Rowina (13 Oct 2011)
"Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah follow Sukkot, day 8, day 9"


 
When the 7 day Feast of Sukkot ends, there are two more days to celebrate.

Shemini Atzeret is sometimes called the Last Great Day, and is a feast celebrating water.  The Jews went to the Pool to bring
back water to the Temple, with singing.  this was the day Jesus cried out in the Temple, "I am Living Water!"

But there is one more day.  That is Simchat Torah, when the ending of the Torah portions for the year is celebrated, and
the new year's readings begin.  This is a day for dancing and singing, and the only time when the Torah scroll is removed
from its little house and carried around the congregation.  The younger and spryer members follow the Torah scroll as it's
carried around the congregation, and people reach out to touch it as it passes.  I have witnessed this ceremony in a  
Congregation in Seattle years ago.

Often, in fact most often, these two days, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are combined, but this varies widely.
It depends on whether a congregation is Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative, and whether they are inside or outside of
Israel.  In congregations outside of Israel, as in America, usually the two ays are combined, but it depends entirely on
the tradition of the particular congregation.  Reform Jews in Israel usually celebrate the two days on the same day.

Since Sukkot this year begins on Oct. 13, or the evening of October 12, celebration of these days as a two day series
brings us to October 21, if I am counting right.  I am a hesitant counter, but I think that is right.  

If you can go to a Jewish congregation on these festivals, whether one or two days, I think you would see the Jews at
their most joyous.  It is not the only joyous feast in Israel, but it is pure joy,  the feast of Esther is joy, but mixed with
a knowledge of danger escaped.  Another day of joy is Tu B'Av in the summer, commemorating the day the remnant of the tribe
of Benjamin stole away wives from the other tribes who were celebrating by dancing in a forest clearing--but this day
reminds it too of the slaughter of Benjamin that preceded Tu B'Av.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are pure joy, celebrating Living Water and the Torah, gifts from the Creator.

I gleaned my information primarily from the Hillel site online, and from having attended Simchat Torah myself.