“On the eighth day you shall have an ‘Asereth (holy assembly)” (Numbers 29).
On this it is written in the Holy Zohar: ” A king invites some guests. When they depart he says to his household, ‘Till now we have all been attending to the guests, now we shall rejoice together for one day”.
In the Land of Israel, Shemini ‘Asereth and Simhath Torah are celebrated together on one day, but in the diaspora they are separated into two days. This is a time of great rejoicing for Israel.
Tiqqun Haggeshem, the prayer for the rain, is recited on Shemini ‘Asereth and, in Sephardi congregations, Masheeb Haruwah Umoreed Haggeshem is recited commencing with the silent ‘Amidah. Ashkenazim have differing customs concerning this.
From a very early age, every Jewish child and person looks forward to the rejoicing and celebrations of Simhath Torah (whose name appropriately means “Rejoicing of the Law”). The Haqqafoth (circuits made with the Sifrei Torah) are one of the central points on this happy day.
Four sets of Haqqafoth of seven circuits each are required to be made. Outside the Land of Israel, however, according to the Qabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), a total of seven sets of Haqqafoth should be made, for a total of forty-nine circuits. These are made as follows:
- One set each of seven on ‘Arbith, Musaph and Minha of Shemini ‘Asereth.
- One set each of seven on ‘Arbith, Musaph and Minha of Simhath Torah.
- One final set of seven Haqqafoth on Mosei Simhath Torah.
The prayers and singing fill us with a feeling of happiness at having been blessed with the receiving of the holy Torah as we sing: “Simhoo Na, Simhoo Na Besimhath Hattorah”, Rejoice, Rejoice at the Rejoicing of the Torah.
Taken from the writings of the Hakham, Rabbi Ya’aqob Menashe.
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