It’s Simchat Torah, 5783!!!

Another Calendrics Blog Post

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 / Rosh Chodesh, Yom revi’i, 1 Cheshvan, 5783.

By David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

On a recent Sunday evening (October 16, 2022 / Yom sheni, 22 Tishrei, 5783), I went to synagogue in-person (but masked) to join our observance of Shemeni Atzeret and the celebration of Simchat Torah.

Shemeni Atzeret (22 Tishrei), which comes just after the Jewish Fall Harvest Festival of Sukkoth (15-21 Tishrei), is a relaxed pause when we are no longer expected to eat our meals in the outdoor sukkah, but can just sigh a breath of relief.

It’s immediately followed by Simchat Torah (23 Tishrei), which can be translated as “Rejoicing in the Torah”. We celebrate God’s gift to us of the Torah by (among other things) dancing with the Torah scrolls (Sefer Torah). That Sunday there were two scrolls, one for our rabbi and one for our cantor.

Our rabbi and cantor started a round of seven circle dances, as they passed the Torah scrolls to everyone at this joyous service. Our dancing was accompanied by the cheery melodies of a klezmer ensemble.

After the joy and excitement of our dancing (luckily, I danced with the Torah to a stately waltz melody), we opened up each Sefer Torah for a reading.

We started with the scroll that had been rolled out to the very end. The last Parshah (weekly reading passage) is Ve-zo’t Ha-berakhah (“This is the Blessing”) to be found at the end of Deuteronomy / Devarim, 33.1–34.12.

The call to the Torah (aliyah) was for all who were facing an ending. I went up because the conclusion of my many History of Science deadlines, for this Fall, had come to pass earlier that day, when I submitted “Life and Works of Homer Vincent Craig (1900-1981)” to the Bulletin of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics (CSHPM) for the November, 2022, issue. In the November 2020 issue, I had previously written an appreciation of his only full book Vector and Tensor Analysis (1943).

The link to the appreciation is in the Links section. I’ll send you the biography link once it’s published.

Both my recent History of Canadian Geology talks were also among the fulfilled deadlines that I was celebrating:

At the Fall Workshop of the Canadian Tectonics Group (CTG) on Saturday, October 1, 2022, my paper was on “The Cross-Cordilleran Excursions of the 1972 International Geological Congress, a Semi-Centennial Celebration.”

As part of a roundtable looking at International Geological Congresses (IGCs) from 1888 (London) to 1996 (Beijing), I talked on the 24th IGC, Montréal, in 1972, immediately prior to the 1972 USSR-Canada Hockey Series. That was the net Saturday, October 8.

The other Sefer Torah had been rolled up to the very beginning: Parshah Bereshit “In the Beginning”, Genesis/Bereshit, 1.1-6.8.

Of course, this second Aliyah, was for new beginnings. I went up for this, too. After all just in History of Science, I had many new projects to work on.

Next Spring, both CSHPM and CSHPS (Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science) will be part of the Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS) to be held at York University, May 27- June 2, 2023.

Not only am I preparing my own paper (“Henri Fehr and Hans Freudenthal: 20th Century Giants of International Mathematical Pedagogy”), but I’m trying to organise a joint CSHPM/CSHPS session on education, which now goes under the working title of “The History and/or Philosophy of Mathematics and/or Science Education”.

More pressing is a November 14, 2022, deadline for a fuller article on the 1972 IGC for Episodes, the online journal of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

The next Shabbat would be 27 Tishrei, 5783, (Friday, October 21 / Saturday, October 22, 2022) and it was time to start our annual Torah reading cycle all over again with Parshah Bereshit.

What lessons might we historians learn from this millennial cycle of reading and rereading the same text?

Well, here are a couple of re-reading projects I’ve started recently. After I submitted my Craig bio to CSHPM, I re-engaged with his Vector and Tensor Analysis. I own one copy (1st edition, 3rd impression) which I keep in my second-floor office. I’ve also borrowed from U of T, Scarborough College’s copy (1st edition, 5th impression), which is currently waiting for me in our living room along with my JPS Tanakh. The University’s copy, judging from its inscription, once belonged to “Stephan Guttormsson”.

I’m reading both copies. Already I’m seeing connections that were invisible to me a couple of years ago.

I’ve also borrowed from the U of T Science Library both volumes of the 1928 publication of the Proceedings of the 1924 Toronto International Mathematical Congress (IMC). I plan to read them completely before the centennial in August 2024. Already, I’m finding the long list of delegates and attendees fascinating, let alone all the papers from Abstract Algebra to Nautical Engineering.

But those will be many new stories!

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