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    The Simchat Torah mystery

    Painting by Emmanuel Levy

    Parading, singing, dancing and feasting combine to make Simchat Torah one of the fun days of the year.

    There is a good reason to celebrate – the end of the cycle of Torah readings – but why delay it until a month after the end of the year? And why tack it onto Sh’mini Atzeret?

    There were originally two main traditions – completing the Torah cycle in one year and completing it in roughly three years. Those who followed the annual cycle had a range of usages as to when to mark the change-over from one year to the next, with some choosing Rosh HaShanah and others waiting until the end of the festival period of the month of Tishri.

    The festival period concluded on Sh’mini Atzeret, and the custom of having a two-day yom-tov created an opportunity for a special celebration of the change-over of Torah readings.

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