Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

These Jewish holidays are often celebrated together or right after the other following the seven day festival of Sukkot. This takes place during the Jewish month of Thisrei, falling in September or October. Shmini Atzerat, which some consider to be the 8th day of Sukkot, celebrates the love of God. Simchat Torah is a celebration of the end of Sukkot, celebrated after Shmini Atzeret.

Shmini Atzeret

Shmini Atzeret is celebrated on the 22nd day of Tishrei. There are six significant features of the day, outlined in the Talmud:

  • When conducting temple services for the day, the priestly watches would draw lots for who would perform the religious services for holidays. During Sukkot, the temple received so much offering that all watches were needed to conduct services. However, the priests would draw from the lottery for the Shmini Atzeret service.
  • Sheheheyanu, a blessing that is recited on the first day of new religious periods.
  • Separation from the celebration of Sukkot. There is no dwelling in the Sukkah, a square shaped structure modeled after the houses dwelt in by the Israelites during their 40 year exile.
  • An offering of seven lambs, a bull, and a ram
  • Singing, usually from the Book of Psalms
  • Blessings—King Solomon was given blessings by the people when the temple was dedicated

The Talmud does not offer many specific instructions on celebrating Shmini Atzeret other than its date and restriction of work. However, despite the belief that the two holidays should be separate, many celebrations carry over from Sukkot.

Simchat Torah

This holiday celebrates the end of Sukkot and the end of the year’s cycle of Torah readings, which rotate in sections throughout the year. Observers will attend prayers in the morning and at night at the synagogue. Some Orthodox traditions remove the Torah from the ceremonial ark and read from it at night. This is marked by dancing and singing that sometimes lasts for several hours. It is mostly considered a component of Shmini Atzeret.

During the morning service, the male members may be called up to be honored, called aliyah.

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