WHEN IS SHEMINI ATZERET AND WHY DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
Shemini Atzeret falls on the day after Sukkot, on the 22nd of Tishrei. Its name means ‘the eighth [day of] assembly’.
Shemini Atzeret is a full holiday, which means we are not allowed to work or do everyday activities like cook or drive a car. It is written in the Book of Numbers, “On the eighth day you shall hold a solemn (serious) gathering; you shall not work…”
In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the same day as Shemini Atzeret. The celebration of Shemini Atzeret therefore tends to get overlooked as people get caught up in celebrating Simchat Torah which has livlier and more interesting customs associated with it.
WHAT DO WE DO ON SHEMINI ATZERET?
Say the Tefillat Geshem
We say this prayer because in the Land of Israel at this time of year, they need rain to help their crops grow and their animals stay alive. Although Jews in other parts of the world may not need rain at this time, saying the Tefillat Geshem makes us feel closer to the land and the people of Israel.
The prayer includes the words “mashiv ha ruach u-morid ha-geshem”, which tells us that God is the one “who brings forth the winds and brings down the rain.”
On Shemini Atzeret the leader of the synagogue service wears the white kittel(robe) that he wears during the High Holy days.
Hakafot and Synagogue Services
Like on the previous seven days of Sukkot, on Shemini Atzeret we make hakafot(walk in circles) around the bimah of the synagogue. During the hakafot, we say the Hoshanah prayers.
Judaism 101: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah