Sh’mini Atzeret is a solemn time for reflecting on the seven previous days of the festival of Sukkot. Sh’mini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day).” Rabbinic literature explains the holiday this way: “Our Creator is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day. Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.”
Simchat Torah is a joyful celebration, often symbolized by dancing. Hebrew for “Rejoicing in the Law,” Simchat Torah also celebrates the completion of reading the Book of Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Torah) and starting from the beginning with the Book of Genesis. In Israel and in many communities around the world, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the same day as Sh’mini Atzeret, making them a one-day festival.
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