Messiah in Simchat Torah Chapter 1

  1. The Evening Service
  2. The Morning Service
  3. After the Hakafot and dancing…

Simchat Torah celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah is a component of Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth-day of Assembly), which follows immediately after the conclusion of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבה).

In most Jewish synagogues this is the only time of the year when the Torah Scrolls are taken out of the ark and read at night.

In the morning, the last parsha (פרשה) of Deuteronomy and the first parsha of Genesis (פרשת בראשיתParshat Bereshit) are read in the synagogue (פרשת השבוע Parashat ha-Shavua). On each occasion, when the ark is opened, the worshipers leave their seats to dance and sing with the Torah scrolls in a joyous celebration that can last for several hours.

The morning service of Simchat Torah is also uniquely characterized by the calling up of each male member of the congregation for an aliyah (עלייה לתורה); in a majority of the non-orthodox congregations both male and female members are called up. There is also a special aliyah for all the children (under 13 or 12 for boys and girls).

The Evening Service:

Simchat Torah begins with an evening service.

All the synagogue’s Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and are carried around the sanctuary in a series of seven hakafot (הקפות-circuits). Although technically each hakafa need only encompass one circuit around the synagogue, the singing and dancing with the Torah oftentimes continues much longer. The joyous dancing and singing may even overflow from the synagogue onto the streets. Five points to keep in mind about this evening service:

Point #1.  In most synagogues each circuit is announced by a few melodic invocations imploring Adonai to Hoshiah Na (הושיעה־נא-“Save us”) and then each ends with the refrain, Aneinu B’yom Koreinu (“Answer us on the day we call”).

Point #2.  The hakafot are accompanied by traditional chants, including scripture verses and songs about the Torah, the goodness of Adonai, and Messianic hopefulness.

Point #3.  Congregations may also sing other popular songs during the dancing. Children are often given flags, candies and other treats. The liveliness of the dancing and the high degree of festive merriment varies with each congregation’s temperament.

Point #4.  In Orthodox synagogues the dancing is mainly carried out by men and boys. Children (even young girls) may also dance with their fathers. Women and older girls often have their own dancing circles sometimes with the Torah scrolls, or look on from the other side of a partition (mechitza) in accordance with the rules of modesty (tzniut).

In some congregations, men and women dance together. In others the dancing is segregated.

Point #5.  After the hakafot, many congregations recite a portion of the last parsha of the Torah, “And this is the Blessing …” (וזו הברכהV’zot Haberachah) in Deuteronomy. The portion of the Torah that is read is usually 33:134:12 but the selection may vary by synagogue custom, although Deuteronomy is never read to the end in the evening.

The Morning Service:

The morning service, like that of other festivals of Messiah, includes a special holiday Amidah, the saying of Hallel and a holiday Mussaf service (for definition of terms use “beta search” on this site). When the ark is opened to take out the Torah for the Torah reading, all the scrolls are again removed from the ark and the congregation again starts the seven hakafot just like in the evening.

After the Hakafot and the dancing…

וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה

This is the blessing…

After the hakafot and the dancing, three scrolls of the Torah are read. The last parsha of the torah is read, “This is the Blessing …” (פרשת וזאת הברכה), located at the end of Deuteronomy (33:1-34:12).

This last parsha is read from the first scroll, followed immediately by the first chapter (and part of the second) of the Book of Bereshit (Genesis 1:12:3), which is read from the second scroll.

It is a custom that a new beginning must immediately follow a completion.

Therefore it is logical to immediately read Genesis 1 after finishing Deuteronomy. It is a special honor to receive the last aliyah of the Book of Deuteronomy. The person receiving that aliyah is called the the groom of the Torah (Chatan Torah) or the bride of the Torah (Kallat Torah) in synagogues that allow women to receive an aliyah.

Likewise, it is a special honor to receive the first aliyah of the Book of Genesis. This person is called the groom of Genesis (Chatan B’reishit) or the bride of Genesis (Kallat B’reishit). In many congregations it is customary to call all eligible members of the congregation for an aliyah to the Torah on Simchat Torah (the Joyousness of Torah). This is done during the first five aliyot  that are reread so that everyone has an opportunity to recite the blessing. In the interest of shortening the time, some congregations call people up in groups. Others hold a series of separate minyanim (groups of ten or more) for the Torah reading.

