Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

En-Courage Others

When you build up your own courage, you will be able to serve as a coach to others. Some of the best courage coaches are those who had to struggle to attain the courage they now have. Since it didn't come easy to them, they know what it's like to lack the courage to do what others consider easy.

If you don't yet have the courage you would like, let the knowledge that you will inevitably be able to help others serve as a further motivation to increase your own courage.

Love Yehuda Lave

A Deeper Look at Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah

One holiday or two? Do we eat in the Sukkah? What are we celebrating?

For [the] seven days [of Sukkot] you shall bring a fire offering to G‑d. On the eighth day, it shall be a holy convocation for you... It is a [day of] detention.

Leviticus 23:36

[G‑d says to Israel,] "I have detained you [to remain] with Me." This is analogous to a king who invited his sons to feast with him for a certain number of days, and when the time came for them to leave, he said: "My sons! Please, stay with me just one more day; it is difficult for me to part with you!"

—Rashi's commentary ad loc

After the seven-day holiday of Sukkot, we celebrate an independent one-day holiday, called "Shemini Atzeret." Outside of Israel, as is the case with almost all Biblical holidays, an extra day is added to this holiday (see Why are holidays celebrated an extra day in the Diaspora?), and this day is known as "Simchat Torah." Although this holiday directly follows Sukkot, it is not actually part of Sukkot.1

Integral to all the festivals on the Jewish calendar – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot – is the mitzvah to rejoice. "Rejoice on your festivals!" the Torah enjoins us.2 Of all the festivals, however, only Sukkot is described as "the season of our rejoicing,"3 because the joy of Sukkot eclipses the joy of the other festivals (as evidenced by Sukkot's nightly "Water Drawing Celebrations").

And then there's the utterly unbridled joy of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which surpasses even the joy of Sukkot.

Historically (in 1313 BCE, 2449 years since Creation), on Yom Kippur, G‑d forgave the Jewish nation for the sin of the Golden Calf, and then, on the very same day, Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the second tablets, the symbol of G‑d's acceptance of the Jews' teshuvah (repentance).It is time to celebrate the atonement we've attained Every year on Yom Kippur we attempt to recapture the spirit of atonement which is present on that day. As such, a somber atmosphere prevails as we fast, pray, repent, and beseech G‑d for forgiveness. A week and a half later, it is time to celebrate the atonement we've attained, time to rejoice with the second tablets. And the joy produced by reaching inwards, overcoming obstacles, and reconnecting to our essential core which remained faithful to G‑d throughout, is absolutely unparalleled. (See Hidden and Revealed for more on this topic.)

The two days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are very precious. Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, stated:

The 48 hours of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah should be highly treasured. Every moment is an opportunity to draw bucket- and barrelfuls of material and spiritual treasures. And this is accomplished through dancing...4

Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret

Outside the Land of Israel, where (as mentioned before) festivals are observed for two days, the two days of this holiday are quite distinct from each other (unlike other two-day holidays where, as a rule, the second day is more or less a simple repeat of the first).

The first day, known as Shemini Atzeret, is reserved for the joy of the festival and for the prayers for rain (see Shemini Atzeret Guide). Yizkor is recited on this day, and, as will soon be explained, we eat in the sukkah.

The second day, Simchat Torah, is reserved for the celebration of the conclusion of the cycle of reading from the Torah. The highlight of this day are the hakafot (see Hakafot), held both on the eve and morning of Simchat Torah, in which we march and dance with Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue. (Chassidic communities – Chabad included – have the custom of conducting hakafot also on Shemini Atzeret at night.)

Eating in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeret

The fact that outside of Israel every holiday is celebrated for an extra day presents a problem on Sukkot—because it is immediately followed by another holiday, Shemini Atzeret. It would be disrespectful to Shemini Atzeret – which is a holiday in its own right, with its own laws, customs, and theme – for us to also be celebrating Sukkot on the same day. Just imagine how you'd feel if someone invited to your wedding decided to bring along his son to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah...

Therefore, we don't celebrate Sukkot on Shemini Atzeret.We can argue that we are simply enjoying the Shemini Atzeret holiday meal al fresco We don't take the Four Kinds on Shemini Atzeret, and we don't mention Sukkot in the day's prayers. The exception to this rule, however, is sitting in the sukkah. Doing so doesn't disturb the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, since we can argue that we are simply enjoying the Shemini Atzeret holiday meal al fresco, savoring the breeze in the cool shade of the sukkah. Normative halachah (Jewish law) therefore requires eating in the sukkah5 on Shemini Atzeret.6 We do not, however, recite the blessing for sitting in the sukkah,7 for that would be a blatant indication that we are still in Sukkot mode.

