Shemini Atzaret & Simchat Torah שמיני עצרת שמחת תורה
I hear again the chanting of the Creation.
I see our world and pray it will come to be what it should be.
- Rabbi Lawrence Troster
Just as Sukkot ends, Jews enjoy the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Communities in Israel, and Progressive communities in the diaspora, generally observe one day of holidays celebrating Shemini Atzeret concurrently with Simchat Torah: Orthodox communities in the diaspora generally celebrate the holidays on two consecutive days. In Hebrew, Shemini Atzeret means 'eighth-day convocation' deriving its name from Leviticus 23:36. In biblical times, Shemini Atzeret was a day for Jews to reflect on the just-ended holiday of Sukkot before returning to their regular routine. Known as the Festival of 'Rejoicing in the Torah', Simchat Torah marks the completion of the annual Torah-reading cycle. As we finish reading the last sentence in Deuteronomy/Devarim we immediately begin again with the story of creation in Genesis/Bereshit to represent the cyclical nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the reading of the Torah. Simchat Torah is characterized by joyful parades of people carrying and dancing with the Torah scrolls. In some Jewish communities, ours at Etz Chayim being one of them, an entire Torah scroll is unrolled for all to see.