Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah Quick Facts - US

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2024 DateOctober 24, 2024
2025 DateOctober 15, 2025

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Simchat Torah History

Simchat Torah (Hebrew: שמחת תורה), or Rejoicing of the Torah, celebrates the completion of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. This festive occasion highlights the Jewish community's love for the Torah and emphasizes the continuity of Judaism through the ongoing study of its sacred text. Central to the observance are spirited processions with the Torah scrolls, singing, dancing, and the unique practice of reading the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis, symbolizing the unbroken cycle of Torah study.

While the origins of Simchat Torah trace back to the early Talmudic period, the customs and practices associated with this observance have evolved over the years, adapting to the needs of diverse Jewish communities. In America, Simchat Torah is a popular observance among many Jewish congregations, providing an opportunity for people of all ages to come together and celebrate their shared connection to the Torah. This observance also serves as a powerful reminder of the central role that education and learning have played in ensuring the survival and flourishing of the Jewish people throughout their history.

In the United States, Simchat Torah is generally observed within the synagogue and surrounding community. Participants joyously carry the Torah scrolls around the synagogue in a series of hakafot, or circuits, accompanied by singing, dancing, and flag-waving. Children often receive special treats and are encouraged to participate in the dancing and celebration. In some communities, outdoor processions may also take place. Simchat Torah usually occurs in late September or early October, and falls on the day following the end of the week-long festival of Sukkot.

Facts about Simchat Torah

  • It is customary for people to dance with the Torah Scrolls in Orthodox and Traditional Synagogues. They dance and make seven cycles Hakafot around the synagogue, both on the Eve of Simchat Torah and in the Morning Service.
  • Children often join in the main adult Synagogue service carrying toy flags or mock Torah scrolls. Young children are often carried on their fathers' shoulders or piggy-backed around the Synagogue. All the children under 13 are called up to the Torah under a canopy or prayer shawl (Tallit). This is considered to be a special honor, which is not allowed the rest of the year and brings the children closer to the Torah.
  • Many congregations often have children's services in which each child gets a turn to read part of the Torah, to dance with a mock Torah scroll or to sing a Jewish song.
  • It is customary to make a festive Kiddush (light meal with wine) after the morning service, which is typically sponsored by the Groom of the Torah and the Groom of Genesis. The Groom of the Torah recites the last paragraphs of the Torah scroll, which is being completed and the Groom of Genesis recites the first few paragraphs of the new Torah Scroll.
  • A popular prayer on Simchat Torah is called Yizkor, 'Remembrance'. It serves to honor dead relatives. Even on one of the happiest Jewish Holidays of the year, dead relatives (parents, siblings, spouses and children) are remembered. This helps remind believers that they would not be who they are and where they are without these people.

Top things to do in the US for Simchat Torah

  • Pray for Rain. Shemini Azeret and Simchat Torah is often accompanied by prayers for the rain. The holidays are in the Autumn, which is a critical period in Israel for harvests.
  • Attend a Hakafot Shniot on the night after Simchat Torah. This is a replay of the Simchat Torah festivities, but in which Orthodox people can play musical instruments (which are forbidden during the festivals).
  • Attend a local Simchat Torah Celebration held at many Synagogues.

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