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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776
Simchat Torah


[See also: Consecration]

  1. Digest #2006-130

    …As we plan our [Simchat Torah] celebrations, which involve leyning, processions, and possibly a party out on the street in front of our urban synagogue, we're taking a look at our practices for celebrating with (and dancing with) our three Torah scrolls. Normally we have festive dancing with the Torahs in the sanctuary as the reading cycles are completed, and everyone is encouraged to take their part holding the Torahs, which come in small, medium and large sizes. This year we hope to block off the street in front of the synagogue and continue the festivity outside, including possibly carrying one of the Torahs outside.

    …We've had no organized supervision in the past, though we're wondering if we should assign a "shomer" to each Torah scroll to follow it along and watch over its safety and assist with its transfers…We're also of mixed opinion so far at the thought of taking one of the Torahs down to the sidewalk and dancing with it outside…

    350 membership units
  2. Oct 2006 Digest 156

    I'm curious about how other congregations divide up the hakafot on Simchat you call people in groups to do the seven circles, or do you just invite people to come up when they want? If you call people in groups, how do you divide them up into those groups?
    ~860 households

  3. Oct 2006 Digest 156

    At the synagogue I attended, the first hakafah was rabbi, cantor, and current shul leadership. [The second] was other Board members. Third and subsequent was "come to the table where the Torah scrolls are waiting, if you would like to carry one!" The scrolls could be carried by anyone over bar/bat mitzvah age. Each person passed the tallit to the next person before they carried it. It did not seem that anyone was disappointed, while still there was no shortage of takers. There were a couple of stuffed baby torah-shaped plush toys which were also very popular with the little ones.

    For the Torah aliyot the rabbi called up the entire congregation by sections of the alphabet--for example the first was "Come up if your name begins with A through D, first name or last, whatever you want." The entire group had the aliyah, then on to the next, etc.

    It was very nicely controlled chaos, good natured and warmly communal.


  4. Oct 2006 Digest 156

    Typically we have called people by sections of chairs. Having flexible seating--we can have typically six sections, although it doesn't always work out number-wise as each section does not fill equally, and we usually only do three hakafot. A major feature is unrolling one of the Torahs so that everyone can see the whole thing. Also, because we make a circle v'Zot Habracha and B'reishit are next to each other allowing us to use only one Torah, at least that was this year’s model. That Torah is then re-rolled to B'reishit and yes, my wrists are recovering nicely, thank you (I enlisted some help halfway through) The Torah still has to be tightened a bit more, but we did a pretty good job for having done it in the air, so to speak.

    I think in the past, rabbi has called groups by categories--grandparents with grandchildren, assorted other such categories. My memory is not working too well tonight. If you know your congregation, you can create categories on the spot depending on who is there.

    I was at another Simchat Torah celebration the next night which included the Conservative, Sephardic and another Reform congregation. At the Conservative shul, the rabbi invited people by some predetermined groupings, such as everyone who has been to Israel this past year or is planning on going in the coming year. He started the first hakafah by inviting all the children present, to come to the bimah and then asked for volunteers from among their parents to carry the Torahs. After the second hakafah everyone proceeded to the corner of the major intersection where we met the members of the Reform congregation and danced for a while on the grass there. Because the Sephardim start davening a little later, we marched back to the Conservative shul for what became by then the sixth hakafah and then returned to the Sephardic shul where they were in the first hakafah, I think. At the Sephardic shul I am not sure of the model for who is doing what. Each hakafah goes on for quite a while with lots of singing and dancing and as people tire of carrying the Torah they pass them on to someone who has not been carrying…

    400 + member units

  5. Oct 2006 Digest 157

    At the synagogue I attended, the first hakafah was the rabbi, the second was board members, the third was the religious school teachers, the fourth was committee chairs, the fifth was committee members, the sixth was new members and the seventh was anyone left who had not yet had an opportunity to carry the Torah.

    We had already had consecration, so many of the children were carrying their little Torahs (given as gifts for being new to the religious school) and everyone had also been given special flags. People had also been invited to bring instruments, so people were walking with tambourines, drums, shakers, recorders, etc., while we were singing various Torah songs to keep everyone in step.


