The holiday of Shemini Atzeret is celebrated on October 17 and marks the conclusion of the seven days of Sukkot. The day is dedicated to the relationship between God and the Jews, which was demonstrated in their forty-year exile after Moses received the Ten Commandments at Sinai. On this day, Jews give thanks for the harvest and pray for rain to ensure the next year’s crop.
The origin of Shemini Atzeret is unknown and has been debated by rabbis for centuries. The word Atzeret is usually translated as “assembly” and may come from the Hebrew word “atzar”, which means “stop” or “hold on”. Leviticus and Numbers indicate that the eighth day of Sukkot is a day of assembly, and at one time Shemini Atzeret lasted two days. Later, the reading of the Torah portion became a separate holiday known as Simchat Torah, and the two holidays are now celebrated on the same day.
- In 1313 BC, God forgave the Jews for the sin of idolatry.
- In 70 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem.
- In the 11th century AD, the second day of Shemini Atzeret became the separate Simchat Torah holiday.
How to take part
Most of the day is devoted to family and children. Traditional activities include preparing Torah scrolls, placing two pretzels side by side, wrapping them in a flatbread, tying and adding two sweets. Another activity is to show the children how clouds become rain. Fill a glass with water, add a layer of shaving cream, and drop two drops of food coloring on top. The cream will take on a rich color and drip to the bottom of the glass.
When is Shemini Atzeret celebrated in 2023?
Shemini Atzeret is observed on both the 22nd and the 23rd day of this month outside of Israel.