What is Simchat Torah?

Simchat Torah literally means “the joy of Torah.” The Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses, is read in weekly installments all year long. Each weekly reading is called a parsha or portion. 

On Simchat Torah, we read the very end of the Torah and then seamlessly continue reading its beginning. The celebration is marked by joyous singing and dancing with the Torah scroll, eating sweets and round foods, and a renewed commitment to lifelong learning. 

Simchat Torah Themes

Below are some of the big ideas around this joyous holiday and some activities that might go along with each one.

The Torah

  • Learn how a Torah is made — a Torah has two wooden holders called atzei chayim (the trees of life); the words are written on parchment paper and sewn together. 
    • Try drawing on heavy paper and then sewing the edges together with string to make a scroll.
  • Did you know Torah ink comes from wasp nests or gall-nuts?
  • A scribe (Hebrew: sofer or soferet) writes the Torah with a feather quill. 
    • Get some turkey feathers at a farmer’s market or butcher shop, or buy a quill. Can you write with it?

Cycle of Torah reading

  • This type of cycle refers to a system that repeats continuously.
    • What other cycles can you think of? (Hints: rain cycle, life cycle, laundry [!], recycle) 
  • Take notice of round objects and things that turn
    • When you walk around the neighborhood or supermarket, take note of all things round or spherical.
    • Make a meal or snack of circular foods.
  • Starting over — the holiday celebrates the beginning of the Torah cycle again. 
    • What things do you love to start over from the beginning? A favorite song? Board game?
    • Have a read-a-thon with the books you love to read again and again.

Love of learning

  • Simchat Torah is primarily about learning Torah, but ALL learning is an important Jewish value.
    • Pick a new skill for your family to learn together, such as weaving, cat’s cradle, or baking challah.
    • Is there a skill you can teach a friend or sibling? 

Commitment to Judaism or Learning about Judaism

  • There are a lot of ritual objects that help people practice Judaism, such as a Kiddush cup or Seder plate. There are everyday objects, too.
    • Look through these ritual objects. Pick one to make or purchase.
    • Hang a mezuzah somewhere new in your home.
  • Hebrew is the language of the Torah. 
    • Learn some Hebrew words or learn to recognize letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

Passing tradition from generation to generation

  • Tell your family’s history.
    • Make a family scrapbook.
    • Call a relative and ask questions about your family’s history.
  • Your name might have special meaning.
    • Talk about the origins of your name. Were you named for someone special?
    • Do you have a Hebrew name? You can choose one if you don’t have one already. What does your name mean?
    • Read a PJ Library book about naming babies, such as The First Gift or A Song for My Sister.