Sukkot ends with two days of yom tov (outside of Israel, anyway.) The first is Shemini Atzeret, which means "Eight Day Festival" - it's the eighth day of Sukkot and is a separate holiday. It's also a yizkor day, a day when we say memorial prayers for dead. In most Orthodox synagogues, these prayers are said only by those who have lost a parent. The others leave.
My rabbi, who is a grandfather, leaves. I'm still amazed at that.
I don't leave, of course.
Those of us who say yizkor light a yarhzeit (anniversary) candle on those days, along with the holiday candles.
And there is a considerable discussion about whether one eats in the sukkah or not, since it's not Sukkot. About the only point of agreement is that if one does eat there, one does not say the blessing about being commanded to eat there. Jonathan and I have no family customs to fall back upon and in previous years we've had invitations to eat in sukkot or not, or didn't have a sukkah, so it didn't come up. This year, it did.
We compromised the first night - made kiddush and hamotzei (blessed the day over wine and then washed and said the blessing over bread and ate the bread) in the sukkah and went back upstairs to eat dinner (sauted trout filets with Cajun spice, baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.) I wasn't sure how to transport the trout downstairs.
The next day was gorgeous, and we kept passing sukkot filled with people eating and Jonathan really wanted to, so. So we had our spinach cheese omelettes in the sukkah. I made them by folding the sides to the center instead of folding one side over the other, so they were more transportable. I also mixed thawed frozen spinach with eggs. And then we said goodbye to the sukkah.
Simchat Torah is not a yizkor day (this is unusual - normally, it is the last day of a holiday - last day of Pesach, second (and therefore last) day of Shavuot, Yom Kippur (*only* day), but Simchat Torah is dedicated to, well, simcha. Fun. And drinking. Yizkor doesn't fit.) I lit a yarhzeit candle anyway because it is a yarzheit - my father's. And then I put dinner in the oven.
Dinner was a pilaf - I used leftover turkey, white and portobello mushrooms, spicy kielbasa, onions and celery along with the brown basmati rice. I'd cooked it on Wednesday and added some water before I put it in the oven so it wouldn't dry out. I knew we'd not be getting home until after 10PM and I also knew that I couldn't just leave the services early if I wanted to cook or got bored. They don't say kaddish until the end, you see, and as it was my dad's yarhzeit, I needed to stay. My rabbi permits women to say kaddish if someone else says it with them. That is, of course, Jonathan's job. He also led the evening service.
Simchat Torah evening services are wonderful. There is singing and dancing, with and without the Torah scrolls, as well as drinking and celebrating. This year was full of spirit. And - some years I feel like dancing and some years I can't stand the thought. This year was in between. I didn't want to dance but I wasn't against it, either.
This is all repeated the next morning for services that last forever - we got home at 2PM. Not that we were starving, as the synagogue has a large kiddush (two large kiddushim - one on each side of the mechitza just for traffic reasons) between morning and additional services. Jonathan and I sponsor it for my father's memory. And the food stays out the rest of the morning. Much of the time is taken up with more dancing and singing, plus many, many Torah readings.
That is, we do the normal Torah reading for the holiday, but it's repeated as often as necessary to give every male over 13 an aliyah. As there are only five aliyot, they used the other sefer Torah (we're poor. We only have two. Larger places will use every one they have, too, though.) That takes several go throughs. The very last one is for the children under bar/bat mitzvah. My husband, standing under a canopy of prayershawls and surrounded by daddies and small children, got that one.
Then there is the chatan torah, who gets the final verses of the Torah. This one we gave to the rabbi as deserving the honor. Then there is the chatan bereshit, who gets the *first* chapter. My husband introduced him, and he did so with a poem, in Hebrew about his accomplishments. This includes moving to our part of Brooklyn, collecting comic books and understanding the show by the Great Bird with the three Jews of Koenig, Nimoy and Shatner.
Yeah, he's one of us.
Then we finished and I said kaddish and we came home and had steak for lunch in our dining room like everyone else. The dining room. Not everyone had steak.
I was going to say that I was bored and would write anyone a story (like another addition to the Snape/Lupin PoA story) but then I got busy.