In Israel

In the Land of Israel, both these holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are celebrated simultaneously on the same day. As such, all the customs of Simchat Torah are observed together with those of Shemini Atzeret. (There's also no eating in the sukkah on this day in Israel, for the reason to eat in the sukkah is in consideration of the extra "Diaspora day" of the holiday of Sukkot.)

Following the custom of the holy Arizal, many in Israel participate in hakafot sh'niyot ("second hakafot") on the night following the one-day holiday—thus joining their Diaspora brothers and sisters in their celebration of the Torah. These second hakafot have an advantage: since it is no longer a holiday, the singing can be accompanied by live music. If you are in Israel for the holiday, you might want to make your way on this night to the Western Wall, where the singing and dancing lasts well into the night.

Footnotes 1.

This as opposed to the second days of Passover, which are – as their name suggests – the conclusion of, and very much part of, Passover. For this reason, the Shehecheyanu blessing which is recited at the onset of a holiday, which offers thanks to G‑d for "sustaining us and allowing us to reach this occasion," is only recited on the first days of Passover, not the last. But it is recited both on the first days of Sukkot and on Shemini Atzeret (and Simchat Torah).


Deuteronomy 16:14.


Text of the Amidah of the Sukkot prayers.


Sefer Hama'amarim 5711 pg. 79.


Because the "dispensation" to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret is contingent on the justification that we are merely enjoying the meals outside in the sukkah's cool shade, not doing so in fulfillment of the mitzvah of sukkah, there are those who will only sit in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret the minimum required by halachah. They won't spend too much spare time there, certainly won't eat there if it is raining or very cold, nor will they trouble themselves to go to the sukkah to eat or drink things that technically may be eaten indoors (see The Sukkah for more on the topic of what may be eaten outside the sukkah). Chabad custom, however, is to be stringent about eating in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret in all regards. Even a cup of water will be drunk only in the sukkah—and even if torrential rains are falling.


Though the Code of Jewish Law is unequivocal about the obligation to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret – and such is the practice of most Jewish communities (including Chabad) – many Chassidic masters over the generations, and their disciples too, did not eat all the Shemini Atzeret meals in the sukkah. (Much ink has been spilled on this topic by the Chassidic halachists, who justify this practice according to various sources in Jewish law.)
Amongst these Chassidic masters themselves there is no uniform custom. Some eat the night meal in the home and the day meal in the sukkah; some only make the daytime kiddush in the sukkah andeat some baked goods there, and then wash for bread and eat the rest of the meal in the home; others will make kiddush and eat the meal in the home, and then afterwards go out to the sukkah and have some fruit or other snack; and yet others don't eat at all in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.


Nor do we recite the special Harachaman in the Grace after Meals, beseeching G‑d to rebuild "David's fallen sukkah [the Holy Temple]."

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US departure from conventional wisdom

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel initiative”

September 13, 2018,

The evolution of President Trump’s stance on the Palestinian issue reflects extrication from conventional wisdom, which was embraced by his predecessors and the establishment of the State Department, academia and the media, while systematically crashed against the rocks of Middle East reality.

In contrast to his predecessors, Trump and his advisors – National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Special Emissary Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman – have concluded that the bolstering of US national security, morality and common sense behooves the US to take a realistic – and not an artificially neutral – position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Moral equivalence has not advanced national security.

The timing of the official release of President Trump’s policy – the eve of the September 11 memorial of the 3,000 fatalities and 6,000 injured – underlines the awareness that advancing national and homeland security mandates a clear differentiation between entities which combat terrorism systematically and effectively (e.g. the US and Israel), on the one hand, and those who produce, train, educate and incite terrorists (e.g. the Palestinian leadership, Iran’s Ayatollahs and other Islamic regimes), on the other hand.

Unlike his predecessor at the White House, Trump and his advisors realize that the restoration of the US’ posture of deterrence is a precondition to the enhancement of the US’ national and homeland security, requiring the fending off – and not succumbing to – pressure, threats and terrorism. Hence, the disavowal of the self-defeating 2015 Iran Deal, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State and the restructuring of US policy on the Palestinian issue.

In contrast to his predecessors and to European policy-makers, President Trump and his advisors are cognizant of the well-documented fact that the Palestinian issue has not been a core-cause of Middle East turbulence, nor a crown-jewel of Arab policy-makers (who shower the Palestinians with talk but not walk), nor a root-cause of Islamic terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The President is aware of the unprecedented commercial and security cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Arab Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt, who have viewed the Palestinians as an unreliable, subversive, terroristic and junior league element in the Middle East.

Contrary to his predecessors – since the 1993 Israel-PLO Oslo Accord – Trump has concluded that a Palestinian state would add fuel – not water – to the Middle East fire; would be the straw that would break the back of the pro-US Hashemite regime in Jordan; would therefore transform Jordan into another major platform of Islamic terrorism, posing a lethal threat to its southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US regimes in the Arabian Peninsula. It could provide a tailwind to the anti-US Ayatollah’s imperial vision; would expand the Russian presence (ground, air and naval) in the eastern Mediterranean and western Middle East; and would therefore deal a severe blow to the US national and homeland security.

Departing from political-correctness, Trump has decided to abort the sham of UNRWA, which does not operate in accordance with the patterns of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).  While the 11,500 employees of the  UNHCR have resettled some 100 million refugees throughout the globe since the end of the Second World War, the 30,000 employees of UNRWA have artificially increased the number of Palestinian refugees from 320,000 at the end of the 1948/49 War to, supposedly, 5 million in 2018, sucking mega-billion of dollars, while intensifying hate-education and terrorism, which have doomed the pursuit of peace. 

President Trump’s Palestinian policy also reflects recognition of Israel as a credible and systematic ally, constituting a most effective, a deterring outpost in an extremely critical and volatile region; thus, sparing the US the need to deploy additional ground, air and naval forces to the Middle East, Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, producing a unique rate-of-return - commercially and militarily – on the US’ annual investment in Israel. 

13,000 Year Old Brewery Discovered in Mount Carmel Cave By JNi.Media - 4 Tishri 5779 – September 13, 2018

The earliest evidence of alcohol production, some 13,000 years ago, was discovered in the Rakefet Cave in Mount Carmel, in a joint study by researchers from the University of Haifa and Stanford University. The alcohol, probably a kind of beer made from fermented grains, was produced by the Natufians, who lived in the region at that time. This brewery precedes by five thousand years the earliest site to date, in northern China.

The Epipaleolithic Natufian culture existed from around 13,050 to 7,550 BCE in the Levant. The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements in the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. The Natufians are believed to have founded Jericho, considered by many to be the oldest city in the world. Some evidence suggests deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at Tell Abu Hureyra, in northern Syria, the site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. The world’s oldest evidence of bread-making has been found at Shubayqa, a 14,500 year old site in Jordan’s northeastern desert.


Mount Carmel was one of the most important and crowded areas in the system of Natufian settlements, and sites in the Carmel and surrounding areas have been studied by archaeologists from the University of Haifa for decades.

The excavation team, Rakefet cave / Photo credit: Courtesy Prof. Danny Nadel

“The Rakefet Cave does not stop offering new discoveries about the wonderful Natufian culture,” said Prof. Danny Nadel of the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, who leads the excavations. “We have already discovered that they buried their dead and that they lined the graves with a bed of flowers. We discovered their technological capabilities through a variety of tools and now we find that they produced beer and consumed it, apparently at special ceremonies.”

Another finding at the Rakefet Cave site were dozens of craters carved several centimeters deep in the rock, dating back 13,000 years.

The new study, a collaboration between Prof. Danny Rosenberg of the ancient stone tools laboratory at the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and researchers from Stanford University, focused on a microscopic examination of the remains found in these three craters, of starches and phytoliths (rigid, microscopic structures made of silica, found in some plant tissues and persisting after the decay of the plant) containing traces of precipitation.

Images related to the Rakefet cave excavation / Photo credit: Anat Regev-Gissis and Danny Nadel

The first test showed evidence of several different grains stored in the same craters, including wheat, barley, oatmeal, legumes and flax.

A microscopic examination two of the three craters showed microscopic remains of starch grains that underwent morphological changes which correspond to changes in starch during fermentation. The evidence shows that the craters were used to store grains before and after fermentation.

In the third crater, evidence was found that it was used for storage, but also as a receptacle in which grain could be beaten and crushed, a necessary stage in fermentation.

According to the researchers, the grains were apparently stored in baskets that made it easier to remove and feed the grains into the craters, evidenced by the remnants of fibers found at the bottom of the craters. A microscopic examination showed evidence that the fibers were rotated and processed to fit the pattern of woven baskets.

