There was once a king who made a great banquet for all his subjects. Everyone came, eating the delicious food lavishly provided at the numerous tables. The feasting went on day after day, with great merriment, for seven days. Then all the guests, sated and happy, took their leave. The tables were now empty, although there was still a great deal of food laid out on the beautiful royal plates.

It was at this point that the king said to his close friend, to his dearly intimate companion: "Stay a little, let us go and find something to eat together. We will sit at one of the tables, just you and I, for you are my closest and dearest friend".

The Sages apply this image to explain the difference between the seven days of Succot and the concluding festival, called Shemini Atzeret, the "eighth day", which includes also the Rejoicing of the Law, Simchat Torah (1).

During the festival of Succot the service of the Jewish people was to draw blessings from G‑d into the world for the New Year. These blessings apply to all humanity. The Sages point out that the number of sacrifices offered in the Temple during Succot corresponds to the number of root nations of the world. The reason for this is that through these offerings Divine blessing is brought from G‑d to the Temple, and from the Temple to each nation.

This is compared to the atmosphere of the "banquet", in which all subjects of the King take part, with tremendous joy.

Then comes the end of Succot. The festival is complete. Yet G‑d says, so to speak, "stay a little...". This is the sense of the word Atzeret, which means "being held back". Now G‑d and the Jewish people are alone. The mood changes: from the joy of the vast banquet, to a unique sense of intimacy with G‑d.

It is in this atmosphere that we celebrate the most special festival of all: Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing of the Law.

1. Outside Israel the concluding festival has two separate days. However in the liturgy both are termed "Shemini Atzeret".


The conclusion of the Festivals is Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing of the Law, which begins on Saturday night (2 October). The joyful dancing with the Torah Scrolls expresses the bond that every Jew has with the Torah: a bond which goes beyond the extent to which a person has knowledge of the Torah, and even beyond the question of whether he or she actually observes its laws.

The Torah is an inheritance, which every Jew own by virtue of being Jewish. This idea is expressed in the verse "The Torah was taught to us by Moses, and is the inheritance of the community of Jacob". This is part of the Torah reading on this day, from the very end of the Torah Scroll. As soon as a Jewish child is born, he or she immediately inherits and possesses the entire Torah including all its most profound teachings.

This ownership of the Torah has effect on a deep, inner level of our being, beyond conscious knowledge. However, this by itself is not enough. We also need to draw the Torah into our consciousness and express it in our daily lives. We therefore have to make the deliberate effort to study Torah and acquire Torah knowledge. For both men and women, this is a life-long task.

In this continuous effort one is always helped by the fact that inwardly each of us already possesses the entire Torah as an inheritance. Our inner, sub-conscious ownership of the Torah gives us the ability to progress step by step in our conscious study and knowledge.

Simchat Torah expresses our joy that deep down we already own the entire Torah. On this day people do not sit down and study the Torah. Instead they dance with it as it is closed and wrapped up in its mantle. This joyful dancing will be a source of inspiration, helping us fulfill ourselves as Jews in the days and months ahead.

For The Friday Night Shabbat Table
Chabad Research Unit
Published and Copyright
Lubavitch United Kingdom
London, England