Sukkot: The Harvest Festival
Sukkot is the third and final festival that commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The escape of Israel from Egypt is remembered at Passover, entering into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai is recalled at Shavuot, and sleeping in a temporary hut or booth (“sukkah” in Hebrew) while wandering in the wilderness is memorialized in the holiday of Sukkot. “Sukkot” is the plural form of sukkah. In addition, Sukkot has agricultural roots as a fall harvest festival. During the summer harvest in ancient Israel, the Israelites lived in makeshift shelters, or booths, close to their crops so they would not need to travel back and forth to their homes. After the hard work, there was a great celebration of gratitude to God for providing an abundant harvest. A typical Sukkot service at Shir Hadash is family friendly and inviting. We often create sukkot decorations and hang them in the sukkah. Services end in the sukkah with a pot-luck oneg.
Simchat Torah: Joy of the Torah
Simchat Torah is the last of the fall holidays, arriving at the end of Sukkot. During Simchat Torah we can be filled with joy and love for God, for the Torah, and for the Jewish community. The name of this holiday means “Joy of the Torah,” and it marks the completion of the yearlong cycle of weekly Torah readings. Since the Torah is continuously read throughout the year, when we get to the end of Deuteronomy 34 we immediately start over by reading the first verses of Genesis. By doing that, we show the unending cycle of Torah study.
We hold an annual pizza dinner on Simchat Torah prior to services. The service includes a spirited hora and our tradition of unwrapping the Torah scroll. At this service, we welcome new students and their families. We finish up with taffy apples along with our usual pot-luck oneg.