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Simchat Torah

When is Simchat Torah and why do we celebrate it?

Simchat Torah falls on the last of the two days yom tov at the end of Sukkot, on the 23rd day of Tishrei.

It is the festival where we finish reading the Torah and start again from the beginning. Its name means ‘Rejoicing of the Torah’ [being happy about the Torah].

 What do we do on Simchat Torah?

dancing with a Torah scrollMake Hakafot and dance with the Torahs

Just like during the seven days of Sukkot and on Shemini Atzeret, on Simchat Torah  people make hakafot (walk or dance in circles) around the bimah of the synagogue carrying the lulav and etrog.

On Simchat Torah the hakafot include special dancing with the Torahs held up in the air. Children often join in and ride on their fathers' shoulders during this.

Honour Members of the Congregation: Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit

an aliyah - being called up to the Torah - is an honourEach Shabbat and festival, members of the congregation are honoured by being called up to read the Torah. This is called being given an aliyah.

On Simchat Torah the aliyot (plural of 'aliyah') are even more special. Two men in the congregation are chosen to be chatanim (bridegrooms): one is called the Chatan Torah (Bridegroom of the Torah/Law) and the other is the Chatan Bereshit (Bridegroom of Genesis).

The Chatan Torah reads the last portion of the old year’s Torah, from the Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim in Hebrew), and the Chatan Bereshit reads the first portion of the new year’s Torah, from the Book of Genesis (Bereshit).  

These two men pay for a special, delicious meal at lunch time on the day of Simchat Torah and all the members of the congregation share in the meal. The chatanim also usually give sweets and other special treats to all the children of the congregation.

Another special custom of Simchat Torah is that every man or boy above Bar Mitzvah age is given an aliyah and called up to the Torah, even if it has to be read several times over so that there will be enough call ups for all the men and boys.

a tallit (prayer shawl) is symbolically spread above the children while the prayer is saidBless the Children

On Simchat Torah we say the prayer Kol HaNa’arim (“All the Young Ones”). The very last aliyah (call up to the Torah) is saved for all the boys under Bar Mitzvah age and the blessing Kol haNa'arim is said.

Children take part in the hakafot and are often carried high up on the shoulders of the adults as they dance with the Sifrei Torah. The children often wave flags with Magen Davids or other Jewish symbols on them.

the KotelHakafot to the Kotel in Jerusalem

On the morning of Simchat Torah in Israel, some people join together and dance all the way through the city to the Kotel (Western Wall). Led by scrolls of the Torah, thousands of people, young and old, dance and sing their way to the Kotel in a procession that stretches for as far as the eye can see.

Concerts, singing and dancing into the night

In olden times, people used to hold the hakafot at the end of Simchat Torah. So today in Israel some people keep celebrating late into the night after the holiday. There are often big outdoor concerts at night with music, hakafot, singing and dancing.

Links

Akhlah: Simchat Torah

Chabad for Kids: About Simchas Torah

Chabad for Kids: Simchas Torah Crafts

Chabad for Kids: Simchas Torah Stories

Chabad for Kids: High Holyday and Sukkot Activity Center

Examiner: Simchat Torah: Crafts, activities & resources

Activities

BJE:

Simchat Torah Cloze

Dress the Torah

Hangman

A Time to Dance - WordSearch for Years K-2

Sefer Torah Concentration, Flash Cards & WordSearch

Creating a Sefer Torah Concentraion, Flash Cards & WordSearch

Creating a Sefer Torah (2) Concentration, Flash Cards & WordSearch

Sefer Torah - What's the Order?

Sefer Torah - Order the Steps (Years 3-4)

Sefer Torah - Order the Steps (Years 5-6)

Simchat Torah Quiz

THIS PAGE IS PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY:

JCA - Jewish Communal Appeal

NSW Community Relations Commission