Rejoicing in the Torah
Several times a week, the Jews read a prescribed portion of the Torah, which is divided so that the reading may be completed in a year. Simchat Torah, which follows Shemini Atzeret, is a joyous holiday that marks the juncture at which the Jews complete the cycle of Torah readings each year.
To be even more precise, Simchat Torah is the second day of Shemini Atzeret. These special days occur on the twenty-second and twenty-third of Tishri. However, in Israel, as with all two-day holidays except Rosh Hashanah, Shemini Atzeret is observed for one day and thus includes Simchat Torah.
Simchat Torah is the “Celebration of the Torah” or “Rejoicing of the Torah.” On this day, the congregation reads the last chapters of Deuteronomy, denoting the completion of the cycle in the Reading of the Torah. However, immediately thereafter, the first chapter of Genesis is read to signify the continuing cycle of worship and to demonstrate that so far as the Torah is concerned, there is neither beginning, end, nor a time when the Jews are not engaged in the Reading of the Torah.
The honor of reading the final verses of the Torah is called chatan Torah (the bridegroom of the Torah). The honor of reading Genesis is called chatan Bereshit (the bridegroom of Genesis). Should this honor fall upon a woman, the word for “bride” would have to be substituted.