Joy or Rejoicing in the Torah
by: Shmuel ben Shlomi
Simchat Torah is celebrated every year after the conclusion of Sukkot and is closely tied to the two preceding days of Hoshana Rabbah (seven circuit procession with the lulav and etrog) and Shemini Atzeret (joyful tradition in which prayer for rain and remembrance of those who have died [Yizkor] is performed).
Simchat Torah closes out of the annual holidays tied to the agricultural seasons, celebrates the conclusion of the full reading of the Torah in which is followed the last of the parshas, the final two chapters in Devarim (Deuteronomy) [Parshat VeZot Berakhah].
Within the synagogue setting there is much joy displayed by all attendees. In the orthodox branch it is custom that all men, including male children to receive an aliyah (called upon to the bimah for a reading from the Torah). In most conservative, all reform and some reconstructionist synagogues women and female children may also be included in the aliyah. All join in as the Torah scrolls are lifted high above by selected persons and everyone dances in unbridled joy around the synagogue. It is quite a beautiful thing to behold and participate in.
In Israel Simchat Torah is celebrated for one day while in the diaspora it is two days. This joyous event of HaShem’s gracious and glorious instruction to His children begins its celebration at sundown on 21 Tishrei through sundown 22 Tishrei (generally in late September or early October on the secular common era calendar).
Beginning on the Shabbat following Simchat Torah the parsha readings begin anew with Parshat Bereshit (Genesis 1:1 - 6:8) and continue throughout the year until the following Simchat Torah.