“On the eighth day you should hold a solemn gathering; you shall not work at your occupation.” Numbers 29:35
Shemini Atzeret, meaning “the eighth day of assembly,” is a Biblical Holy Day following the Festival of Sukkot. It is a Holy Day where we do no mundane work, or work at our professions, but come together in a Holy Convocation of Worship.
Shemini Atzeret marks the beginning of the rainy season following the harvest in Israel.
The prayer for rain, Tefilat Geshem, is the only ritual that is unique to Shemini Atzeret. In ancient times, an offering was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shemini Atzeret, but once the Temple was destroyed, the only Shemini Atzeret ritual that remained was the liturgy requesting rain for a plentiful year.
After the prayer for rain is recited on Shemini Atzeret, the phrase Masheev HaRuach U-Moreed HaGeshem (He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall) is inserted into the Amidah prayer until Passover.
Even though Shemini Atzeret immediately follows the festival of Sukkot, it is a totally separate Holy Day.
Since the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings occurred around the time of Shemini Atzeret, a rabbinical tradition developed, celebrating the Torah, and came to be known as Simchat Torah.
Simchat Torah celebrates – with joyful processions, singing and dancing – the ending of one cycle of Torah reading and the beginning of a new cycle. We take great care in celebrating the Word of GOD, reading from the actual scrolls and taking the Torah in our arms, dancing with joy at the Word of the LORD which is placed before us to follow.
This is not considered a Holy Day, however, it is considered a great day of Joy and Jubilation at what we have the privilege of knowing, reading, learning and loving, The Word of the LORD.