Another custom is to call all the children to a special aliyah called “All the Children” (Kol HaNe’arim). In many congregations, a large talit is spread out over the heads of all the children as the blessing over the Torah is pronounced, and for the congregation to bless the children by reciting (in Hebrew) a verse from Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Manasseh, Genesis 48:16:

הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל־רָע יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־הַנְּעָרִים וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב בְּקֶרֶב הָאָֽרֶץ׃

May the angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the children;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow (teem like fish) into a multitude in the midst of the land.”

May you be “Doubly Fruitful” in the land of Israel (lit. Ephraim).

It is destined one day that Adonai and all His Household, all of His children and His righteous servants the holy angels, will one day completely put away all of the memory of sin and evil. Not a speck, a single grain of it will ever, even for a moment, enter into the New Righteous, Perfect, Undefiled House of the Holy One

May you “Forget” the time of your exile (lit. Manasseh).

Adonai Avinu will make Israel doubly fruitful. Our ancestors prior sin of rebellion and unbelief against G-d shall be completely and permanently forgotten. And so will it be that the House of Israel will forever be Doubly Fruitful.

May you forever be “Doubly Fruitful” (lit. Ephraim)!

After the portion of Genesis is read, the Maftir (מפטיר), Numbers 29:3530:1, is read from a third Torah scroll. The passage describes the prescribed offerings performed for the holiday. The reading from the prophets (הפטרה-haftarah) is the first section of the Book of Joshua.

Songs that are sung on Simchat Torah:

Nowadays, there are numerous popular songs that are sung on Simhat Torah. As the day is a celebration of the Torah, songs regarding the greatness of Torah and the Jews’ relationship with the Torah are generally sung. Here is a partial list of songs sung:

  1. Ashrei Ha’am Shekacha Lo
  2. Toras Hashem Temima
  3. Moshe Emes Visoraso Emes
  4. Baruch Hu Elokeinu Shebaranu Lichvodo
  5. Yisroel V’oraysa V’kudsha B’rich Hu Chad Hu
  6. Ashrei Mi She’amalo Batorah
  7. V’af Al Pi Sheyismahmay’a
  8. Anah Avda D’kudsha B’rich Hu
  9. V’taher Libeinu L’avdacha B’emes
  10. Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem
  11. Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu

Often, when the Torah is being returned to the ark (‘aron), “S’u She’arim Rasheichem” is sung (Psalm 24: 7-10):

שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָֽאשֵׁיכֶם וְֽהִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עֹולָם וְיָבֹוא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבֹֽוד׃ מִי זֶה מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבֹוד יְהוָה עִזּוּז וְגִבֹּור יְהוָה גִּבֹּור מִלְחָמָֽה׃ שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָֽאשֵׁיכֶם וּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עֹולָם וְיָבֹא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבֹֽוד׃ מִי הוּא זֶה מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבֹוד יְהוָה צְבָאֹות הוּא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבֹוד סֶֽלָה׃

S’u sh’arim rasheichem
V’hinas’u pitchei olam
V’yavo melech hakavod.
Mi ze melech hakavod?
A-donay izuz v’gibor
A-donay gibor milchamah.
S’u sh’arim rasheichem
Us’u pitchei olam
V’yavo melech hakavod.
Mi hu ze melech hakavod?
A-donay tz’va-ot
Hu melech hakavod.  Selah.
Lift up your heads O you gates
And be lifted up O you doors everlasting,
That the Sovereign of glory may enter.
Who is this Sovereign of glory?
The Lord of power and strength,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads O you gates
And be lifted up O you doors everlasting,
That the Sovereign of glory may enter.
Who is He, this Sovereign of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the Sovereign of glory.  Selah.

When the gabbai (גבאי‎‎ – also called a shamash, שמש lit. servant)—a person who assists in running the synagogue services—calls up the kohein, then “Viya’azor Veyagein Veyoshia” is sung.

Messiah in Simchat Torah Chapter 2 >>