The Simhat Torah Morning Service
Ending -- and beginning -- the Torah cycle
Excerpted from Every Person’s Guide to Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Copyright 2000 Jason Aronson, Inc.
The morning service is the usual holiday one, with its own Amidah and the Hallel Psalms of Praise. After Hallel, the hakafot processionals follow as on the night before. After the hakafot, all the Torah scrolls--except three--are returned to the Ark. Three scrolls are needed, one for the reading of the sidra [portion]of Vezot HaBeracha [end of Deuteronomy],the second for the reading of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, and the third for the concluding maftir portion [omitted in some liberal congregations].
Since the custom is for everyone to be honored with an aliyah on Simchat Torah, the section from Vezot HaBeracha is read over and over again. To facilitate this, large congregations will divide into smaller groups, each with its own Torah. Other congregations will call up more than one person at a time.
Usually the last aliyah is a special one, reserved for kol ha-ne'arim--"allthe children." Only this one time during the year, children who have not reached the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah are given a Torah honor. A large tallit [prayer shawl]is spread like a canopy over their heads as they say the blessings along with an adult who accompanies them.
The last part of the Torah reading from the first Torah scroll is the reading of the last verses of the Book of Deuteronomy (33:27-34:12) The person honored with this aliyah is called the chatan Torah--"groomof the Torah." In synagogues that are egalitarian and offer equal participation to women, a woman may be given this honor, called the kallat HaTorah--"brideof the Torah." This person is generally a distinguished member of the congregation, and is called up to the Torah with a special piyyut [liturgical poem]in praise of the Torah. The following is a suggested text for the calling up of the chatan Torah:
"Requesting permission of God, mighty, awesome, and revered, and requesting permission of the Torah, our precious treasure which we celebrate, I lift up my voice in song with gratitude in praise of the One Who dwells in sublime light, Who has granted us life and sustained us with faith's purity, Who has allowed us to reach this day of rejoicing in the Torah which grants honor and splendor, life and security, which brings joy to the heart and light to the eyes, and happiness to us when we in- corporate its values which we cherish. The Torah grants long days and strength to those who love and observe it, heeding its warnings absorbed in it with reverence and love without setting prior conditions. May it be the will of the Almighty to grant life, lovingkindness, and a crown of blessings in abundance to [insert name] who has been chosen for this reading of the Torah at its conclusion."