In Jewish writings there is Halakah, which is the law, its interpretations and its interpolations. There is also everything else, known as Aggadah, including stories, interpretations of those stories, known as Midrash, ethical literature, theological musings and even poetry. The Medieval French Commentator Rashi noted an interesting division between Halalkah and Aggadah right from the word Breishit:
In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you,” (Exod. 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded... Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.[ Rashi to Gen 1:1 Chabad Online Library]
The first part of the Torah therefore is all Aggadah, primarily meant to describe the world as God's creation, and that God owns it and can give and take things at will. This cannot come across as mere law, story works much better. The origin stories legitimize everything that comes later.
There is a story in the Talmud about Aggadah and Halakah. Two rabbis walk into a town, and head for the town square, one begins to lecture about Halakah and one about Aggadah. Everyone flocks to the Aggadist and no one listens to the Halakist. On their way out of town the Halakist sulks. The Aggadist, trying to cheer his friend up, tells him a parable. "To what could this be compared to? To a merchant of pots and pans and to a merchant of precious jewels. Would not people flock to the pots and pans?"
Stories are useful and approachable. They convey emotion and they can convey a moral or ethical lesson. While Torah contains Halakah, it is important to note that it is primarily Exodus through Deuteronomy which contain Halakah. As the Talmudic rabbis so eloquently describe, prophets are prohibited from making Halakah, unless in a dire emergency. The prophets and writings are all story. Indeed the Reform movement in its inception pretty much rejected the mitzvot of Torah as antiquated practices. Instead it embraced the Aggadah of the prophets. And while the role of Halakah in the Reform movement has changed, it still is not binding as it is in Orthodoxy. Instead it is still driven by the stories Reform Jews know, and that primarily is the same stories of the prophets crying out for social justice. Orthodoxy can get extreme in Halakic orientation, Reform is still Aggadah powered in the spectrum of things.
This is not to say that Orthodoxy does not have Aggadah or Reform does not have Halakah. Both have both, but like the difference between a cinnamon coffee with a dash of milk and a Vanilla Latte, it is just in differing proportions and differing flavors. Neither is right or wrong, each has its merit. Halakah gives structure and strengh. Agggadah ethics and theology. Halakah is what we do, Aggadah is why we do it.
Shavuot is our celebration of Halakah. Simchat Torah is about story, it is about Aggadah. It is the celebration of our ability to read the same story over and over again, and each time pull new insights from it. It is the celebration of how much we love this book. Torah is both precious gems and pots and pans. It's been said God loves stories. Those pots and pans are a big half of our existence. But like many a small child, God likes the same stories to be read over and over again, and delights in ending and then beginning the cycle anew. We all get to be the little child bouncing on their bed, now, excited that we are beginning that book we love so much over again.
It is my wish that this year brings many good stories in your own and many good insights from the story we call Torah.