In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day and that’s when the Jews over there dance with the Torah. In the Diaspora, where Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are two separate days, some communities save the dancing primarily for the second day, but in many communities the dancing starts on the night of Shemini Atzeret.
Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of the festival, is a day of immense joy and celebration. Where does this joy come from?
The secret to the joy of Shemini Atzeret is found in a story about the protagonist of our Haftorah, the wisest of all men – King Solomon.
The story involves King Solomon, a depressed Angel of Death, a ship of ammunition – spiritual ammunition – and a scheme to undermine the Jewish people’s commitment and celebration, which ultimately leads to greater commitment and celebration. As our Haftorah states:
On the eighth day…they blessed the King and went to their homes, rejoicing and delighted of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had wrought for David His servant and for Israel His people.
Shemini Atzeret carries the secret to vanquishing death (and the Angel of Death). And it also reveals for us the power of Yizkor.