The highlight of Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah is Hakafot, when we traditionally dance the Torahs around the sanctuary, joyously serenading G‑d and His Torah, and drawing brilliant spiritual light into our souls and our surroundings.

This year, many of us will do so in our houses, even without physical Torahs in our hands, inviting G‑d into our personal space and porting the sublime Simchat Torah energy directly into our homes.

Ready to make this Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah into something special? Join us as we make the next few days an experience to remember!

To keep things simple, we’ve organized our tips in chronological order, so be sure to read to the end.

1. Prepare Festive Feasts

The two days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah contain at least four festive meals, so make sure to prepare accordingly. In addition to wine (or grape juice), challah and other delicacies, note that some have a tradition (read why here) to serve stuffed cabbage, known in Yiddish as kholoptches.

Read: Miriam’s Decadent, Easy Stuffed Cabbage Recipe and Other Great Recipes

2. Craft Flags

Art by Rivka Korf Studio
Art by Rivka Korf Studio

A classic element of the Simchat Torah celebration is for children to join the festive dancing in synagogue while waving flags. This year the little ones can have their own colorful homemade flags to flutter around your home-turned-sanctuary.

Not sure how to make one? Print this Simchat Torah coloring page, which you can then mount on the cardboard shaft of a dry cleaners hanger or another handy stick well in advance of the holiday.

Print: Simchat Torah Flag to Color

3. Prepare Your Favorite Drinks

It is customary (but not at all mandatory) for adults to responsibly enjoy a little lechaim before (and during) the Simchat Torah services. If you can safely do so, have a little something special to help you and your adult loved ones get into the Simchat Torah spirit. For kids (and adults who cannot drink), perhaps get some sparkling grape juice or another treat.

4. Light Festive Candles

Like Shabbat and other holidays, the two nights of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated in the warm glow of holiday candles (married women light at least two, and single girls light one). If you are in a male-only household, one of the guys should light candles for everyone. (Note that on the second night candles must only be lit after night has fallen and from a pre-existing flame.)

Print the Appropriate Blessings in Advance

When to Light in My Area

5. Pray @ Home

The Simchat Torah prayers follow the standard holiday procedure, with the addition of Hakafot—the joyous chanting of verses and circling the synagogue with Torah scrolls in hand (we’ll get to that later).

With the exception of Kaddish, the Barechu call to prayer, the repetition of the Amidah, and the Torah reading, you can pray anywhere in the world, including your home.

So make sure you have a siddur handy (Simchat Torah services are all in the standard Siddur) and a place set aside to serve as your ad hoc shul. If you are with others, pray together. Even though you don’t make a minyan, you can say the words and sing the songs together. You can print this handy guide to prayer at home in advance.

6. Dance 'Round and 'Round With a Chumash

On both the evening (Sept. 28) and morning (Sept. 29) of Simchat Torah (as well as the eve of Shemini Atzeret (Sept. 27), according to Chassidic custom), it is customary to perform Hakafot ("circles"), which involve reciting a medley of verses from the Torah, while joyously dancing with the Torahs around the Torah-reading table seven times. The entire proceeding can be found in your standard Siddur (pp. 383-388 in the Kehot Annotated Edition), and you can do this at home, joyously circling your dining room table or the furniture of your choice, holding a Chumash (the printed version of the Five Books of Moses), another holy book, or even some Torah content you printed from before the holiday. As you dance your sacred circles, know that you are bringing the sublime Simchat Torah energy directly into our home.

Print the Complete Hakafot Service (PDF)

7. Read the Torah Reading

Art by Rivka Korf Studio
Art by Rivka Korf Studio

Chances are that you do not have a Torah scroll at home. However, it is still ideal to read through the Torah reading of the day. This is especially so on Simchat Torah morning, when the reading includes both V’Zot HaBerachah, which concludes the Torah, as well as the start of the opening portion, Bereishit. You can find the reading in a Chumash or starting on page 484 in the Chabad Siddur.1

Print: Parshah Articles to Read on the Holiday

8. Sing and Dance!

Art by Rivka Korf Studio
Art by Rivka Korf Studio

The Chassidic masters tell us that “joy breaks through all barriers.” When we sing and dance in our homes this year, our joy will pierce through the walls and miles that may separate us from our fellow Jews, and make us into one mass of shimmying, singing, swaying, and soaring souls. So get ready to elevate your home, put on your dancing shoes, and, whenever you feel the need, belt out those Simchat melodies like no one is watching. (Right, no one is watching—besides for the One who is always watching).

Practice: A Classic Chabad Simchat Torah Tune

9. Enjoy Festive Meals

Simchat Torah marks the end of a long season of holiday meals that began more than three weeks prior with apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah eve. In addition to enjoying delicious food, we recommend printing up some stories and Torah thoughts to spice up your repasts.

Print: Simchat Torah Essays and Stories

10. Get a Head Start On the Year

Simchat Torah starts the annual Torah reading cycle. It is customary to read one part of the weekly portion (parshah) each day, finishing on Shabbat. Since Simchat Torah is on Sunday this year, this is your time to learn the opening portion of Bereishit, in which we read the amazing process by which G‑d created Heaven and Earth. This is the optimal time to get on board of the daily study cycle, so that you will complete the entire Torah and Rashi in time for next Simchat Torah.

Print: Bereishit Parshah Articles