Simchat Torah is celebrated on the day after Sukkot Torah. This holiday marks the end of the annual cycle of reading the Torah – the main book in Judaism. Celebrations on this day include solemn hakafot processions, jubilation and dancing – all of which serve to express love and faith in the creator.
Simchat Torah, which translates to “the joy of the Torah”, has been known since the time of the Talmud. Initially, it was celebrated separately from Sukkot Torah, however during the years of the Babylonian Gaons, a one-year cycle of reading the Torah was established. It is customary to start the next cycle of reading on the same day in order, as it is written in the sacred texts, not to give Satan a chance to say that the Jews are happy to finish reading and do not want to start reading again. During the festive ritual, Torah ingots are carried seven times in circles at the bima (elevated places in the synagogue used for reading the Torah). All adult men are called to read sacred texts, and boys who have not yet reached the age of bar mitzvah are called in honor of the holiday to read the final part. At the same time, a tallit is stretched over the heads of the children (a vestment in the form of a rectangular bedspread made of white cotton or silk fabric).
- During the celebration, women and men dance separately: boys dance together with men, and women dance separately in another part of the synagogue.
- In the 12th century in Spain, a tradition arose to call two people to read the Torah: as soon as one of them finishes reading “And here is the blessing”, the second begins reading the second scroll from the chapter “In the beginning”.
- Festive meals are necessarily arranged, during which special attention is paid to children: it is customary to give them various gifts and give various sweets, such as sweets, pies and apples doused with honey.
How to take part
On the occasion of the holiday, you can join the festive procession or be an observer of this event from the outside. The celebration begins with an evening service, hakafot, accompanied by traditional chants and readings of biblical verses. However, parishioners are allowed to sing other popular songs during the dances. In Orthodox synagogues, boys and men mostly participate in the celebrations, while children and young girls can dance with their fathers. Women and girls can also dance their own dances or watch the hakafot from their section of the synagogue. The night service can continue until the morning, after which it passes into the morning service, which includes a special holiday – Amida.
When is Simchat Torah celebrated in 2023?