Simchat Torah

Don’t worry – I’m almost done, now.
This is the LAST feast post.  At least until Hannukah, LoL!

Did you know that Rosh Ha’Shana isn’t the only 2-day celebration?  Because Shemini Atzeret (the 8th Day after Sukkot) is also a 2-day celebration.  The first day is – of course – called Shemini Atzeret, and the second day is called Simchat Torah.  I didn’t realize this… by the way, I’m still learning, myself.  I share what I learn, and this is news to me!  Here’s what I’ve read about Simchat Torah:

Simchat Torah is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah is a component of the Biblical Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret (“Eighth Day of Assembly”), which follows immediately    after the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishrei   – HebCal

Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing with/of the Torah,”) … takes place in the synagogue during evening and morning services. In many Orthodox and Conservative congregations, this is the only time of year on which the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and read at night. In the morning, the last parashah of Deuteronomy and the first parashah of  Genesis are read in the synagogue. On each occasion, when the ark is opened, all the worshippers leave their seats to dance and sing with all the Torah scrolls in a joyous celebration that often lasts for several hours and more.  – Wikipedia

Immediately following the seven-day festival of Sukkot comes the joyous two-day festival of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. (In Israel, the festival is “compacted” into a single day.  This is analogous to a king who invited his sons to a feast for a number of days. When the time came for them to leave, he said: “My sons! Please, stay one more day; it is difficult for me to part with you!” (Midrash)  Holiday candles are lit on both nights, and kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and both days of this holiday.

…On Shemini Atzeret (“the Eighth of Retention”) we still eat in the sukkah (according to the custom of most communities), but without reciting the blessing on the sukkah. The “Four Kinds,” though, are not taken on this day. The Shemini Atzeret morning service includes the Yizkor service, as well as a special prayer for rain, officially launching the Mediterranean rainy season.

The second day is called Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”). No longer do we eat in the sukkah. On this day we conclude, and begin anew, the annual Torah reading cycle, an accomplishment that produces unparalleled joy.  The focal point of Simchat Torah is the hakafot procession, in which we march, sing and dance with the Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue. The hakafot are done twice, on the night and morning of Simchat Torah, and in some communities also on the night of Shemini Atzeret. Everyone receives an aliyah on Simchat Torah, even the children.   – Chabad.org

Well, that fits with what we did this year.  On the Eighth Day we ate our feast by candlelight in the sukkah, then took our willow branches outside (five of them – that’s what we got from Aunt Barb, and since I have five littles, they each got one) and we beat them on the ground, symbolic of shedding our sins (instead of waving the lulav).  Then on Simchat Torah we danced around with our Bibles (to Newsboys… it jived.), then took down our sukkah and streamers and decorations, and ‘started fresh’ and new, again.  But we did have an amazing holy festival, and it was fun for the entire family!

 

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