The New Shul

Sh’mini Atzeret/Simhat Torah

This Shabbat and Sunday, we will celebrate the festival of Sh’miniAtzeret⁄ Simhat Torah. According to the ancient rabbis, at the end of Sukkot, when the Israelites were preparing to end their pilgrimage in Jerusalem and return to their homes, God was not yet ready to see them go. God (as personified in a rabbbinic parable) said to the Israelites: “kasheh alai p’reidatkhem — it is hard for me to let you go – let’s spend one more day together.” And that is why we have Sh’miniAtzeret, the Eighth day of Assembly. In the diaspora, where all festivals are doubled, the second day of Sh’miniAtzeret is Simhat Torah, when we complete the yearly Torah reading cycle and begin again.

Sh’miniAtzeret, with its message of spending one more day, teaches us not to say good bye to precious moments too quickly. In a world that is so rushed, it teaches us to linger in the present and to savor its sweetness. Simhat Torah, on the other hand, teaches us how to make transitions.  When it is time to end our reading of the Torah, to let go of the story that we have been living with and learning from for the past year, we can do so with a full heart, because we know that the next moment holds the promise of a new beginning,

This weekend, with its juxtaposition of Sh’miniAtzeret and Simhat Torah, reminds us that the art of living is to know both: how to stay and how to leave, how to savor the sweetness of the moment, and how to move forward toward the blessings of new beginnings. May we be granted both kinds of wisdom. And may this Yom Tov be a time of joy for all of us.

  • Candle lighting this Friday evening October 6, is at 5:47 pm.
  • Our service for Sh’mini Atzeret, Saturday morning October 7, is from 9 am to about 11:45 am, and includes Yizkor (the memorial prayer). The kiddush-lunch afterwards is sponsored by Jodi Fialkin in memory of her mother Sandra Fialkin.
  • Join us at The New Shul for hakafot and dancing on the night of Simhat Torah, Saturday October 7 at 7 pm. Our service on the morning of Simhat Torah, Sunday October 8, begins at 9 am.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm at the shul. Kabbalat Shabbbat is on Friday evenings at 6 pm at the Kanter-Wasserman home (please contact us for directions).
  • Rabbi Wasserman’s class: Dare to Daven: Exploring Jewish Prayer, begins on Shabbat afternoon, October 14 at 5 pm. The class meets at the Kanter/Wasserman home.