Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion of the annual cycle of reading the Torah and the recommencement of that cycle. The Torah, which is made up of the first five books of the Bible, is divided into 54 weekly portions, which ensure that the entire text is read during the course of a year in Orthodox synagogues. Liberal Judaism suggests that only a short section of each weekly portion is read, translated and explained.

The arrival at the end of the book of Deuteronomy and the return to the start of Genesis is a time for celebration and is renowned as one of the most joyful days in the Jewish calendar.

Simchat Torah falls at the end of the festival of Sukkot. Because of the extra day added to the start of the festival by Orthodox Jews, they observe the festival on the 23rd Tishri; the Liberal celebration of Simchat Torah is a day earlier.
Simchat Torah is probably the most joyful festival of the year. It is an occasion when the Torah is celebrated, and Jews acknowledge the uniqueness of the teaching that is their heritage. The highlight of a Simchat Torah service is when the scrolls are paraded seven times around the synagogue accompanied by children waving flags. At the end of each circuit, children are given a sweet.

The whole event is symbolic of a marriage between the Jewish people and the Torah. Two people are called to say the blessings before and after the reading of the Torah. The one who performs this mitzvah before the Deuteronomy reading is called the ‘Chatan Torah’ (bridegroom of the Torah); the other ‘Chatan B’reishit’ (bridegroom of Genesis). This is a special honour.

Because of its emphasis on equality, Liberal Judaism encouerages femakle members of the congregation to take the honour of being ‘Kallat Torah’ or Kallat B’reishit’ (bride of the Torah and Genesis). Similarly, women and gitrls are encouraged to play a full part in carrying the Torah scrolls around the synagogue. In the past there have been instances in Israel of Ultra-Orthodox Jews ‘raiding’ progressive synagogues and trying to take the scrolls away.