Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

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

What are SH'MINI ATZERET AND SIMCHAT TORAH?

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 and Simchat Torah.

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Congregation Beth Am photo at Pride March

 

More On Simchat Torah

Torah Cannot be Torah Without Us

Torah cannot be Torah without us; it needs us. Therefore, we must read it, we must study it, we must discuss it and debate it. We must carry it. We must dance among its verses, discovering ourselves in its chapters.

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Sukkot and Simchat Torah Social Justice Guide

As a people with agricultural roots, Jews have found many ways to mark the seasonal and environmental changes that occur throughout the year. Sukkot has numerous other themes and areas of focus that encompass seasonal, historical, and theological perspectives. It is among the festivals that fall in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, emphasizing not only the cycles of the earth, but also the cycles of Jewish life. (The other holidays in Tishrei are Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Simchat Torah.)

What's New

Songs and Videos for Celebrating Simchat Torah

October 8, 2020
One of most wonderful aspects of Simchat Torah is celebrating the joy of children and families dancing and singing with our Torah scrolls. Watch and listen to songs about our Torah, learn the creation story, how our Torahs can be handled with joy and care, and what all those books are really about!