Simchat Torah At-A-Glance
The Holiday: Simchat Torah, or
"Rejoicing with the Torah."
When:The 23rd of Tishrei. This year,
Simchat Torah begins Saturday night,
Oct. 18, and is celebrated on Sunday,
What It Celebrates: This holiday
marks the time we complete the read-
ing of the Torah.
How We Celebrate: On Simchat
Torah, we read the last Torah portion,
VeZot HaBerachah, and will begin
reading the Torah from the beginning
again next week with .Parashat Bereshit.
During davening, each sefer Torah,
or Torah scroll, is removed from the
ark, then held by a congregant who
dances with it around the synagogue
or temple. It's traditional to dance
seven times (called hakafot) about the
sanctuary, with every completed round
followed by singing, dancing and mer-
Simchat Torah is the only yom toy
(holiday) when Jews are allowed to
dance around the synagogue.
It's also a custom in many congrega-
tions to invite all children to the
bimah for the last aliyah. There stands
a canopy of tallisim where the chil-
dren gather, and often are held on
adults' shoulders. The children say a
special blessing, kol ha-ne'arim (all the
youth), after which congregants toss
handfuls of sweets toward the bimah.
Unique Features: Simchat Torah is
not mandated by the Torah. In fact,
it's not even mentioned in the Torah.
Simchat Torah is completely rabbinic
in origin. Further, it is the only time
during the year when we read from
the Torah at night (and then again the
Some congregations place a lit can-
In 2002, 5-year-olds Jacob Salle?? and Leora Nevins of Farmington Hills and Yoni Weiss, 4, of Southfield hold their Sifiri Torah
in the sanctuary of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills.
dle inside the ark during the hakafot, a
tradition based on Proverbs 6:23, "For
a mitzvah is a candle, and Torah is
lift the left pole, then raise the Torah
cross handed, then straighten his
hands, with the words of the Torah
facing the congregation.
A Few Facts:
It Takes Two: Simchat Torah happens
• If you dance with the Torah, make
sure you hold it in your right hand.
• Many children like to bring a flag
for Simchat Torah celebrations because
-a flag is said t reflect the idea of an -
army marching with its banner, in this
case the Jews and the Torah.
• Some congregations have the tradi-
tion of raising the Torah scroll in a
unique way on Simchat Torah, so as
to differentiate it from other days
when the Torah is read. Instead of just
lifting the scroll, called hagbahah,
someone will use his left hand to lift
the right pole On which the parch-
ment is rolled, and his right hand to
to fall at the end of Sukkot, but it's
not actually a part of that holiday.
Another holiday, also independent
of Sukkot, that comes this time of
year is Shemini Atzeret, which.will be
observed one day earlier than Sirrichat
Torah, this year. on Shabbat. Simchat
Torah, though better known, is actual-
ly part of Shemini Atzeret.
You can read about Shemini Atzeret,
the Eighth Day of Solemn of Assem-
bly, in the Book of Leviticus 23:36.
Here, you will see the words, "On the
eighth day you shall hold a holy con-
vocation; you shall do no work on it."
(Simchat Torah was added later as a
separate day, though in Israel the two
holidays are the same day).
So what, exactly, do we do on
Shemini Atzeret? Observant families
follow the same rules that apply to
Shabbat and other holidays: no writ-
ing, no kindling lights, no work, etc.
Those in mourning recite Yizkor, the
memorial prayer for the dead (also
said on Yom Kippur, the eighth day of
Pesach, and on the second day of
This became a tradition after the
first Crusade, in 1096 CE, when
many Jews were murdered and it
became custom to read the names of
the dead aloud within the Jewish com-
On Shemini Atzeret, we also read
from Ecclesiastes, written by King
Solomon during his last years, when
he was pained and heartbroken. ❑