Shemini Atzeret

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The seventh day after Sukkot is the Jewish holiday Shemini Atzeret. Though Shemini Atzeret is often thought of as part of Sukkot, it is not. Shemin Atzeret means assembly of the eight and is a separate holiday. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated as one day outside of Israel they are celebrated as two days with Simchat Torah the second day.

The purpose of Shemini Atzeret is to retain the spiritual revelations granted during the month of Tishri that starts with Rosh Hashanah and apply them throughtout the year. It is celebrated in the sukkah but without the rituals of Sukkot. The blessing of Shemini Atzeret mark this as a new holiday.

The annual cycle of completing the Torah reading happens around the same time as Shemini Atzeret the holiday of Simchat Torah developed. Simchat Torah mean rejoicing the Torah. Starting with Genesis and reading a few chapter each week until reading the last of Deuteronomy on Simchat Torah. The last chapters are read then followed by reading from Genesis, showing that the Torah is a cycle that never ends.

In celebration of Simchat Torah, the Torah scrolls are carried around the sancturay in a series of seven circuits or hakafot accompanied by singing and dancing. As many people as possible are given the chance to hold the Torah scrolls. Children often carry toy scrolls since the actual scrolls are to heavy for them to carry.

[edit] Jewish Holidays