Out of respect for the sanctity of the holiday, please print out this holiday guide before the onset of the holiday (sundown Friday, October 6, 2023), and keep handy throughout the holiday for reference purposes.

Simchat Torah 101

In Short

When: Starts in the evening of October 6, and concludes after nightfall of October 8, 2023

What: The holiday of Sukkot is followed by an independent holiday called Shemini Atzeret. In Israel, this is a one-day holiday; in the Diaspora it is a two-day holiday, and the second day is known as Simchat Torah. This holiday is characterized by utterly unbridled joy, which reaches its climax on Simchat Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion—and restart—of the annual Torah-reading cycle.

How: These two days constitute a major holiday (yom tov), when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and we enjoy nightly and daily festive meals, accompanied by kiddush. We don’t go to work, drive, write, or switch on or off electric devices. We are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors (unless it is also Shabbat).

Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah candle-lighting times
Learn the laws of yom tov

Shemini Atzeret

The first day, Shemini Atzeret, features the prayer for rain, officially commemorating the start of the Mediterranean (i.e., Israeli) rainy season, and the Yizkor prayer (supplicating G‑d to remember the souls of the departed).

We no longer take the Four Kinds, and we no longer mention Sukkot in the day’s prayers; in the Diaspora, however, we do still eat in the sukkah (but without reciting the blessing on it).

How to celebrate Shemini Atzeret

The Meaning of Shemini Atzeret

Shemni Atzeret literally means “eighth [day] stop.” It is from the verse which tells us that after the seven days of Sukkot, “on the eighth day, a stop it shall be for you.”1

The sages explain: During the course of the 7 days of Sukkot, a total of 70 bulls were offered on the Temple altar, one for each of the 70 nations. In a sense, the Sukkot holiday included all of humanity. On this day, however, G‑d asks us to “stop” and celebrate one more day, just us and Him.

Simchat Torah

The highlight of the second day, Simchat Torah (“The Joy of the Torah”), is the hakafot, held on both the eve and the morning of Simchat Torah, in which we march and dance with the Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue. (In many synagogues, hakafot are conducted also on the eve of Shemini Atzeret.)

On this joyous day when we conclude the Torah, it is customary for every man to take part in the celebration by receiving an aliyah. The children, too, receive an aliyah!

After the final aliyah of the Torah, we immediately begin a new cycle from the beginning of Genesis (from a second Torah scroll); this is because as soon as we conclude studying the Torah, G‑d’s infinite wisdom, on one level, we immediately start again, this time to discover new and loftier interpretations.

(In the Land of Israel, the celebration and customs of these two days are compressed into one day.)

How to celebrate Simchat Torah
What to expect at Simchat Torah services

The Meaning of Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah means “joy of Torah.” The name is derived from the fact that on this day we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and begin anew.

Note that it is not called “joy with the Torah” or “joy from Torah,” but “joy of Torah.” This is because the Torah itself rejoices. And when we sing and dance with her, we provide the Torah with legs and partake in her celebration.

The Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah 5784 (2023) Calendar

Friday October 6 – 21 Tishrei
7th day of Sukkot
Hoshanah Rabbah
- The Day Before Shemini Atzeret

Note: Click here and here for more information about this special day. What follows is only the information relevant to preparations for the holiday of Shemini Atzeret.

In some communities, it is customary that those who will be reciting Yizkor tomorrow (i.e., anyone with a deceased parent) light a 24-hour yahrtzeit candle before the onset of the holiday.

Click here for a summary of the laws of Yom Tov, and here for the complete Shemini Atzeret Guide.

Women and girls light Shabbat and holiday candles — preferably in the sukkah — in order to usher in the holiday. Click here for the text of the blessings, and here for local candle lighting times.

Festive evening prayers followed — in most communities — by the hakafot dancing.

After the prayers, we enjoy a holiday meal in the sukkah. (Tonight and the next day, no blessing is made on sitting in the sukkah. Click here for more on this topic.)

Shabbat October 7 – 22 Tishrei
Shemini Atzeret

Morning service. Full Hallel is recited.
Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 and Numbers 29:30-1.
Haftorah: I Kings 8:54–66.

Yizkor is recited by those who have a deceased parent. Before the start of the Musaf amidah, the gabbai announces aloud: "Mashiv haruach u'morid hageshem!" ("He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall"), and from this prayer forward, and lasting until the first day of Passover, those words are inserted into the second blessing of the amidah. The opening paragraphs of the repetition of the amidah contains a special prayer, Geshem ("Rain"), beseeching G‑d to grant bountiful rain, and officially launching the Mediterranean (i.e., Israeli) rain season. The Priests bless the congregation with the Priestly Blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Festive lunch meal in the sukkah. Sometime before sundown, it is customary to go into the sukkah, have a bite to eat, and "bid farewell" to its holy shade.

After dark (tzeit hakochavim), women and girls light candles — in the home — for Simchat Torah, using an existing flame. Click here for the text of the blessings, and here for local candle lighting times.

Click here for the complete Simchat Torah Guide, and here for all you need to know about hakafot.

Festive evening prayers followed by hakafot — jubilant singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls.

After the prayers and hakafot, we enjoy a festive holiday meal (no longer do we eat in the sukkah).

Sunday October 8 – 23 Tishrei
Simchat Torah

Morning service. The Priests bless the congregation with the Priestly Blessing during the Shacharit (morning) prayer. Full Hallel is recited, followed by the hakafot.
Three Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Everyone, including children, receives an aliyah.
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12; Genesis 1:1-2:3; Numbers 29:35-30:1.
Haftorah: Joshua 1:1-18.

Festive lunch meal.

Shabbat Bereishit Shabbat
October 14 – 29 Tishrei
Shabbat Bereishit - Shabbat Mevarchim

Morning service: Normal Shabbat prayers.
Torah reading: Genesis 1:1–6:8.
Haftorah: Isaiah 42:5-21.

Shabbat lunch meal.

The leaders of Chabad-Lubavitch would say: "As one establishes oneself on Shabbat Bereishit, so goes the rest of the year."

Tzikdatecha is not said during Mincha Afternoon prayers

After nightfall, evening services. Perform the Havdalah ceremony.

After the evening services, it is a Chabad custom for the gabbai to announce: "V'Yaakov halach lidarko!" ("And Jacob went on his way!")

Useful Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah Links

Simchat Torah Mega-Site

Global Simchat Torah Events Locator

Holiday Study & Insights

Simchat Torah Stories

Simchat Torah Shopping

Simchat Torah Kids' Zone

Simchat Torah Audio Classes and Videos