Today is Hoshana Rabbah, which involves more greenery - beating willow branches against the floor. jonbaker gave a class on it and the rest of the holiday last night. He did so well - I only wish more people had been there.
I just benched lulav - waved a lulav and esrog in the six directions (right, back, left, front, up, down) - for the last time this year.
Tonight starts Shemini Atzeret, which means eighth day festival - it's Biblically mandated to have a festival on the final day of the week of Sukkot. It's the day we start praying for rain (in Israel). Some people have a custom to eat in their sukkot on this day, without the blessing of "l'shay b'sukkah", others eat indoors. Jonathan isn't sure what we should do - I'd rather eat indoors myself.
It's cold out there.
It's also a yizkor day, so I'll be lighting a yarzheit candle and saying yizkor (prayers of remembrance) for my father.
Tomorrow night is Simchat Torah. This is the second day of yom tov we celebrate in exile (those of us who are not Reform and therefore celebrate only one day of yom tov.) In Israel, they combine the festivities of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah into one, and call it Simchat Torah. It's the most joyous of holidays, in direct contrast to Yom Kippur, which is the most solemn. It's spent dancing with Torah scrolls and, often, getting drunk. The latter doesn't happen in our shul - it's just not our thing. We drink, just not to get drunk. There are even women's hakofos, places where women dance with sifrei torah. I don't go to those for several reasons, but the most important is that Simchat Torah is my father's yarhzeit and I want to say kaddish for him, and I can't say that without a minyan - and, to me, women do not make a minyan. So I stay with my home shul.
It also means that this most joyous of holidays is...well, some years I can celebrate. And I never know until I'm there.
We sponsor the kiddush on the morning of Simchat Torah in his honor.
What we celebrate on this day is entirely human made - we complete the yearly c ycle of the Torah, reading the last portion of D'varim (Deuteronomy) and the first part of Berishit (Genesis) to begin all over again. This is man made because the yearly cycle is relatively new (maybe a couple thousand years). Before then, there was a three-year cycle, with each Torah portion being completed over three successive Shabbatot, or even a 3.5 year cycle, so that two cycles would be completed in seven years. This is in comparison to the current way of doing the triennial cycle - one year reading the first third of each portion, the next year reading the second third and the final year reading the third third. This is to enable people to celebrate Simchat Torah every year, instead of every three.
When one completes a course of study, including the complete Pentateuch, one has a party. So, we have a huge party. And that's Simchat Torah. And when it's over, we are done with the holidays this year. Yay!
Tonight: Meatloaf, corn, marinated broccoli
Tomorrow lunch: meatloaf, corn, spinach
Tomorrow dinner: out
Tomorrow lunch: cheese omelets and salad.
Normally, I make a chicken and rice casserole and put it in the oven before going to Simchat Torah services, but we have an invitation this year.