Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

October 24-25, 2016
Note: Holiday begins sundown October 23

Shemini Atzeret, literally the Gathering of the Eighth, appears, on the surface, to be the eighth day (and ninth day outside of Israel) of Sukkot. It is, however, a separate and independent holiday that immediately follows Sukkot.

In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is celebrated concurrently with Simchat Torah. Outside of Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the following day. This Crash Course in Jewish Holidays presents them as two separate days.

SHEMINI ATZERET

Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah is a Yom Tov and is observed like Sukkot, hence carrying and cooking are permitted. On Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, the obligation to dwell or eat in the sukkah no longer pertains. In the Diaspora, some eat in the sukkah (without a blessing) on Shemini Atzeret, while others do not. In Israel, there is no custom to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.

Candlelighting

Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin at sunset of the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival] candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holiday. On the second night of Yom Tov, candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset.

Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin at sunset of the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival] candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holiday. On the second night of Yom Tov, candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset.

When Shemini Atzeret, begins on Friday night, the Shabbat candle-lighting procedure is as follows:

Two candles (minimum) are lit, then both hands are waved towards the face, symbolically drawing in the light of the candles and the sanctity of the Sabbath/Yom Tov. The eyes are covered and the blessing is recited. On the second night, Saturday night, the blessing is said first, without the Shabbat addition, and only then are the candles lit (from a pre-existing flame).

On Friday night, insert the bracketed words:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel [Shabbat v’]Yom Tov.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of [the Sabbath and] Yom Tov (festival).

An additional blessing is said on both nights of Shemini Atzeret, to acknowledge the good fortune of being able to experience the holiday:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, she’he’che’yanu v’kee’manu, v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.


Evening services are held in the synagogue.

A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and Ha’Motzei, which is made over two whole challot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday.

The Morning Synagogue Service

1) On Sh’mini Atzeret the formal prayer for rain is added to the service (as Sh’mini Atzeret marks the start of the rainy season in Israel).

a) Although there are many allusions to rain on Sukkot, and G-d determines the allotment of rain for the next year on Hoshana Rabah, the prayer for rain is delayed until after the Sukkot holiday. Rain on Sukkot is considered a sign of disfavor since it prevents the fulfillment of the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah.

b) The cantor recites the prayer for rain during the repetition of the Mussaf (additional) service.

2) In the Silent Amidah, ma’shiv ha’ruach u’morid ha’geshem, He makes the wind blow and He makes the rain descend, is inserted. Mashiv… is added to each service until Passover.

A festive meal is eaten, proceeded by the daytime festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and HaMotzei, which is made over two whole challot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday.

Mincha, the afternoon service is recited (including the weekly Torah reading, since it is also Shabbat).

SIMCHAT TORAH

Simchat Torah is actually the second day of the Sh’mini Atzeret festival and is a Yom Tov.

1) The festival meals (with festival kiddush, ha’motzei and Grace After Meals) are eaten.
2) Because the first day of Yom Tov is also Shabbat, Havdallah, the ceremony separating holy days from each other and weekdays, is recited after Kiddush at the second night meal.

Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion of the yearly cycle of the reading of the Torah.

1) Moshe ordained that the Torah should be read on every Shabbat and the Rabbis divided the Torah into 54 sections called parshiot (parasha). Generally, due to the cycle of the year, certain parshiot are doubled, ie: read together on a single Shabbat.

2) On the same day that the Torah is completed, it is begun again to show that Torah is always a new and desired gift for the Jews, and that our mitzvah to study Torah is never ending.

Simchat Torah Night

1) After the evening service, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark.

2) The bimah is circled seven times by those holding the Torah scrolls as the congregation dances around them. Each circle, called hakafa, begins with a responsive prayer.

3) In many communities, the beginning of the final parasha of the Torah is read on Simchat Torah night, the only time that it is read at night. *NOTE: The Simchat Torah festivities can last many hours. If you have been invited to friends or family for dinner, please confirm what time to meet.

Simchat Torah Day

1) During the morning service, all the Torahs are again taken from the ark and the hakafot, the joyous circling of the night before, is repeated.

2) The final parasha (weekly portion) of the Torah, V’Zot HaBracha (And this is the blessing…) is read.

It is customary that every man present in the synagogue receive an aliyah (be called to the Torah) on Simchat Torah. The final parasha is, therefore, read over and over until everyone has had an aliyah. In some congregations, several Torah readings take place simultaneously.

3) At the end of the Torah reading, there are three special aliyot for Simchat Torah:

Kol ha-Ne’arim, All the Children – This is the second to last aliyah of the parasha V’Zot Ha’Bracha. On Simchat Torah all the children are called together for a joint aliyah.
  • All of the children in the synagogue come to the bimah and stand beneath an outstretched tallit, prayer shawl. Since children under the age of 13 do not officially receive aliyot, one adult recites the blessings over the Torah with them.
  • After the concluding blessing over the Torah, the blessing over the children is recited:

    Y’simicha E-lokim k’Ephraim u’ke’Menashe. Y’varechecha A-donai, v’yishm’recha. Ya’er A-donai panav eylecha viy’chu’neka. Yee’sa A-donai panav eylecha v’yasem l’cha shalom.

    May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe. May G-d bless you and guard you. May G-d shine His countenance upon you, and be gracious unto you. May G-d turn his countenance to you and grant you peace.

  • The congregation then recites, HaMalach Ha’Goel, (The Redeeming Angel).
    HaMalach Ha’goel oti meekol rah y’va’rech et han’arim, vey’karay bahem sh’mee, v’shem a’votai Avraham v’Yitzchak, v’yidgu la’rov b’kerev ha’aretz.

    May the angel who redeemed me from all evil bless the youths, and call my name on them and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and let them grow into a multitude upon the land.

  • This is the part of the blessing the Jacob gave to Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Menashe.
Chatan Torah, The Bridegroom of the Torah
  • The Chatan Torah is the final aliyah of the Torah.
  • The Chatan Torah aliyah is considered a great honor. As a reciprocal gesture, it is customary for the Chatan Torah to sponsor of the Kiddush following the service or on a forthcoming Shabbat.
  • After the aliyah, the congregation recites:

    Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazaik Be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened c) Chatan Bereshit, The Bridegroom of the Beginning [of the Torah] i) The Chatan Bereshit is honored with restarting the Torah and begins with Genesis.

4) The services continue with the mussaf (additional) service. *NOTE: The Simchat Torah festivities can last many hours, depending on the synagogue. If you have been invited to friends or family for lunch, please confirm what time to meet.

Havdallah – At the conclusion of the second day of Yom Tov, Havdallah, separating holy days from week days, is recited. This Havdallah consists of only the blessing over grape juice (HaGafen) and the Havdallah blessing (HaMavdil), which can be found in the daily prayer book.