Simchat Torah, Hebrew for “rejoicing in the Law”, celebrates the completion of the annual reading of the Torah. It refers to the celebration each year when the concluding section of the Book of Deuteronomy (Ve-zo’t ha-berakhah) is read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, (B’reishit) is read.
Only in the eleventh century did the ninth day after the beginning of Sukkot take on both the name and the festive ritual of what we now recognize as Simchat Torah.
Simchat Torah is a joyous celebration in which we affirm our view of the Torah as a tree of life and demonstrate a living example of never-ending, lifelong study. The Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried by congregants around the synagogue seven times. During these seven circuits, or hakafot, those not carrying Torahs will often wave brightly colored flags and sing Hebrew songs.