the men but I find just standing around and watching it to be deeply boring. My feeling is that observing the dancing does nothing to develop my connection to Torah. What I’ve done for the last few years is to spend the long morning learning Torah by myself, consciously valuing the experience and enjoying it. Is this ok or should I really be standing in shul with the other women?
I understand your misgivings and I think your solution is excellent. Not all women enjoy learning on their own, though. Many women are not as intellectually inclined as others. Additionally, not all Simchat Torah celebrations are necessarily shallow. I’ve seen many with depth. I don’t know where you live and what your opportunities are, but generally genuine simcha can be found where people really learn. There the celebration will be earnest.
In places where people learn less seriously or learn when they can because their lives flow in other directions, they’ll want to celebrate with the Torah and they’ll do what they’re supposed to, but it may sometimes come across forced or superficial. I’ve also seen the difference between yeshivas where the boys are young and where the boys are more mature and real in their celebration. I won’t say watching the simcha has no effect, but I do understand that for some people experiencing the Torah directly through learning may do the same thing or more. However, I would still recommend you try a place where true simcha is palpable in the air.