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Shemini Atzeret

On the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work.
Numbers 29:35

Shemini Atzeret is celebrated on the eighth day after the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). In Israel, the celebrations of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are combined into one single day on Tishri 22. In the Diaspora, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are separated, with Shemini Atzeret being celebrated on the eighth day and ninth day (Tishri 22 & 23) and Simchat Torah on the ninth day (Tishri 23).

Shemini means the eighth. The number eight symbolizes perfection. In the case of the covenant of circumcision, the circumcision is performed on the eighth day to complete and instill perfection in man. Shemini Atzeret is the eighth day, namely the day after seven days. Seven, being a perfect number in the Bible, signifies a complete unit of time as each week ends with the seventh day called the Shabbat (Sabbath). Thus, the eighth day is the day after time. It is a time beyond time. It is not just the promise of full redemption, but the actual moment of its fulfillment. God said, "Remain with Me (Atzeret) an extra day (a time beyond time)."

Atzeret means to tarry or hold back. God is asking all who made a pilgrimage for Sukkot to tarry with Him one additional day. It is for the purpose of bringing man to his state of completion. Thus, the name Shemini Atzeret means the eighth day of assembly, which is the additional day that brings the seven-day celebration of Sukkot to its state of perfection.

Though the celebration of Shemini Atzeret brings closure and perfection to Sukkot, it is celebrated as a separate holiday. The name Atzeret is mostly used in the Talmud to refer to the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot).

Just like Shavuot (a one-day Feast) is the conclusion to Passover (a seven-day Feast), so Shemini Atzeret (a one-day Feast) is the conclusion to Sukkot (a seven-day Feast). Shavuot is seen as the completion of Feast of Passover (Pesach).

Passover commemorates the Exodus, representing the physical birth of the nation of Israel. Pentecost commemorates the receiving of the Torah, representing the spiritual birth of Israel. Similarly, the Feast of Tabernacles has physical tents where the people of God dwell with God, and Shemini Atzeret is the spiritual dwelling where God dwells within the hearts of man. When all the physical is being removed, the only important thing that really matters and remains is our relationship with God.

As Pentecost is seven weeks after Passover, Shemini Atzeret should likewise be the same – seven weeks after Tabernacles. But God has great mercy upon His people. As Passover and Pentecost are in springtime, it is pleasant to travel to Jerusalem for the celebration of both Feasts. But seven weeks after Tabernacles will be cold and rainy season in Israel and travel then will not be pleasant. Therefore, God allowed the closure of Tabernacles, Shemini Atzeret, to be celebrated immediately thereafter. Seven days and not seven weeks after Tabernacles.

Further evidence that Shemini Atzeret is the closure of Sukkot is provided by the bullock sacrifices offered on the Feast of Tabernacles. Over the course of the seven days of Sukkot, seventy bulls are brought, beginning with thirteen on the first day of the Feast and ending with seven on the last (Numbers 29:12-40):


























70 oxen

These seventy oxen corresponded to the seventy original nations of the world who descended from the sons of Noah. They are the ancestors of all the nations existent today. Israel brought these sacrifices as an atonement for the nations of the world and in prayer for their well being as well as for universal peace and harmony between them.

God had world missions and world evangelization in His heart as He laid the plans for Sukkot. One rabbi said, "If the nations of the world had known the value of the Temple for them, they would have surrounded it with fortresses in order to protect it. For it was greater value for them than for Israel."

After the celebration of Sukkot, on the day of Shemini Atzeret, God says to His people, "All the guests have gone home now. Stay with me yet another day, and we will celebrate together, just you and I." Sweet communion. Bride and bridegroom. Husband and wife. Completion.

Please also read: Simchat Torah