Covid keeping you home? Here’s how to make the holiday super special
This year, many of us will do so in our houses, even without physical Torahs in our hands, inviting G?d into our personal space and porting the sublime Simchat Torah energy directly into our homes.
Ready to make this Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah into something special? Join us as we make the next few days an experience to remember!
To keep things simple, we’ve organized our tips in chronological order, so be sure to read to the end.
1. Prepare Festive Feasts
The two days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah contain at least four festive meals, so make sure to prepare accordingly. In addition to wine (or grape juice), challah and other delicacies, note that some have a tradition (read why here) to serve stuffed cabbage, known in Yiddish as kholoptches. (Also note that since Shemini Atzeret is Shabbat, all food for that day must be cooked in advance.)
2. Craft Flags
A classic element of the Simchat Torah celebration is for children to join the festive dancing in synagogue while waving flags. This year the little ones can have their own colorful homemade flags to flutter around your home-turned-sanctuary.
Not sure how to make one? Print these Simchat Torah coloring pages, which you can then mount on the cardboard shaft of a dry cleaners hanger or another handy stick well in advance of the holiday.
Print: Simchat Torah Flag to Color
3. Prepare Your Favorite Drinks
It is customary (but not at all mandatory) for adults to responsibly enjoy a little lechaimbefore (and during) the Simchat Torah services. If you can safely do so, have a little something special to help you and your adult loved ones get into the Simchat Torah spirit. For kids (and adults who cannot drink), perhaps get some sparkling grape juice or another treat.
4. Light Festive Candles
Like Shabbat and other holidays, the two nights of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated in the warm glow of holiday candles (married women light at least two, and single girls light one). If you are in a male-only household, one of the guys should light candles for everyone. (Note that since the first night is Shabbat, the candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset, and on the following night they must only be lit after night has fallen and from a pre-existing flame.)
5. Pray @ Home
With the exception of Kaddish, the Barechu call to prayer, the repetition of the Amidah, and the Torah reading, you can pray anywhere in the world, including your home.
So make sure you have a siddur handy (Simchat Torah services are all in the standard Siddur) and a place set aside to serve as your ad hoc shul. If you are with others, pray together. Even though you don’t make a minyan, you can say the words and sing the songs together.
6. Parade Around With a Chumash
On both the evening (Oct. 10) and morning (Oct. 11) of Simchat Torah (as well as the eve of Shemini Atzeret (Oct. 9), according to Chassidic custom), it is customary to perform Hakafot (“circles”), which involve reciting a medley of verses from the Torah, while joyously dancing with the Torahs around the Torah-reading table seven times. The entire proceeding can be found in your standard Siddur (pp. 383-388 in the Kehot Annotated Edition), and you can do this at home, circling your dining room table or the furniture of your choice, holding a Chumash (the printed version of the Five Books of Moses), another holy book, or even some Torah content you printed from Chabad.org before the holiday. As you make your sacred circles, know that you are bringing the sublime Simchat Torah energy directly into our home.
7. Read the Torah Reading
Chances are that you do not have a Torah scroll at home. However, it is still ideal to read through the Torah reading of the day. This is especially so on Simchat Torah morning, when the reading includes both V’Zot HaBerachah, which concludes the Torah, as well as the start of the opening portion, Bereishit. You can find the reading in a Chumash or starting on page 484 in the Chabad Siddur.1
8. Sing and Dance!
The Chassidic masters tell us that “joy breaks through all barriers.” When we sing and dance in our homes this year, our joy will pierce through the walls and miles that may separate us from our fellow Jews, and make us into one mass of shimmying, singing, swaying, and soaring souls. So get ready to elevate your home, put on your dancing shoes, and, whenever you feel the need, belt out those Simchat melodies like no one is watching. (Right, no one is watching.)
Practice: A Classic Chabad Simchat Torah Tune
9. Enjoy Festive Meals
Simchat Torah marks the end of a long season of holiday meals that began more than three weeks prior with apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah eve. In addition to enjoying delicious food, we recommend printing up some stories and Torah thoughts to spice up your repasts.
10. Get a Head Start On the Year
Simchat Torah starts the annual Torah reading cycle. It is customary to read one part of the weekly portion (parshah) each day, finishing on Shabbat. Since Simchat Torah is on Sunday this year, this is your time to learn the opening portion of Bereishit, in which we read the amazing process by which G?d created Heaven and Earth. This is the optimal time to get on board of the daily study cycle, so that you will complete the entire Torah and Rashi in time for next Simchat Torah.
Print: Bereishit Parshah Articles
You need not say the texts said when calling up the Chatan Bereishit or Chatan Torah (starting in the middle of page 388).