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Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah

Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah

’Cause it’s hard to say goodbye


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)

“Please, stay one more day; it is difficult for me to part with you!”

Holiday candles are lit on both nights, and kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed on both nights and both days of this holiday. We don’t go to work, drive, write, or switch on or off electric devices. We are permitted to cook food that is needed for that day (on a stove that has been left on from before the holiday) and to carry outdoors (except on Shabbat).

Shemini Atzeret

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.

Simchat Torah

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.

The hakafot are an event not to be missed. Click here to find one near you.

For detailed holiday how-tos, visit our expanded Simchat Torah section.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 7, 2012

when do we say good-bye to Sukkot & Sukka Actually we never say good-bye. It's a reminder of the great wide outdoors, of nights under the stars, of moonlit beaches, of the ebb and flow of the tides, of trees filled with leaves, of blossoms and blossomings, of roots that spread, and the routes we took in getting to this place at this time. It's about sunrise and sunset and it's about the animals, the birds, and a total reminder that God is in the wings. And when it rains, it's for reigns, and a story that is deeper than the oceans and wider than the skies, that has everything to do with place, and setting, and the tables of the world. It's a story that is singing, about LOVE itself, and the poetry of that love. It's not random, that dove, and love are so close. Nor the migrations of soul that are so intrinsic to the metaphors of Nature herself. Reply

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