A New Beginning: Simchat Torah
It’s time to march, cheer, act a little crazy, jump up and down—and it has nothing to do with sports.
Simchat Torah marks our completion of the reading of the Torah, and this is indeed cause for celebration. So get ready for a night of singing and dancing. Please accept this invitation to the big event (RSVP not required):
You Are Cordially Invited….
When: Beginning after sundown Saturday evening, Oct. 18
Where: Your favorite synagogue or temple
What To Bring: A flag to wave and a lot of energy (celebrations often go long into the night)
Dress: Semi-formal (no tuxes required, but please look your nicest)
Special events throughout the evening:
A line-by-line, responsive recitation of Ata Hareita, a group of verses from the Tanach (Jewish Bible).
All the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and worshipers holding the scrolls parade around the sanctuary seven times in circuits called hakafot. Each circuit is capped off by dancing and singing.
This is the only occasion that the Torah is read at night. At morning services, the previous evening’s procedures are repeated.
For the last aliya to the Torah reading, children of all ages are invited to the bimah, where they gather under a canopy made of a tallit (prayer shawl) held aloft by adults. They all recite the brachah, or blessing, for reading the Torah. This is called kol ha-ne’arim, “all the youth.”
Afterward, in many congregations, the children are showered with candy.
It is traditional that everyone in the synagogue, member or not, receives an aliya to the Torah on Simchat Torah. If you want to be among the first to be called up, expect to pay—literally. Many congregations use Simchat Torah as a fund-raising day and auction off the first aliyot.
Donations may be made to your favorite dentist, in the form of a large check. Often, congregations pass out bags filled with candy to the youngest members. After munching on these all evening and through the day, your little ones likely will emerge from the holiday with at least one cavity.