The day after Sukkot is known as Sh’mini Atzeret. Jewish tradition teaches that the People of Israel were so joyous on Sukkot that they wanted to have one more day for celebration. Simchat Torah extends the theme of joy for even another day. In Israel and in liberal Jewish communities throughout the world, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day; in more traditional communities, they are two distinct holidays.
Sh’mini Atzeret also includes a special prayer for rain. As Californians, we can empathize with the ancient anxiety of having enough rain for another year of crops to survive. The Hebrew word for rain, geshem, is connected to the word for physicality, gashmiyut, reminding us of the primacy of water in our own bodies, our food systems, and our planet’s overall health.