The Biblical Holiday of the Rain: Shemini Atzert

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, on the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the EIGHTH day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a  solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23:33-37)

Noah and the Flood
Noah and the Flood

This biblical segment is the source for the biblical holiday of Shemini Atzert {שמיני עצרת} – which is celebrated today. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase Shemini Atzeret  is Eighth (day of)  Assembly and refers to the biblical commandment referring to the  day AFTER the Feast of Sukkot  which is the EIGHTH day after the beginning of Sukkot as a holy convocation  – which means another Jewish holiday…


But, unlike the other biblical holidays, Shemini Atzert is different in the sense that it has no special reason. In other words, there was no specific miracle or wonder of God like the Exodus from Egypt or the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

One of the old Jewish traditions that relates to this holiday speaks about Yemot Ha-Geshamim {ימות הגשמים}  which is (Rabbinic) Hebrew for ‘days of rains’ and refers to the beginning of the rainy season in the Land of Israel. Because of that, it is customary to pray for ‘Geshem’ {גשם}(rain in Hebrew) in the special service of the holiday at the synagogue.

Shemini Atzert is also known by its other Hebrew name ‘Simchat Torah’ {שמחת תורה}(‘rejoicing of the Torah’). However, it is in fact a DIFFERENT holiday and in tomorrow’s post I will discuss the differences between the two and explain more about Simchat Torah.