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Simchat Torah

Laws of Shmini Atzeret

Is it Permitted to Eat in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeret? A daily Torah thought by Rabbi Ronen Chaziza.

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1. The night after Hoshana Rabbah is the holiday of Shmini Atzeret, which is also Simchat Torah in the Land of Israel, but is a separate day from Simchat Torah in the diaspora. This day is not a continuation of the holiday of Sukkot but is its own separate holiday. Therefore, before the holiday begins, the custom is to stand at the entrance of the sukkah and bid farewell to it in a moving prayer: “May it be Your Will, L-rd my G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that I have the merit to dwell in a sukkah made of the skin of the Leviathan.” Then we enter our home.

2. Since there is no break between the intermediate days of Sukkot and this festival, we cannot take haircuts or shave in honor of the holiday.

3. The commandment to take the Four Species is also over although one may not yet eat the etrog and one has to wait for the end of Simchat Torah if one wants to eat it. Many have the custom to make jam out of the etrog that one used for the Four Species and then to serve it on the night of Tu B’Shvat (some four months later). Eating from a jam made from an etrog used for the Four Species is auspicious for an easy and painless birth, and a healthy baby.

4. It is forbidden to eat the festival meals in the sukkah, since one may not add on to the Torah’s commandments. The Torah only commanded us “You shall dwell in sukkahs for seven days” but not for eight days. If a person doesn’t have a decent place to have his festival meal besides the sukkah, he should take away some of the schach and leave an empty space of 32 sq. centimeters in the roof of the sukkah. This invalidates the sukkah and makes it permissible to live and eat in it on Shmini Atzeret.

5. One should be careful to say the addition “this festival of Shmini Atzeret” during the prayer of Ya’aleh Vayovo instead of “this festival of Sukkot”, because Sukkot has already ended. If a person made this mistake, he has to repeat the prayer and correct it. 

The custom at the end of prayers is to dance and sing with the Torah scrolls and place it on a bima and encircle it seven times. As long as the Torah scroll is being held during the dances, all the participants have to stand, but when the Torah scroll is laid on the bima, they can sit.

6. During Kiddush on the festival night, the blessing of Shehechiyanu [“Who has enabled us to live and endure and reach this time”] is said, since Shmini Atzeret is a new holiday separate from the holiday of Sukkot.