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Simchat Torah is one of the most joyful and family-friendly festivals of the year, when we dance, sing, eat sweets, wave flags and above all celebrate as we both read the last words of Deuteronomy to complete the Torah, and read the first words of Genesis….”In the beginning…” to restart the cycle afresh.

What do people do?
Simchat Torah falls on the last of the two days of the Sukkot period on the 23rd day of Tishrei. The name of the festival means ‘Rejoicing of the Torah’.

Traditionally, two members of the congregation are honoured and are asked to be chatanim (bridegrooms): one is called the Callah or Chatan Torah (Bride or Bridegroom of the Torah/Law) who reads the last portion of the old year’s Torah, from the Book of Deuteronomy. The other is the Callah/Chatan Bereshit (Bride/Bridegroom of Genesis) who reads first portion of the new year’s Torah, from the Book of Genesis (Bereshit). These are great honours and are usually offered to members of the congregation who have made a significant contribution in some way to the life of the community.

Just as was traditionally done during the seven days of Sukkot, on Simchat Torah  people make hakafot (walk or dance in circles) around the bimah of the synagogue carrying the lulav and etrog. On Simchat Torah all of the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark, and are carried around the synagogue 7 times. The members of the congregation also join in the procession which is accompanied by joyous singing and dancing. Children also are encouraged to wave flags which they may have made specially for the occasion with Magen Davids or other Jewish symbols on them.

The children are also given sweets, and in some synagogue there is the tradition of unravelling an entire Torah Scroll so that everyone can see the whole Torah the hakafot include special dancing with the Torahs held up in the air. Children often join in and ride on their fathers' shoulders during this.

How do we celebrate at Westminster Synagogue?
Our Simchat Torah  Family Service takes place on Erev Simchat Torah which this year falls on Sunday 20th October. The centrepiece of the service is the procession of the Torah Scrolls at which we pass the Scrolls from generation to generation, and so we would be delighted for grandparents, parents and children to join us for this.

Although we do not read the Torah at the evening service, various readings will be led to mark the occasion by our families. The Simchat Torah morning service takes place on Monday 21st October and will include the completion of the reading of the Torah and the starting again of Genesis. The Scrolls will once again be processed around the synagogue.

Tue, 19 October 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782