Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah

Simchat Torah

Well, today is a short day for me, one of the benefits of working for an observant Jewish employer, as tonight the 2 day holiday (1 day in Israel) of Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah. What not everyone realizes is that these days are actually a separate holiday from Sukkot. What is so special about this holiday? It is one of pure joy! Even more so than Sukkot, it is characterized by unadulterated joy, with the climax being on Simchas Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle.

What better way to celebrate an end and a beginning? How about dessert and an appetizer? You can’t get any more symbolic than that! So remember to be happy, be joyous, and try not to party too much, after all, it’s only 62 days until Chanuka!

Hoshanah Rabbah

Well, with the first half of Sukkot finished, and now moving into the second half, we bring special attention to the seventh day of the holiday known as Hoshanah Rabbah, meaning “Great Salvation”. According to tradition, our verdict that G-d has decided for us, that was written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is now handed down by the Heavenly Court. To celebrate this, we circle the Bimah seven times while holding the Lulav and Esrog, while reciting special prayers for prosperity. It is also the custom that during the course of the morning prayers, to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times. With all this circling and beating, one can work up quite the appetite. As mentioned in past postings, we eat foods during this time that are wrapped, or encircled. These are symbolic for many different things: The wrapping up of one year of Torah reading, and beginning again. The wrapping up of our prayers and the judgment for a brand new year. And of course, the wrapping, or circling of the Bimah, now with the Lulav and later on Simchas Torah with the Torah itself. So with that in mind I thought a rolled entree would be appropriate. Just make sure to put down your Lulav before picking up your meat!