“The creation of these craters in the stone, and then the necessary actions to produce alcohol required great effort and professionalism, which attests to the great ceremonial importance that the Natufian culture related to the production of alcohol,” Prof. Nadel concluded, speculating that “since they were the first to invest considerable effort in their burial rituals, it is not inconceivable that the production and consumption of alcohol were also part of the Natufian burial ceremonies.”

"Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come."

(Deuteronomy 31:2)

Tishrei 5, 5779/September 14, 2018

"Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, and HaShem said to me, 'You shall not cross this Jordan.'" (Deuteronomy 31:2) Parashat Vayelech opens as Moshe rabbenu announces to the children of Israel that his life is coming to a close. Tradition maintains that the final four Torah readings of the book of Deuteronomy were all spoken by Moshe on the final day of his life. Knowing that this is his final day on earth, how does Moshespends his final twenty four hours? Does he sit contentedly in a rocking chair, his eyes perhaps misty as he reminisces one last time on past exploits? Does he make a few final corrections to his soon-to-be published memoir? No.

Moshe busies himself with what would be for the rest of us a superhuman effort to prepare his people for the change in leadership, to continue to deliver to them the message that G-d is communicating to him as he stands before the entire nation, and to the writing of the entire Torah, as G-d has just now commanded him to do. And, finally, he is about to begin writing a song, a poem of testimony, also according to G-d's instructions, as we are told, "And Moshe wrote this song on that day, and taught it to the children of Israel." (ibid 31:22) Knowing full well that the minutes of his life are ticking off, Moshe uses every nano-second in the service of his people and his G-d.

How would we spend our last day on earth, if we, in fact, knew that it was our last day? Well, in fact, we do know! Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins next Tuesday evening and concludes the following evening, marks for each and every one of us the final day of who we were, of who we have been, and of what we have, to this point, made of ourselves. But for us this is not the end of the road, but just the beginning! Yom Kippur, the day on which the story of our lives as we have been living them, for better (hopefully) or for worse (hopefully not) comes to a close, and a new chapter, containing all our hopes and aspirations of what we can be in the upcoming year, are written by our hand, delivered and sealed in the Book of Life that sits open before G-d on Yom Kippur.

"Today I am 354 days old, (the length of the Hebrew lunar year). I can no longer be the person I was in 5778 (the outgoing Hebrew year), but now must strive to become the person I need to be in the incoming year of 5779." When we internalize this message, and truly understand the opportunity that Yom Kippur affords us to renew ourselves and to better ourselves, then we, like Moshe, will utilize every moment of this monumental twenty five hour gift from G-d, (yes, Yom Kippur includes an extra hour), to recast our lives in the image in which G-d created and intended for us. Like Moshe, we re-ingrave the Torah upon our heart and write a song for ourselves, a testimony of who we will strive to be, free from the blemishes of the past, a year full of promise before us.

Last Shabbat we read parashat Nitzavim: "You are all standing this day before HaShem, your G-d." (Deut 29:9) On Rosh HaShana we all stood before G-d and acknowledged His supreme sovereignty over all. This week's parasha, Vayelech, opens us with the words, "And Moshe went - Vayelech Moshe."These are words of movement. Unlike Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur is not a day for accepting and internalizing G-d's Kingship. It is not a day for standing in place. Yom Kippur is a day for moving, for shaking off the aspects of ourselves which have become old, and "can no longer go or come," can no longer propel us forward, and for grabbing hold of the personal, moral and spiritual qualities that we need to embrace in order to grow and move forward.

"And Moshe went - Vayelech Moshe." Torah doesn't inform us to where Moshewas going. It leaves the question unanswered. The Torah, from its first word to its last, is a book full of instruction and advice, straight from the mouth of G-d. But Torah cannot tell you or me the direction in which we are heading. That is for us to answer - on Yom Kippur!

