While Chag Sukkot lasts a full seven days, the Hebrew calendar rewards us with the additional celebrations immediately afterward of Simchat Torah and Sh’mini Atzeret. Most of us are familiar with our evening celebration of Simchat Torah, which includes carrying all our Torah scrolls around the sanctuary (hakafah, or hakafot, pl.) seven times while upbeat music keeps us moving and waving our flags. We usually also celebrate Consecration on the same evening, during which we introduce and bless those students and families new to our Religious School. Although this year we’ll have to forgo the hakafot, please join us for on-line services this Friday, October 9th, which will include Consecration, music and chanting from the very end and the very beginning of the Torah as we once again begin the cycle of annual Torah readings.
Our Sh’mini Atzeret observance may not be as familiar. The phrase literally means “eighth day of assembly,” and we are commanded to observe the day in Num. 29:35.
בַּיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁמִינִ֔י עֲצֶ֖רֶת תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֥א תַעֲשֽׂוּ׃
On the eighth day you shall hold a solemn gathering; you shall not work at your occupations.
Although there are no specific rituals associated with this holiday, it does mark a change in our liturgy. At Sh’mini Atzeret our G’vurot prayer in the Amidah switches from a prayer for dew to a prayer for rain (from morid hatal to mashiv haruach umorid hagashem). On the morning of Sh’mini Atzeret, this year on Shabbat morning, October 10th, our service also includes Psalms of Praise (Hallel) and Yizkor.
Please join us this week as we complete the High Holy Days and Festival season of 5781!
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush