Tishri 22, the day after the seventh day of Sukkot, is the holiday Shemini
Atzeret. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret
is also the holiday of Simkhat Torah. Outside of Israel, where extra
days of holidays are held, only the second day of Shemini Atzeret
is Simkhat Torah. These two holidays are commonly thought of as part
of Sukkot, but that is technically incorrect; Shemini Atzeret is a holiday
in its own right and does not involve the special observances of Sukkot.
Shemini Atzeret literally means "the assembly
of the eighth (day)." Rabbinic literature explains the holiday
this way: G-d is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a
limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed
himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.
The annual cycle of weekly Torah readings is completed
at this time. We read the last Torah portion, then proceed immediately
to the first chapter of Genesis,
reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends. This completion
of the readings is a time of great celebration. There are processions
around the synagogue carrying Torahs and plenty
of high-spirited singing and dancing. As many people as possible are
given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions. This
aspect of the holiday is known as Simkhat Torah, which means "Rejoicing
in the Torah." As I said before, Simkhat Torah and Shemini Atzeret
are separated in areas that observe an extra
day of holidays, so outside of Israel, Shemini Atzeret is Tishri
22 and Simkhat Torah is Tishri 23.
In some synagogues, confirmation ceremonies or
ceremonies marking the beginning of a child's Jewish education are
held at this time.
Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah are holidays on
which work is not permitted.