Shemini Atzeret From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Not to be confused with Shemini (parsha). Shemini AtzeretOfficial name

שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶֽרֶת‬

Translation: "The eighth [day] of Assembly"Observed by Judaism, Samaritanism and Jews, SamaritansType Jewish, SamaritanCelebrations Prayer for rain; includes the celebration of Simchat TorahDate 22nd day of Tishrei[1]2017 date Sunset, 11 October –
nightfall, 12 October[2]2018 date Sunset, 30 September –
nightfall, 1 October2019 date Sunset, 20 October –
nightfall, 21 October2020 date Sunset, 9 October –
nightfall, 10 OctoberRelated to Culmination of Sukkot (Tabernacles)

Shemini Atzeret (שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת‬ – "Eighth [day of] Assembly"; Sefardic/Israeli pron. shemini atzèret; Ashkenazic pron. shmini-atsères) is a Jewish holiday. It is celebrated on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei in the Land of Israel,[1] and on the 22nd and 23rd outside the Land, usually coinciding with late September or early October. It directly follows the Jewish festival of Sukkot which is celebrated for seven days, and thus Shemini Atzeret is literally the eighth day. It is a separate—yet connected—holy day devoted to the spiritual aspects of the festival of Sukkot. Part of its duality as a holy day is that it is simultaneously considered to be both connected to Sukkot and also a separate festival in its own right.[3]

Outside the Land of Israel, this is further complicated by the additional day added to all Biblical holidays except Yom Kippur.[4] The first day of Shemini Atzeret therefore coincides with the eighth day of Sukkot outside the Land of Israel, leading to sometimes involved analysis as to which practices of each holiday are to apply.

The celebration of Simchat Torah is the most distinctive feature of the holiday, but it is a later rabbinical innovation. In the Land of Israel, the celebrations of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are combined on a single day, and the names are used interchangeably. In the Diaspora, the celebration of Simchat Torah is deferred to the second day of the holiday. Commonly, only the first day is referred to as Shemini Atzeret, while the second is called Simchat Torah.[5]

Karaite Jews and Samaritans also observe Shemini Atzeret, as they do all Biblical holidays. However, it may occur on a different day from the conventional Jewish celebration, due to differences in calendar calculations. Karaites and Samaritans do not include the rabbinical innovation of Simchat Torah in their observance of the day; and do not observe a second day (of any holiday) in the Diaspora.


Biblical origins

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia,[6] atzeret (or aẓeret) is the name given to this day in four different locations in the Hebrew Bible.[7] It is not mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, and is found only in those parts of the Bible known as the Priestly Code. Like atzarah,[8] atzeret denotes "day of assembly", from atzar = "to hold back" or "keep in"; hence, also the name atzeret given to the seventh day of Pesaḥ. [9] Owing, however, to the fact that both Shemini Atzeret and the seventh day of Pesaḥ are described as atzeret, the name was taken to mean "the closing festival".[6]

SignificanceShemini: Relationship to Sukkot

When Shemini Atzeret is mentioned in the Torah (Pentateuch), it is always mentioned in the context of the seven-day festival of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which it immediately follows. For example, Sukkot is described in detail in Leviticus 23:33-43[10]. Shemini Atzeret is mentioned there only in verses 36 and 39.

The Hebrew word shemini means eighth. This refers to the date of Shemini Atzeret relative to Sukkot; it falls on the eighth day.[note 1] It is therefore often assumed that Shemini Atzeret is simply the eighth day of Sukkot. That characterization, however, is only partly accurate.

The celebration of Sukkot is characterized by the use of the sukkah (booth or tabernacle) and the Four Species (tree branches and fruit used in the celebration).[note 2] However, the Torah specifies use of those objects for seven days only, not eight.[11] The observance of Shemini Atzeret therefore differs in substantial ways from that of Sukkot. The Talmud[12] describes Shemini Atzeret with the words "a holiday in its own right" (regel bifnei atzmo).

The Talmud describes six ways in which Shemini Atzeret differs from Sukkot. Four of these relate principally to the Temple service. Two others remain relevant to modern celebration of the holiday. First, the blessing known as Shehecheyanu is recited on the night of Shemini Atzeret, just as it is on the first night of all other major Jewish holidays.[13] Second, the holiday is referred to distinctively as "Shemini Atzeret" and not as "Sukkot" in the prayer service.[14]

Immediately below that discussion, however, the Talmud describes Shemini Atzeret as the "end holiday of the festival [of Sukkot]".[12] The context here is that the Sukkot obligations of joy and recitation of Hallel (Psalms 113–118) last eight days. This is also why one of Sukkot's liturgical aliases, "Time of Our Happiness" (zman simḥatenu), continues to be used to describe Shemini Atzeret (and by extension Simchat Torah) in prayers.[14]

Shemini Atzeret is therefore simultaneously "a holiday in its own right" and the "end holiday of [Sukkot]".[12]

