JUDAISM | Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

11 to 13 October

Taking place immediately after Sukkot is another jubilant festival, lasting for two days (or one day, in Israel). No work is permitted during the period, and the focus of celebrations is the conclusion and resumption of the Torah-reading cycle. On the evenings preceding each of the two days, Jewish females light candles and recite blessings, and families gather together for festive meals.

On the first day, called Shemini Atzeret, prayers are made for rain as the festival marks the onset of the rainy season. In remembrance the souls of the departed, the Yizkor prayer is also recited. On the second day, called Simchat Torah or ‘The Joy of the Torah’, Jews take part in hakafot (circle) dances morning and night, marching and dancing around the synagogue reading table with Torah scrolls in their arms. Jewish men and children receive an aliyah (the honour of being called upon to read from the Torah) during the service. The service ends with the recommencement of the Torah reading, from the very beginning, on a second Torah scroll.

For more information about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah please click here