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Simchat Torah

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Simchat Torah
Holiday of: Judaism and Jews
Name: Hebrew: שמחת תורה
Translation: "Rejoicing with/of the Torah"
Begins: 23rd (in Israel 22nd) day of Tishrei
Ends: 23rd (in Israel 22nd) day of Tishrei
Occasion:The culmination of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. Final portion from Deuteronomy is read in synagogue. Everyone called to the Torah reading. Conclusion of the annual Torah reading cycle.
Rejoicing with the Torah.
Symbols:Dancing in Synagogue as all the Torah scrolls are carried around in a circle seven times.
Related to: Culmination of Sukkot (Tabernacles)

Simchat Torah (שמחת תורה) is a Hebrew term which means "rejoicing with the Torah". It is a Jewish holiday that takes place at the conclusion of Sukkot, a Biblical pilgrimage festival, also known as The Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).

According to Jewish law, the first two days of Sukkot are celebrated as full holidays, and the next five are weekdays that retain some aspects of the festival. The seventh day is called Hoshanah Rabbah and has a special observance of its own.

The last day of Sukkot, the eighth, is celebrated as separate holiday, with its own special prayers and customs. In the State of Israel, Sukkot is eight days long, including Shemini Atzeret. Outside Israel (the Diaspora), Sukkot is nine days long. Thus outside Israel the eighth day of Sukkot is Shemini Atzeret, and the ninth day is Simchat Torah. In Israel, the festivities and customs associated with Simchat Torah are celebrated on Shemini Atzeret.

Customs

The last portion of the Torah is read on this day. The following Shabbat Jews start reading the Torah again at the beginning of Genesis. Services are unconventionally joyous, and humorous deviations from the standard service are allowed, and even expected.

Origin

The name Simchat Torah was not used until a relatively late time. In the Talmud (Meg. 31a) it is called simply the second day of Shemini Atzeret. The name "Simchat Torah" came into use after the introduction of the one-year cycle for the reading of the Law (date?), and was due to the fact that the reading was finished on this day.

In the ninth century some European Jewish communities assigned a special reading from the Prophets to be read on this day. In the fourteenth century the reading of Genesis was begun immediately upon the completion of Deuteronomy. In southern European countries it then became a general practice to take out all the Torah scrolls from the Ark, and to sing a separate hymn for each scroll. In northern European countries it became customary for those who had finished the reading of Deuteronomy to make donations to the synagogue, after which the wealthier members of the community gave a dinner to friends and acquaintances. By the end of the fifteenth century it was usual, though not a universal practise, for the children to tear down and burn the Sukkot booths on Simchat Torah (Joseph Colon, Responsa, No. 26); and shortly afterward many Rabbis permitted dancing in the synagogue at this festival (ib.).

In the sixteenth century the practise of taking out the scrolls and of filing solemnly around the almemar on the night of the 22d of Tishri became customary; and on the same evening, after the procession, a number of passages from the Torah were read.

In Poland it was the custom to sell to the members of the congregation, on the 22d of Tishri, the privilege of executing various functions during the services on Sabbaths and at festivals; i.e. the synagogue used this occasion as a fundraiser. People who made these donations were called up to the Torahs and given a congregational blessing.

It became a custom for every male member of the congregation to read from the Torah, the passage Deut. xxxiii. 1-29 being repeated as many times as was necessary for this purpose. Today this practice is still followed in Orthodox synagogues; Conservative synagogues adapt this practice by also including women. One person is given the privilege of completing the reading of the Law with Deut. xxxiv. 1-12l; he receives the name of hatan Torah. After him came the member who was to recommence the reading with Gen. 1. He is called the hatan Bereshit.

Template:JewishHolidaysde:Torafest it:Simchat Torah he:שמחת תורה

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