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Shemini Atzeret & Simhat Torah 2022

In Israel, Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly) and Simhat Torah—the 8th and 9th days of Sukkot—are celebrated as a single holiday. Outside of Israel, the two days are separated, and their moods could not be more different. Shemini Atzeret is a serious moment when we recite Tefillat Geshem, the traditional prayer for rain in Israel, and the Yizkor memorial prayers. And then in the evening, we shift to joyous singing and dancing to celebrate the conclusion of our annual cycle of reading the Torah.

At B’nai Israel, each of these holidays brings hundreds of individuals for reflection and joy. In addition to singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simhat Torah evening, we unroll the entire Torah so that we can visualize every letter and word of our most sacred text—this is always a popular event! On Simhat Torah morning, we honor every member of the congregation with an aliyah, a commitment that requires numerous reading stations to accommodate everyone. We also honor the commitment of two members to the congregation with the honors of Hatan/Kallat Torah and Hatan/Kallat Breishit, the last readings of Deuteronomy and first reading of Genesis respectively.

Hatan Torah & Hatan Breisht

During Simhat Torah services on Tuesday, October 18, it is customary for every member of the congregation to receive an aliyah. The honors of Hatan Torah, the last aliyah of the book of Deuteronomy; and Hatan Breishit, the first aliyah in Genesis, are assigned by our Ritual committee to recognize significant contributions to the ritual life of our synagogue. Mazal tov to Fred Goodman and Rabbi James Michaels on receiving those honors this year.

Fred Goodman

As a member of the Goodman Family that has long been members of B’nai Israel, starting with my Grandfather who was the oldest member of the congregation when Rabbi Segal officiated and married Stephanie and I, until the current day, I have known the feeling of warmth, joy and acceptance that is provided by B’nai’s clergy and staff.  For over 75 years, we have had the joy of knowing every Rabbi that has officiated at B’nai since its inception and have experienced every life cycle event under their kind direction, from the most joyous days to the saddest.  

My career in the library industry has given me the opportunity to design, furnish and install our nationally award winning Blumberg-Zalis Family Library, and to serve on its committee for many years.  I also have the pleasure of greeting members and guests on Shabbat and for many years, as an usher, most recently becoming the head usher during the High Holidays.

I humbly accept this high honor as Hatan Torah knowing that the Hatan Torah is the person who finishes the reading of the Torah, and they are the last person to receive an aliyah in the last book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim.  It is an honor that I do not take lightly. 

Rabbi James Michaels

I am honored and humbled to be selected to be this year’s Hatan Breishit. Although I have lived in Rockville since 2003, and have participated in services and activities while at B'nai Israel since my arrival, I have not been an official member for very long. I came to Rockville to serve as the Director of Pastoral Care at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities. Providing daily, Shabbat, and holiday services for our residents is major part of our mission, so part of my job description was to be present for those services. I would occasionally attend weekday services at B’nai Israel, and enjoyed being part of the minyan. Nonetheless, my “home congregation” was elsewhere.

When I retired in 2018, Rabbi Safra told me that my “spiritual home” would now be at B'nai Israel. I was struck by the fact that for the first time in my life, I would be an actual member of a synagogue. Sure enough, the first Shabbat after I retired, I came to Bnai Israel, staked out a seat where I felt comfortable, and enjoyed the experience of davening with a warm and welcoming community. 

I was born and raised in Auburn, NY, a small city in the Finger Lakes Region of central New York. We had one shul for our sixty Jewish families. I was active in USY, and later in Hillel at Cornell University. Then it was off to rabbinical school in 1968. I was ordained in 1974, and served congregations in Minneapolis, MN, Whitestone, NY, Wilkes-Barre, PA and Flint, MI. 

Although my primary work was leading a congregation, I also served as a part-time chaplain in each of those communities. I eventually realized that I wanted to be a full-time chaplain, so I acquired the necessary training. I was selected as Director of Pastoral Care at Charles E. Smith Life Communities as my first full-time position. I was pleased to work with Jeff Moss, a long-time member of B’nai Israel, who has served for many years as the cantor on Shabbat and holidays.

Now that I’ve retired, I have found many new opportunities to pray and study at B’nai Israel. I currently attend minyan on Sunday evenings and Thursday mornings. Occasionally, my wife will join me, along with my children and grandchildren when they are visiting. It is truly a congregation which I call home.

As Hatan Breishit, I will take the very first aliyah in the coming year’s Torah reading cycle. Standing there, near friends and cherished colleagues, I will pray for a year of health, happiness and fulfillment for all of us in the congregation and all of the Jewish people.

Shemini Atzeret & Simhat Torah service times

Sunday, October 16
8:00 PM Festival Evening Service

Monday, October 17
9:00 AM Festival Morning Service
10:30 AM Youth Service (All ages)
10:45 AM Yizkor 
12:30 PM Minha
6:45 PM Festival Evening Service and Hakafot (All ages encouraged)

Tuesday, October 18
9:00 AM Festival Morning Service (Hakafot at approx. 9:55 AM)
10:00 AM Tots Torah Dancing/Service/Story with Brunch (Click here to register.)
1:00 PM Minha
8:00 PM Ma’ariv


Fri, June 2 2023 13 Sivan 5783