Simchat Torah (seem-CHAT toe-RAH) or (SEEM-chas TOE-rah) is a joyful day on the Jewish calender. It concludes the fall series of Jewish holidays. Some things to know about Simchat Torah:
MEANS – “Rejoicing of the Torah.” Many Jews literally dance with the Torah scrolls on this day.
WHEN - This holiday falls after Sukkot. For Diaspora Jews, it is the second day of Shemini Atzeret. For Israeli Jews and Reform Jews, it is the day after Shemini Atzeret. (Either way, it’s the 23rd of Tishrei, which in 2013, begins at sundown on Sept 26.)
WHAT DO WE DO? – We finish reading the end of the Torah Scroll, then quickly begin reading it again! In many congregations, this activity is accompanied by dancing, parades, and banners.
WHY? - We love Torah, and we want make sure we never stop reading it. Therefore we make a very big deal about beginning again. Also, since the Torah has to be rolled back to the beginning, and that’s a big deal anyway, why not make a party of it? This is an opportunity to express our love for Torah.
Details differ among Jewish communities, and your congregation may have special customs of its own. For instance, when I was a rabbinic intern at Congregation Etz Chaim in Merced, CA, we used to unroll the whole Torah scroll and take a “tour” of it before rolling it up again.
Does your congregation have a special Simchat Torah custom? Share it with us in the comments!