Atzeret: A day for assembly—or pause

Spiritually, Shemini Atzeret can also be seen to "guard the seven days of Sukkot".[15] The Hebrew word atzeret is generally translated as "assembly", but shares a linguistic root with the word atzor, meaning "stop" or "tarry". Shemini Atzeret is characterized as a day when the Jewish people "tarries" to spend an additional day with God at the end of Sukkot.[6] Rashi cites the parable of a king who invites his sons to dine with him for a number of days, but when the time comes for them to leave, he asks them to stay for another day, since it is difficult for him to part from them.[16] According to this idea, Sukkot is a universal holiday, but Shemini Atzeret is only for the Jewish people. Moreover, Shemini Atzeret is a modest holiday, just to celebrate [God's] special relationship with His beloved nation.[17][18]

A different, but related, interpretation is offered by Yaakov Zevi Mecklenburg, who translates atzeret as "retain": "During the holiday season, we have experienced a heightened religious fervor and a most devout spirit. This last day is devoted to a recapitulation of the message of these days, with the hope that it will be retained the rest of the year".[19]

Connections to the prior Jewish holy days

The day prior to Shemini Atzeret is the last day of Sukkot. Called Hoshana Rabbah, it is unique and different from the other days of Sukkot. While it is part of the intermediate Sukkot days known as Chol HaMoed, Hoshana Rabbah has extra prayers and rituals and is treated and practiced much more seriously and festively than the previous days of Chol HaMoed. In particular during the morning prayer service of Hoshana Rabbah, there are seven hoshanot with their own seven hakafot, the "seven processions".[20]

This sets the stage, in ritual, mood, tenor and a heightened sense of festivity, for the days that follow it, namely, of Shemini Atzeret, when seven hakafot are again performed. (Outside the Land of Israel, the hakafot are performed by some congregations on the night (i.e., the beginning) of Shemini Atzeret, and then by all on both the night and during the day of Simchat Torah).

The Jewish Encyclopedia states that during the time of the Second Temple, the festival of Shavuot received the specific name of "'Atzarta" as cited by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews (iii. 10, § 6) and in the Talmud's tractate Pesahim (42b, 68b), signifying "the closing feast" of Passover.[6] and commenting on this fact, the Rabbis in tractate Pesahim say that:

The closing feast of Sukkot (i.e., Shemini Atzeret) ought rightly to have been, like that of Passover (i.e., Shavuot) on the fiftieth day; but, in order not to force the people to make another journey to Jerusalem in the rainy season, God fixed it as early as the eighth day.[6]

Thus the continuum of these days can be depicted as follows: Sukkot > Chol HaMoed Sukkot > Hoshana Rabbah > Shemini Atzeret > Simchat Torah, as practiced in classical Rabbinical Judaism.

This continuum of religious celebrations concludes the process that had begun on the days of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observed ten days after the start of Rosh Hashanah. Five days after the conclusion of Yom Kippur, Sukkot begins, regarded as the celebration of the anticipated Divine "good judgment" that was hopefully granted on the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah + the Ten Days of Repentance + Yom Kippur) and then Hoshana Rabbah + Shemini Atzeret + Simchat Torah culminate the process of open celebration and festivity with joyous prayers, festive meals, and hours of dancing holding the Torah scroll/s at the center of attention during the hakafot in the synagogue.

Evolution of observances and customs

The Torah explicitly mentions Shemini Atzeret three times, all in the context of Sukkot.[21] Only two observances are specified for Shemini Atzeret. One relates to the Temple service, and is not relevant to modern observance. The other is the avoidance of "servile labor" (melechet avodah), as on other major Jewish holidays.[22] (See also Jewish holidays — "Work" on Sabbath and biblical holidays.) No other specific rituals or ritual objects are specified, making Shemini Atzeret unique in that regard among the festivals mentioned in the Torah.

Two observances of Shemini Atzeret are mentioned in the Prophets and Writings portions of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The first occurred at the time of the dedication of the First Temple by Solomon.[23] The second came at the time of the Jews' return from the Babylonian exile.[24] In both cases, however, the mention is limited to the observation that an "assembly [atzeret] was held on the eighth day".

