Beverly Kent Goldenberg
Life Member, Hadassah Greater Detroit

The Ending of Sukkot

Simcat Torah at Downtown Synagogue.  Photo supplied by the author.
Simchat Torah at Detroit's Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. Photo supplied by the author.

The Sukkot holiday ends with two connected but independent holidays: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Shemini Atzeret is literally the eighth day of Sukkot. It is a separate—yet connected—holy day, devoted to the spiritual aspects of the festival of Sukkot. On Shemini Atzeret, we pray for rain. (It is officially the start of rainy season in Israel.) We also recite the Yizkor prayer (remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us).

On days that the Yizkor prayer is said in synagogue (Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, last day of Passover, and Shavuot) and on the yahrzeit, anniversary date of a loved one, we light a memorial candle. Since Jewish holidays begin at sundown, on the evening of the commencement of the holiday or yarzeit date, we light the candle. My mother used an electric yarzeit light, instead of the traditional glass candle. So, in memory of both my mother and father, I use the electric one, as well, while my husband, Mickey, lights the traditional Israeli candle, made of metal, in remembrance of his parents.

The author’s son Oren Leading Simchat Torah services at Detroit’s Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, Photo supplied by the author.

In Israel and in reform temples, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah get rolled into the same day. So, this holiday often gets lost in the shuffle between Sukkot and Simcst Torah.

Simchat Torah, a joyous celebration, marks the completion of the reading of the Torah and the re-start of reading for the following year. Congregants sing and dance holding the Torah scrolls, in what is called Hakafot. There are seven Hakafot (circuits).

I have many fond, diverse memories from the celebrations of Simchat Torah:

Childhood: As a child, an apple on top of a flag was the Simchat Torah celebration. We marched around the synagogue behind the Torah scrolls. I enjoyed being with friends and relatives, munching on caramel apples after our “parade.” I always chose to go to Uncle Meyer’s synagogue, an orthodox one, because it was filled with children, very joyous, and the munchies were delicious.

Adulthood: As an adult, one year, our congregation stood in a circle and helped the Rabbi open an entire Torah scroll. He read the last verse, then the first. It was thrilling to touch, see and hear all of the letters and verses. We, then, slowly and carefully rolled it back together, dressed the Torah and return it to the ark.

Cholent Lunch on Simchat Torah: Our synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, in Oak Park, Michigan serves cholent, (a stewed dish of potatoes, meat, and beans) on Simchat Torah morning after services and dancing with the Torah. The highlight was my son Oren’s Bar Mitzvah which took place on Simchat Torah morning as part of these festivities. The holiday became special; always to be celebrated.

Parenthood:  Oren, as an adult, became a leader at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, the only free-standing synagogue remaining inside the city of Detroit. He helped take the synagogue from a crumbling institution to a vibrant, expanding community treasure. Simchat Torah here is dancing in the streets nearby. Torahs swirl amidst the city streets once filled with homeless, now bustling with people and shiny new stores and hotels. The young adults made this a relevant holiday, known and experienced within the city.

However you celebrate, enjoy! The excitement of Judaism awaits. Chag Sameach!

Simchat Torah ends the busy fall holiday season. Hope it’s been fun. Now, it’s back to normal life – do we remember what that is???

Hadassah stands for Jewish values and traditions. Hadassah also stands up for women’s empowerment and leadership, and therefore strongly supports the role of Jewish woman as keepers of the flame of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs. I am proud to be a Life Member of a national organization with such a noble purpose.

About the Author
Beverly Kent Goldenberg has been a life member of Hadassah since 1968 and is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. She was born and raised in Detroit and is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled state-wide. Her English teachers always thought that she would become a journalist. Better late than never, she has been writing and publishing memoir pieces and poetry the past several years. Beverly and her Israeli husband, Michael, raised their two sons, Etai (Caroline), a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker and real estate developer, in Huntington Woods, Michigan, where they still reside today. Beverly is Savta to five grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, Nesya and a grand-dog, Sparrow.
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