Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

A celebration of the completing the annual reading of the Torah.

Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah's Origins

Editor's Note: Our holiday content is evergreen and revisited from year to year, and as such, not all customs and rituals explained on our site will be safe during times of social distancing. Please use your judgment and celebrate only in ways that are responsible and safe.

Immediately following Sukkot, we observe Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, a fun-filled day during which we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah TorahתּוֹרָהLiterally “instruction” or “teaching.” The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); the handwritten scroll that contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Also called the Pentateuch and The Five Books of Moses. “Torah” is also used to refer to the entire body of Jewish religious teachings and insight.  and affirm Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives.

As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times. During the Torah service, the concluding section of the fifth book of the TorahD’varim (Deuteronomy), is read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, or B'reishit, is read. This practice represents the cyclical nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the reading of the Torah.

Historically, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah were two separate holidays (a day of reflection after the end of Sukkot and a celebration of Torah the following day). However, in Israel and in Reform congregations, which generally observe one day of holidays rather than two, Sh’mini Atzeret is observed concurrently with Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah Family Activities

Edible Torah Treats

In Eastern Europe, it was customary at a child’s first Torah lesson to write the Hebrew alphabet in honey on the child’s slate, and giving it to the child to lick off; In this way, would the child always associate sweetness with Torah study.

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Congregation Beth Am photo at Pride March

 

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