  6. Oct 2006 Digest 157

    In the temple I grew up in, after we finished the Torah, we said Ch'zak, Ch'zak, V'mit'chazek…and started B'reishit without any other words, prayers or commentary to keep the idea that the Torah never ends. This Simchat Torah there was the B'rachah after the reading of the end of D'varim, a one or two minute commentary, and a new B'rachah before the reading of B'reishit

  7. Oct 2006 Digest 157

    Our format is and has been--Bracha, read the last few p'sukim--Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek--read the beginning of B'reishit and the Bracha. Rabbi used to do the readings without breathing between the end and the beginning, with the same thought in mind, i.e.: the Torah never ends. This year, we have a cantor. She chanted the end of V'zot haBracha and [our] rabbi read the beginning of B'reishit.
    400 + member units

  8. Oct 2006 Digest 157

    At our synagogue we honour two members of the community as Chatan/Kallat Bereshit and Chatan/Kallat Torah. On Erev Simchat Torah, each says their own blessings before and after their Torah reading and usually, although not always, the chatanim will also read the Torah portion. Obviously there is a break between readings where Hazak is sung, one scroll raised and dressed, the other placed on the desk, ready to be read. This is slightly changed at the Simchat Torah morning service where the person reading Bereshit will say the after Torah blessing following day six. The children then come onto the bimah and say the Torah blessings before and after day seven.

    Children and/or adults have flags and apples which they take round in the hakafot. All the sifrei Torah are taken out and the catena take one each, followed by other members of their family. After the first hakafot, each scroll is passed to someone in the congregation who, in turn passes it on until we eventually find that everyone has had a turn taking at least one Torah round the synagogue. The children also take the very small scrolls which they pass on. The hakafot is always at least seven times round the synagogue but more often than not, a lot more.

    We go through a variety of songs from Hava Nagelah, Oseh Shalom, Hinei Mahtov, etc., etc. After the first hakafot, our rabbi joins the choir, singing and waving his flag with the rest of us. All in all it is a very happy, jolly service.

    We also have a tradition at our shul that the lulav and etrog are shaken during the hallel on Simchat Torah, both evening and morning services. This year we had three which were passed throughout the congregation during the hallel, giving everyone a chance to join in the mitzvah of shaking the lulav.


  9. Oct 2006 Digest 157

    The major two-year renovation of our main sanctuary…included a redesign of the pulpits, making it possible to read Torah from either the rabbis' or cantor's pulpit for the first time. This was used to full advantage on Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah: The Deuteronomy scroll was read from the "cantor's side" and the Genesis scroll from the "rabbis' side." The b'rochos were said only once. Apparently this had been the practice for many years, but it seemed strange to me this year, as there were two readers on opposite sides of the bimah…One of the musical highlights for me was the singing of Lewandowski's "Ono Adonoy" by cantor and choir during the hakafos. Our procession with the sifrei Torah may not be as lively as in other synagogues, but it is full of dignity and joy, and it is not unusual to see congregants visibly moved as they reach across the pews to touch and kiss the Torah.

  10. Oct 2006 Digest 158

    …The tradition is to have a set of brachot surrounding both Deuteronomy and Genesis. The "traditional" name for the Deuteronomy aliyah is "Chatan Torah" and for the Genesis aliyah, "Chatan B'reishit."

    …Concerning the reading of Torah, after we have completed our hakafot and celebration, we had the congregants circle the "perimeter" of the sanctuary, unrolled two scrolls so that the entire text was visible, and had congregants, rabbis, and cantor read or chant the verses. This is a practice we instituted about ten years ago, and we had about two dozen people reading this year. As if this wasn't enough, our Second Grade Religious School class served as Meturgamim, translating the verses as they were read.


  11. Oct 2006 Digest 158

    We, too, unroll a single Sefer Torah around the sanctuary to envelope the congregation in Torah. The parchment is held by those of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, to whom we provide white cotton curators' gloves out of respect for the Torah and to protect the panels.

  12. Oct 2006 Digest 158

    …[The two scrolls in use] are held by two congregants each vertically before the congregation. Brochot are said before and after each reading and we recite Chazak, etc. after completing Deuteronomy. Hagbah is a bit more casual than usual as we are already holding the scrolls up to be seen by the congregation.

  13. Sept 2007 Digest 188
    …Simchat Torah, however, is a major event, with lots of good song parodies, prayers for rain (hilarious here in the Northwest,) hakafot, candy, crafts for kids and a little l'chayim for adults! We unroll the Torah around our sanctuary (it just fits), and we all hold it (kids love this) as our Rabbi runs around reading highlights.

  14. Oct 2007 Digest 198

    For me, the hakafot for Simchat Torah allows all to become one with the Torah--to rejoice and embrace it. It had always been my understanding that within Kabbalah the hakafot were representative of the seven sephirot--emanations of G-d--in addition acknowledgement of the completion of the reading of the Torah and starting again. As such Simchat Torah provides the vehicle for providing a physical hakafah (the completion of the circle of reading the Torah) into one of joy, in the form of dancing, music and song.

    Also, one must remember that Simchat Torah's origins are not based on specifics in the bible. It has however become one of the most anticipated occurrences where Jews of all ideologies come to celebrate the Torah. And what better way than to see our children with their paper flags acknowledge their heritage?



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