Prayers of Hope and Joy at the Conclusion of the Cycle
With sundown this evening, we begin the holy occasion of Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah. Some two-and-a-half millennia after the Torah decreed that Jews observe the “8th Day of Cessation” as the festive culmination of the annual cycle of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, the leaders of our tradition added the novel dimension of “Rejoicing with the Torah.”
Though we usually think of the two occasions as separate days – Shemini Atzeret followed by Simhat Torah – they actually are a simultaneous pair: both occasions fall on both days. More accurately, the two occasions are one day, a day 24 hours long in the Land of Israel and 48 hours in the Diaspora (where all festival holy days are doubled, for reasons I won’t go into).
The first of the two Diaspora Days is most noted for a liturgical nuance called Tefillat Geshem, the Prayer of Rain, which marks the return of prayerful hopes for a productive year of crop growth. The second day carries out the joyous rituals of Simhat Torah, rejoicing in the conclusion of one year’s cycle of Torah reading and the immediate commencement of another such year.
At Ohev, Simhat Torah gives us the opportunity to honor two individuals for their service to the congregation. This year, we honor Madeline Silver and David Lowland. Please join us this Tuesday morning, October 25th, at 9:30 a.m. for Simhat Torah services – and don’t forget to come dance the night before, at 6:00 p.m. Hag Sameah!