1. Shemini Atzeret is a festival in its own right: not part of Succot, but appended to it. For this reason, the sheheheyanu is recited.
  2. Atzeret is a term of endearment. When children leave their father, the father (G-d) asks them (Israel) to remain another day, as it is hard for Him to separate from them.
  3. Shemini Atzeret is to Succot as Shavuot is to Pesach.
  4. The olah of the additional offering differs from that on the other Pilgrim Festivals:
    • On Pesach and Shavuot there were two bulls, one ram and seven lambs (as on Rosh Chodesh - the New Moon).
    • On Succot there are a varying number of bulls, with two rams and fourteen lambs.
    • On Shemini Atzeret there was only one bull, with one ram and seven lambs (as on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).
      Since the main seven-day celebration (Succot) is over and G-d has asked Israel to remain another day, He asks them to bring just one bull and one ram.
  5. According to the Zohar and certain midrashim, the final confirmation of judgement is early in the morning of Shemini Atzeret.
  6. 'On Succot, judgement is delivered regarding water.'
    Ideally, the prayer for rain should therefore be on Succot (similar to the Tefillat HaTal - Prayer for Dew - on Pesach), but rain falling during the festival would be considered a curse, as it would prevent people observe the festival properly, by making it impossible to live in the succah.
  7. Although Tefillat HaGeshem (the general prayer for rain) was designated as part of the service on Shemini Atzeret , it is only intended to introduce it and praise G-d for the rains regularly in the prayers (' mashiv haruah umorid hageshem '). It is not a request for rain to fall immediately. A further two weeks are allowed, until the 7th of Heshvan, for travellers who came to Jerusalem for the Regalim (Pilgrim Festival) to return home safely, before asking for the rain to actually fall (' veten tal umatar livrachah ').
    Outside Israel, the rainy season starts later: the prayer for immediate rain is not said until the 5th or 6th of December.
  8. The day after Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah . (In Israel this is celebrated on Shemini Atzeret itself.) Just as Shavuot (which the Rabbis called 'Atzeret' ) includes the Covenant of the Torah, so this Atzeret includes a Covenant of the Torah:
    • The former was the outcome of physical freedom, fear and awe;
    • The latter is the outcome of spiritual freedom, rejoicing and love.
      There is no joy without fear (of G-d) - see Psalm 2:11.
  9. Moses decreed that the Torah should be read every Shabbat. Nowadays, we read the first portion of the cycle on the first Shabbat after Simchat Torah, and conclude the reading on Simchat Torah.
  10. We start the Torah again from the beginning on Simchat Torah:

    'To show that the Torah is dear to us like something new: not like something old, that nobody really wants, but like something new that everyone runs after.' (Midrash Sifrei, Va'ethanan).

  11. The day after the festival is called Issru Chag (in the Diaspora: the tenth day; in Israel: the ninth). The Sages promised a reward to whoever continues the celebration on Issru Chag, because he or she is demonstrating that the festival ordered by the Torah is dear to him or her, wanting to hold on to it and finding difficulty in leaving it.




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02 Jan 2006 / 2 Tevet 5766 0