Shemeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah October 12 - 14, 2017 (22 - 24 Tishri 5778)
Shemeni Atzeret is observed on October 12, 2017 (22 Tishrei 5778)
Simchat Torah is observed on October 13, 2017 ( 23 Tishrei 5778)
Beth David Service Times
Shemeni Atzeret/Yizkor, Thursday, October 12, 9:00 am
Erev Simchat Torah, Thursday, October 12, 6:30 pm
Simchat Torah, Friday, October 13, 9:00 am
God adds a special day at the end of Sukkot. It’s called Shemeni Atzeret, literally the “Eighth Day of Assembly”. On that day, only one bull was offered — representing the Jewish people. It is a day of great intimacy with our Creator, as He asks His Jewish children to remain with him for extra personal time together. (Talmud – Sukkot 55b). We recite Yizkor on this day. It also signifies the end of the intermediate days of Sukkot (Chol Hamoed) with the sukkah no longer used for festive meals.
Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. Each week in synagogue chapters from the Torah are read, starting with Genesis chapter 1 and working through to Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah the last Torah portion is read, then immediately the first chapter of Genesis is read, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.
Shemeni Atzeret Traditions
On Shemeni Atzeret, as we complete this holiday season, we offer a special prayer to God for rain. Rain represents the blessings of growth and abundance.
Through all the hard work of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, we have come a long way. Our task now is to carry that energy throughout the year, storing up the sentiments of gratitude and devotion; nearly two months will pass until we celebrate another holiday, that of Chanukah.
Simchat Torah Traditions
Why are we accustomed to both finish and re-start the reading of the Torah on the same day? The Sages explain: “To show that the Torah is beloved to us like a new object and not like an old command which a person no longer treasures. Since it is brand new to us, we all run to greet it.” This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration, with processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls in the synagogue, expressing our joy at having the opportunity to come so close to God. Anyone who wants is given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah.