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Simchat Torah in the United States

Many Jewish communities in the United States celebrate Shemini Atzeret (or Shmini Atzeret) and Simchat Torah. Shemini Atzeret is a Jewish holiday dedicated to the love of God. Simchat Torah marks the end of the Sukkot (or Sukkoth) festival.

Is Simchat Torah a Public Holiday?

This is not a public holiday in the United States. Most businesses, schools, and offices are open and follow regular hours, but Jewish-run businesses and organizations might be closed.

Simchat Torah focuses on rituals that involve the reading of the Torah.

©iStockphoto.com/Robert Simon

What Do People Do?

Simchat Torah is a joyous event. Central rituals for Simchat Torah include reading the Torah by concluding the Book of Deuteronomy and beginning the Book of Genesis. Other activities include performing the Hakafot (dancing with the Torah) around the synagogue bimah (elevated area or platform in a Jewish synagogue). Synagogues in cities such as Philadelphia have, in the past, held song and dance events to mark Simchat Torah.

Public Life

Many Jewish communities in the United States observe Shemini Atzeret on one day and Simchat Torah on the following day. These days are not nationwide public holidays in the USA but some Jewish organizations may be closed or offer a limited service to allow for festivities to occur on this day.

Background

The name "Shmini Atzeret" refers to the eighth day, or the extra day, that brings the seven-day Sukkot period to its state of perfection. Rabbinic tradition teaches that Shemini Atzeret is the day when the world is judged for water, or rainfall, in the upcoming year. It is an important day for agricultural purposes.

Simchat Torah is generally celebrated on the same day as Shemini Atzeret in Israel and among Reform Jewish groups. These two occasions are also observed as two separate days among many Jewish communities outside of Israel.

Jewish Holidays Last Longer Outside of Israel

In the Jewish diaspora—Jewish communities outside of Israel—an extra day is usually added to religious observances, with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts only one day worldwide, and Rosh Hashana, which is celebrated over two days in both Israel and the diaspora.

This custom has its roots in ancient times when the beginning of the months in the Jewish calendar still relied on the sighting of the crescent Moon following a New Moon.

The beginning of a new month was determined by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel in Jerusalem. Once the date was published, messengers were dispatched to spread the news among Jews living abroad. Since this process took some time, it was decreed that Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for 2 days to make sure that the rules and customs applicable to each holiday were observed on the proper date. This rule is still observed today.

About Simchat Torah in Other Countries

Read more about Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2017FriOct 13Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2018TueOct 2Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2019TueOct 22Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2020SunOct 11Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2021WedSep 29Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2022TueOct 18Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2023SunOct 8Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2024FriOct 25Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2025WedOct 15Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2026SunOct 4Simchat TorahJewish holiday
2027SunOct 24Simchat TorahJewish holiday

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.