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    Days of joy

    Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the two days tacked onto Sukkot, share the Sukkot sub-title of Z’man Simchatenu, Our Time of Joy.

    It’s not hard to understand why Simchat Torah is a day of joy, but Sh’mini Atzeret is rather different and solemn.

    Its prayers for rain recognise that (in the northern hemisphere at least) the winter is around the corner with its colder temperatures and rainstorms. Without winter the year would be lopsided. Without rain the world would suffer and starve.

    The rain prayer was always taken seriously and the officiating cantor wore his High Holyday white robe.

    In these circumstances how can we call the day Z’man Simchatenu?

    Because rain is a precious joy, because God’s world is a thing of beauty, because we have the privilege of being alive to enjoy it.

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