Sukkot is the last of the three pilgrimage festivals. Like Passover, and Shavuot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.
Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following the festival, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are separate holidays but are related to Sukkot and are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot. On Shemini Atzeret we begin to pray for rain and also commemorate those who have died in the past year with Yizkor services. Simchat Torah is the holiday where we begin reading the Torah anew.
Each year, we build a beautiful Sukkah outside the sanctuary building on 8th Avenue.
Simchat Torah, שִׂמְחַת תּוֹרָה, “Rejoicing of Torah” is a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah is a component of the Biblical Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret (“Eighth Day of Assembly”), which follows immediately after the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishrei.
The Simchat Torah festivities begin with the evening service. All the synagogue’s Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and are carried around the sanctuary in a series of seven hakafot (circuits). Although each hakafa need only encompass one circuit around the synagogue, the dancing and singing with the Torah often continues much longer, and may overflow from the synagogue onto the streets.