According to the Apocryphal Second Book of Maccabees, the first celebration of Hanukkah mimicked that of Sukkot, which the Maccabees and their followers had been unable to celebrate earlier that year. However, the only allusion to Shemini Atzeret in that narrative is that the Hanukkah celebration was fixed for eight days—in remembrance of both the seven days of Sukkot and the additional day of Shemini Atzeret.[25]

Torah and Yad Throwing cakes to children on Simḥat Torah, by Johann Leusden in Philologus Hebræo-Mixtus, Utrecht, 1657

Like most Jewish holidays of Biblical origin, Shemini Atzeret is observed for one day within the Land of Israel, and traditionally for two days outside Israel. Reform and Reconstructionist communities generally celebrate this and most Biblical holidays for one day, even outside Israel.[26] The second day observed outside Israel is called Simchat Torah (see next section).

Simchat TorahMain article: Simchat Torah

The practice of reading the last of the weekly Torah portions on Shemini Atzeret is documented in the Talmud.[27] That Talmudic source does not refer to the occasion as "Simchat Torah", but simply as [the second day of] Shemini Atzeret.

The Simchat Torah celebration of today is of later rabbinic and customary origin. The day (but not the name) is mentioned in the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon (9th century CE); the assignment of the first chapter of Joshua as the haftarah of the day is mentioned there. The reading of the first section of Genesis immediately upon the conclusion of the last section of Deuteronomy—as well as the name "Simchat Torah"—can be found in the 14th century halachic work Arba'ah Turim.[28] By the 16th century CE, most of the features of the modern celebration of Simchat Torah were in place in some form.[29] The Simchat Torah celebration is now the most distinctive feature of this festival—so much so that in the Land of Israel, where Shemini Atzeret lasts only one day, it is more common to refer to the day as "Simchat Torah" than as "Shemini Atzeret".[30]

In the 20th century, Simchat Torah came to symbolize the public assertion of Jewish identity.[31] The Jews of the Soviet Union, in particular, would celebrate the festival en masse in the streets of Moscow. On October 14, 1973, more than 100,000 Jews took part in a post-Simchat Torah rally in New York city on behalf of refuseniks and Soviet Jewry.[32] Dancing in the street with the Torah has become part of the holiday's ritual in various Jewish congregations in the United States as well. In Israel, many communities conduct Hakafot shniyot, or "Second hakafot", on the day after Shemini Atzeret. In part, this shows solidarity with Jewish communities outside Israel, which are still celebrating Simchat Torah (on the second day of the festival). At the same time, it allows for a Simchat Torah celebration unconstrained by festival work restrictions, since the festival is over in Israel according to Jewish law.[33]

Outside Israel, where Shemini Atzeret is observed for two days,[34] Simchat Torah is deferred to the second day, when all agree there is no obligation of sukkah.

Carryover of Sukkot observances outside the Land of IsraelMain article: Sukkot Sukkot celebration

In Israel—and for different reasons in Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism—none of the unique observances of Sukkot (sukkah, lulav and etrog) carry over to Shemini Atzeret. Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right, without sukkah, lulav and etrog. At the same time, by the rabbinic decree to add one day to all holidays outside the Land of Israel,[4] both Passover and Sukkot, although described in the Torah as seven-day holidays, are observed outside the Land of Israel for eight days. Accordingly, the "eighth day of Sukkot" outside Israel coincides with the separate holiday of Shemini Atzeret.

Psalm 27, which is recited in most communities twice daily starting at the beginning of Elul, continues to be recited on Shemini Atzeret outside the Land of Israel.[35] When Shemini Atzeret falls on the Shabbat, the Scroll of Ecclesiastes, or Kohelet (קהלת, otherwise read in Ashkenazi synagogues on the Shabbat of Sukkot), is read on that day outside the Land of Israel. In the Land of Israel, it would have been read on the first day of Sukkot, which would also have been on Shabbat. The Torah reading (Deuteronomy 14:22–16:17) is the same as on the Final Day of Passover and Second Day of Shavuot. However, unlike Passover and Shavuot, the full length of the Torah reading is included on Shemini Atzeret even when the day does not fall on the Shabbat because the reading refers to separation of agricultural gifts (like tithes and terumah), which are due at this time of the year. The Haftarah describes the people's blessing of King Solomon at the end of the dedication of the First Temple.[36]

