Simchot Torah is the day when the annual cycle of reading of the Torah is completed and the new cycle begins. On Simchot Torah, the last passage of Deuteronomy is concluded and immediately the first passage of the Torah, the Genesis is read thus continuing an unbroken cycle of reading the Holy Book of Judaism.
The Date Of Simchot Torah
Simchot Torah is observed on the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret which immediately succeeds the seven day holiday of Sukkot in the Autumn. In 2006 Simchot Torah took place on October 15.
The Festivities Of Simchot Torah
The festivities begin with the evening service. The Torah scrolls of the synagogue are removed from the ark and are carried around the synagogue in a series of seven circuits or processions known as Hakafot. Many people are given the chance to carry Torah in Hakafot. Though, Hakafot means only one round of the synagogue people often overflow the streets dancing and singing with the Torah.
The Orthodox and Conservative Jewish synagogues announces each circuit by invocations imploring to God to save us (Hoshiah Nah) and the circuit ends with the refrain answer us on the day we call (Annenuu Bayom Karenu). The traditional chants of the Orthodox synagogues include liturgical verses about the Torah, Biblical songs and verses about Torah, songs telling the story of the restoration of the House of David and the Temple in Jerusalem and the Messianic yearnings.
In many synagogues, drinking hard liquor on Simchot Torah is customary. Simchot Torah is one of the only two occasions (the other is Purim) when public drinking of liquor is allowed.
After Hakafot, the last Parsha of the Torah, the Deuteronomy is read. It has become customary to give all the members the honor of reciting the blessing of Torah. This honor is called Aliyah. Often the passages of the Torah are repeated until all the members have recited the blessings.
Children are encouraged to participate in the Simchot Torah ceremonies. As per custom, the children are given Simchot Torah flags to carry as they participate in the festivities of singing and dancing. According to custom they are given tasty candied apples as a symbol to remind them that they are surrounded by the sweetness of the Torah.
This day is also a fun day. People recite chants in funny accents, some sprays water on the Hazzan (reader) when he reads the prayer for rain, parodies of songs are sung, people steal items of the officious people and many more tricks are played on Simchot Torah.