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Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret

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Maimonides called Sukkot the “time of our joy.” The festival’s ending is marked by Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Shemini Atzeret, (eight day of assembly) dates to Biblical times and represents the start of the rainy season in the land of Israel. A somber day, it is a time for commemorating our lost loved ones with a Yizkor service. 

Simchat Torah — which only dates to the Middle Ages —is a joyful celebration of the centrality of the Torah to Jewish life, even as understandings of Torah evolve. Communities celebrate by singing and dancing with the Torah scroll. “The tradition on Simchat Torah of encouraging every member of the community to carry a Torah scroll or to be honored with an aliyah reflects the Reconstructionist values of inclusion and egalitarianism” writes Rabbi Barbara Penzner in a A Guide to Jewish Practice. 

Reconstructing Judaism invites you to enjoy these resources as you seek to connect to these celebratory holidays! 

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