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Learn Hebrew: Simchat Torah

Learn Hebrew: Simchat Torah

The joy of completing the annual cycle of Torah reading.

by

Each autumn, immediately following Sukkot , is a holiday called Shmini Atzeret -- . "Shmini" means eighth, and "Atzeret" means "holding back," teaching that even after the conclusion of Sukkot, God desires for the Jewish people to celebrate an additional day.

The following day is called Simchat Torah (- Rejoicing of the Torah), which celebrates the completion and beginning of the annual Torah reading cycle. Each week, a portion of the Torah -- called Parshat HaShavuah is publicly read in the synagogue. Throughout the year, the whole five books of the Torah are read, and on this day we celebrate the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. During Simchat Torah -- at both at the evening and the morning services -- all the Torah scrolls are taken out from the ark (- aron hakodesh) and are carried in "seven circuits" around the synagogue, while everyone dances and sings with the scrolls. This parade is known as "hakafot". The custom of going around the synagogue symbolizes the reestablishment of our covenant with the Torah, as a groom rejoices with his bride, for the Torah is betrothed to Israel as a wife is to her husband.

At this time, the final Torah portion (V'Zot Habracha ) is read. And then to show that we never truly "finish" reading the Torah, we also start again and read the beginning of the book of Genesis .

In Israel, Simchat Torah is held the same day as Shmini Atzeret. It is customary to have another set of "hakafot" (- hakafot shniyot) on the night following Simchat Torah.

Click here for audio and lyrics to 32 of the most popular Simchat Torah songs.

The Torah

The Torah is the most holy Jewish book. It is divided into five books, called "Chamisha Chumshey Torah" (- five-fifths of the Torah), or in short, Chumash (- a fifth). Here are the names of the five books:

 

English

Transliteration

Hebrew

Genesis

Breishit

Exodus

Shmot

Leviticus

Vayikra

Numbers

Bamidbar

Deuteronomy

Devarim

 

One interesting mitzvah is that each Jew is required to "write his own Torah scroll" (). This is so that opportunities for Jewish learning will always be readily available. Today, many fulfill this mitzvah by having a library of Jewish books at home. (See a list of the Essential Jewish Library).

In biblical times, the Jewish king () was commanded to write () a second Torah scroll. This was to be kept with him at all times, to remind him that even though his position endows him with great powers, ultimately even the king is subject to God's laws as proscribed in the Torah.

Simchat Torah Puzzle

In this puzzle, each word begins with the last letter of the previous word; so the last letter of the last word of the puzzle is also the first letter of the first word of the puzzle. Please, write the words in Hebrew!

 

  1. the first book of the Torah
  2. the most holy of the sacred writings in Judaism
  3. a parade around the synagogue in Simchat Torah
  4. a student
  5. Deuteronomy
  6. a king
  7. (he) writes

 

Here are the answers (not necessarily in the right order):

Published: September 28, 2009


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Article 6 of 15 in the series Learn Hebrew

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