Taking the lulav and etrog and sleeping in the sukkah

The prevalent practice is that one eats in the sukkah on the eighth day, but without reciting the blessing (berakhah) for sitting in a sukkah.[37] However, one does not take the lulav and etrog (nor does one sleep in the sukkah according to most opinions) on the eighth day. If someone sees a neighbor on the street with a lulav and etrog on the eighth day, the rabbis reason, s/he might mistakenly assume that it is still the seventh day (ḥol hamoed), when the lulav and etrog are still needed. S/he might then violate prohibitions of the yom tov of the eighth day. For that reason, the rabbis ruled that one should not take the lulav and etrog on the eighth day, even outside the Land of Israel. They are therefore muktzah; that is, one may not even move them on a holiday where they are not needed.[38] Sleeping in the sukkah brings a similar discussion. Additionally, most people would prefer to sleep indoors at this point in the year due to the weather, so sleeping in the sukkah may impinge on one's own joy during the festival. This is why the rabbis ruled that one does not sleep in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, even outside the Land of Israel.[38] Other rabbis, such as the Vilna Gaon, ruled that one should sleep in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret outside the Land of Israel.[39]

Eating in the sukkah

Eating in the sukkah does not cause a parallel problem because many people simply enjoy eating outdoors in the shade of a sukkah. Hence, seeing someone eating in a sukkah does not per se lead one to assume it is still ḥol hamoed. Likewise, eating in the sukkah does not per se impinge on one's own celebration of Shemini Atzeret. Therefore, the prevalent practice is to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Azeret outside the Land of Israel, but not to recite the berakhah for sitting in a sukkah, as reciting it would "impinge" on the unique status of Shemini Atzeret.[38]

There are, however, those who have different minhagim (customs). Many Hasidic groups have a tradition to recite the morning kiddush and then have refreshments (such as cake) in the sukkah, but to eat both the evening and morning main meals inside, notwithstanding the Talmudic ruling to the contrary. Others eat the evening meal of Shemini Atzeret indoors but the day meal in the sukkah. Each of these approaches addresses aspects of the dual nature of Shemini Atzeret.[38]

Other customs

The Land of Israel's agriculture depends heavily on rains that come only seasonally, so Jewish prayers for rain, such as Tefillat Geshem or Tikun Geshem (Rain Prayer) are prominent during the Land of Israel's rainy (winter) half of the year.[40] The rainy season starts just after the fall Jewish holidays. Because of that, and because the sukkah (and, by extension, pleasant weather) is no longer required on Shemini Atzeret, Jews begin to ask for rain starting with the Musaf amidah prayer of Shemini Atzeret.[41] This prayer is recited in a traditional, distinctive, plaintive melody during the cantor's repetition of the amidah. In most Ashkenazi synagogues, the cantor is clad in a white kittel, a symbol of piety, owing to the vitality of a positive judgment for rain. A brief mention of rain continues to be inserted in the amidah until Passover. The Yizkor memorial service is also recited in Ashkenazi synagogues on this day.[42] Recital of the Yizkor prayer is said to bring the person "closer to the cold and brittle part of mourning", and is necessary to promote the healing of a broken heart.[43]

Observance in non-rabbinical Jewish traditions

As a biblically-mentioned holiday, Shemini Atzeret is also observed by Karaites and Samaritans:

In Karaite Judaism

For Karaites, followers of a branch of Judaism that accepts the Written Law, but not the Oral Law, Shemini Atzeret is observed as a single day of rest, not associated with the practices of Simchat Torah, which are a rabbinic innovation.[44] Nevertheless, the Karaite cycle of weekly Torah reading, like the Rabbinic cycle, reaches its conclusion on Shemini Atzeret.[45] Accordingly, in at least some Karaite circles, this day is referred to by the name of Simchat Torah.[46] Additionally, calculation of the Karaite calendar is not based on astronomical calculations, but only on direct observation of the New Moon and the ripening of barley. Because of that, the 22nd day of the 7th month does not necessarily fall on the same date as 22 Tishrei in the (conventional, Rabbinic) Jewish calendar.[47] In 2015, Shemini Atzeret fell on October 7 for Karaites, two days later than in the conventional Jewish calendar. In 2016, Shemini Atzeret fell on the same day according to both calendars.[47]

In the Samaritan tradition

Samaritans, followers of an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism that recognizes only the first five (or six) books of the Bible as canonical, celebrate only one day of Shemini Atzeret.

Shortly after midnight, prayers are made in the synagogue for more than ten hours. No work is permitted on this day. At the end of the holiday, the succahs are dismantled. Their poles and nets will be stored until the next Harvest Festival. The fruits will be squeezed into sweetened juice and some will be eaten by the children.[48]

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave and  Shabbat Shalom

Shimini Azeret will be on Monday in Israel with Simchat Torah following on Tuesday outside of Israel. In Israel it is combined as a one day holiday on Monday so you will hear from me on Sunday and then on Tuesday

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego
United States


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