First, I’d like to wish each and every one of you a Chag Sukkot Sameach – a joyous Sukkot—and invite you to bring your breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime snack and have a meal or nosh in the sukkah at Beth Shalom. Also, join us for a family-friendly Sukkot Shabbat this Friday night in the sukkah (6:30pm).

Second, I’d like to remind you that our marathon of Holy Days and Chagim continues into next week. On Tuesday morning, September 28, we end our celebration of Sukkot with one of the least known and visible of the festivals: Sh’mini Atzeret, which is both the 8th day of Sukkot and a Chag in its own right.

Atzeret means putting a boundary, restraining, or collecting. It is translated as the 8th Day of Completion (of the Sukkot festival) or the 8th Day of Assembly (of the people). The Torah calls Sh’mini Atzeret a solemn gathering (Lev. 23:36; Num 29:35-38). After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis saw Sh’mini Atzeret as a faint and final echo of Yom Kippur: the day on which the world is rewarded or punished through the giving or withholding of rain; the last day of repentance and prayer before G-d may bring forgiveness.

The distinctive moment of Sh’mini Atzeret is the prayer for rain in the Amidah. It is added to the G’vurot – the prayer which praises G-d for reviving the dead. The seed has gone underground in seeming death; the rain will revive the parched earth and will grow new food to nourish new life. Yizkor is also recited on Sh’mini Atzeret: Perhaps the prayer for drops of rain is also a plea for tears – the tears of memory and compassion.

Please join us for Sh’mini Atzeret Services–with Hallel, Yizkor, and a Torah service with Haftarah– on Tuesday morning in the Sanctuary or YouTube at 10:30am.  

On Tuesday night, we return to a mood of joy as we celebrate the holiday of Simhat Torah – Reveling with the Torah. Beth Shalom and B’nai Israel will be celebrating together at Beth Shalom. Please join us in the Sanctuary at 6:00pm to express our joyful love for Torah.

If we look very closely at the two Torah readings for Simhat Torah we see that the Torah is a sign of G-d’s love for us. Look at the very last word of the Torah: Yisrael (Israel) and the first word of the Torah: B’reisheet (in beginning). The last letter Yisrael is ל (lamed) and the first letter of B’reisheet is ב (bet). When we put these two letters together they spell the word  לב(lev) which means heart. Thus, the Torah is likened to a love letter from G-d which we cherish and read over and over again.