Tonight is the start of a most unusual holiday. This is the last one that requires me not to work until April. (Good. Now, I can make some money!) The Tora gives us very little clue about this holiday and its requirements. It’s simply called the Eighth Day of Assembly (Shmini Atzeret).
Some folks consider it the eighth day of Sukot (the holiday I discussed a week ago). My tradition never considered that definition correct. We stopped eating in Sukah (again, as discussed a week ago) as soon as this day begins. (Note: The Tora says, “It was evening, it was morning”; all “days” begin in the evening.) It’s a new holiday. And, the only requirement that exists for this holiday is that we celebrate life and our religion.
Of course, we also add a special prayer to our service today- Geshem or the Prayer for Rain. It’s the start of the rainy season in Israel, and the prayers ask the Supreme Being to insure that there is sufficient rain afforded for plentiful crops. (On Passover, we substitute this prayer for one requesting ample Dew, since the rainy season ends at that time of year.)
This holiday also coincides with another observance called Simchat Tora. (This is a celebration we [the people] created.) We normally read from the Tora (the bible), aka the Five Books of Moses [the first five books of the bible], every week. On this holiday, we have completed the cycle of reading all five books, with its description of the death of Moses- and immediately begin reading from the very first part of the Tora, the story of creation.
May this new cycle bring you everything you need- but especially health, happiness, and peace.