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Simchat Torah

Answer By: 
Rabbi Mark Washofsky
fall harvest

Sukkot, the Jewish festival of booths (a harvest holiday of thanksgiving), begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei and lasts for seven days. The first day of Sukkot is a festival day; the second through seventh days are known as chol hamo-eid (intermediate days) of Sukkot. The day after Sukkot ends is Sh’mini Atzeret (literally, the assembly of the eighth day), on which Simchat Torah (the Festival of rejoicing in the Torah) also is observed. This day, too, is a festival day.

This year, Sukkot begins on the evening of Wednesday, October 4. Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah begin on the evening of October 11.

Adapted from: Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice

Answer By: 
Victor S. Appell
Torah scroll with a yad and a kippah

Yes. We read the entire Torah over a year, beginning the cycle on the same week as Simchat Torah. The Torah is divided into 54 portions – or parashiyot – and, generally, one portion is read each week on Shabbat. (Some congregations read parts of the weekly portion on Monday and Thursday, in addition to reading it on Shabbat.) When a Jewish Holiday falls on Shabbat, a special Torah portion is read. Since there are more portions than there are weeks, there are times during the year when a double-portion will be read. There are seven pairs of portions that may be combined over the course of the year so that all fifty-four portions are read.

Some temples follow a schedule of reading an entire portion on Shabbat over a period of three years: the first third is read the first year, the second is read the next year, and the third is read in last third on the third year. The selection for each of those years is called the triennial reading.

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