Right after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret. In Orthodox and Conservative communities outside Israel, Shemini Atzeret is a two-day Jewish holiday. The first day is referred to as Shemini Atzeret and the second day as Simchat Torah, although both days are officially the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret. For more details, check out our page on Shemini Atzeret.
Simchat Torah, or Simchas Torah, is a Jewish holiday marking the end of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah is Hebrew for “rejoicing with the Torah.” Each week in synagogue, a few chapters are read from the Torah, starting with Genesis 1 and continuing through Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah, the last Torah portion is read, then it goes immediately back to the first chapter of the Torah, reminding everyone that the Torah is a never-ending circle. This completion of the readings is a time for celebration.
Most communities and synagogues have a special Torah reading on the eve of this Jewish holiday. An amazing tradition at many synagogues for this Jewish holiday is to open the entire Torah and then re-roll it up to start over again. At both the morning and evening services in the synagogue, the ark is opened, and the Torah scrolls are carried around the synagogue in a series of seven circuits accompanied by singing and dancing. In Orthodox synagogues, the dancing is mainly carried out by men and boys. The vigor of the dancing and degree of merriment of the festivities usually depends on each congregation’s temperament. There is a tradition that if the Torah is dropped, the one responsible has to fast for 40 days. In other words, the Torah makes for a difficult dance partner, particularly on Simchat Torah, when you are supposed to hold on to the Torah with all your strength and whirl, twirl and spin around.
Have A Drink!
Drinking is also common on this Jewish holiday; in fact, a traditional source recommends performing the priestly blessing earlier than usual in the service to make sure the kohanim, or Jewish priests, are not drunk when the time comes! Children are often given flags, candies and treats.
Simchat Torah Blintz Recipe
And what is a Jewish holiday without food? You will likely need a little stomach lining to soak up all that alcohol. For a special Simchat Torah appetizer, make mushroom blintzes in the shape of Torah Scrolls. Simply make small blintzes, fill with mushroom filling, roll into a log and place two on each plate side by side. Make a large batch using the recipe below, and then store them in the freezer. They can be easily defrosted, heated and served.
- 1 cup flour
- A pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 1+ cup of water
Mix eggs and water. Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl. Whisk flour mixture into egg and water mixture until smooth. The batter should be thin. If it is too thick, add some more water. Pour oil into a frying pan, and heat until the oil is very hot. Pour just enough blintz mixture into the hot oil to lightly cover the pan. Rotate the pan so the batter covers the whole bottom. Cook blintz until the center bubbles and the blintz slides in the pan. Turn out blintz from pan onto a plate to cool. Repeat until all the batter has been used.
- 1 cup diced onions
- 2 tablespoons margarine (pareve)
- 2 cups canned mushrooms, drained
- 1 cup liquid from the mushrooms or water
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion in margarine until transparent. Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid in a separate bowl. Add mushrooms to the onions and sauté. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add liquid and cook until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put 1 tablespoon of filling in each blintz. Fold one side over, the bottom up and the top down, and then the second side over to form a neat square.
- 3 tablespoons margarine (pareve)
- 1/2 cup canned mushrooms, drained
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Onion salt, salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Melt margarine in saucepan, and briefly sauté mushrooms. Stir in flour and seasonings. Add water and soy sauce. Stir and cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve the mushroom crepe warmed, and top with a tablespoon of hot mushroom sauce.