"A day like today must be torture for you," the man said to me between aliyos. "Reading the same thing over and over and over."
I was somewhere in the middle of my third or fourth cycle through V'zos HaB'racha. My throat was beginning to give out between the singing during hakafos and the leining. The soles of my feet were beginning to hurt from having been dancing and standing for the last two and a half hours. I hadn't yet made kiddush for myself, and I was hungry and thirsty. We were just beginning to finish giving aliyos to the young bochrim and were soon going to start with some of the older under-Bar Mitzvah boys.
"Nah," I told him. "I love Simchas Torah. The atmosphere is great. The kids are so excited about the whole day, and the fact that I'm there when some of them get their first aliyah is priceless to me."
And then there are the kids... the fresh-faced boys coming up for their first aliyos, some of them standing on chairs so as to be able to see the sefer torah on the bimah. There's the kid who needs his father's help to make the b'rachos. There's the kohen's son who brought a huge smile to my face when, during his aliyah, he pulled his father's tallis up over his head. And then there's Reuvain.
Reuvain is eleven years old, but if you looked at him and didn't know better, you'd swear he was six. He has Down's Syndrome. Some parents shamefully hide children with Down's for fear that their other children may not get shidduchim -- but Reuvain's parents bring him to shul whenever possible. He usually stands on a chair on the opposite end of the bimah from me while I'm leining. Often he's the one who will cover the sefer between aliyos. When he arrives at shul during leining, he always takes his position at the opposite end of the bimah, sticks out his hand and wishes me a "Good Shabbos." with a hearty smile. I've been watching him grow, in his own fashion, for the last five years.
Reuvain's bar mitzvah is coming up in about a year or so and his parents are a bit concerned over what he'll be able to do for it. He's been practicing singing Ein Keilokainu... and, apparently, he's been practicing the b'rachos one recites upon receiving an aliyah. Like many kids, however, Reuvein sometimes exhibits stage fright. Even though he knows Ein Keilokainu, he has yet to actually go up to the amud on Shabbos mornings to sing it. His parents, who know him better than anyone else, don't push him to perform... they know he'll do it when he's good and ready - they just hope he'll be good and ready in time for his Bar Mitzvah.
Reuvain's father wanted him to go up and receive an aliyah, but as we were coming to the end of the list of kids who were receiving aliyos, he was still unsure about going up. One kid and then another went up, and now it was his turn. Either he took an aliyah now or else we went straight to Kol HaN'arim. He decided to go up. With his father standing beside him and his mother watching all in smiles from the women's section, he went up, made the b'rachos and stood there for the aliyah and recited the b'rachos afterwards. Needless to say, everyone in the shul was so proud of Reuvain.
After shul, Eeees came over to me and told me the rest of the story. "Do you know why Reuvain went up today?" she asked me. "Because of you. When they asked him why he went up, he said 'Wolf*.'"
So yeah, the soles of my feet were aching from having been standing for the last three hours. My voice was beginning to give out. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. And I have the adoration of a young kid in my shul. Torture? All torture should be so sweet.
* He didn't say "Wolf," of course... he said my name. :)