Eighth day of Sukkot, "'aẓeret" being the name given to it in Lev. xxiii. 36; Num. xxix. 35; Neh. viii. 18; II Chron. vii. 9. The eighth day of Sukkot is not mentioned in Deut. xvi., and is found only in those parts of the Bible known as the Priestly Code. Like "'aẓarah" (Amos v. 21; Isa. i. 13; Joel i. 14), "'aẓeret" denotes "day of assembly," from "'aẓar" = "to hold back" or "keep in"; hence also the name "'aẓeret" given to the seventh day of Pesaḥ (Deut. xvi. 8). Owing, however, to the fact that both the eighth day of Sukkot and the seventh day of Pesaḥ are called "'aẓeret," the name was taken to mean "the closing festival."
During the time of the Second Temple, Shebu'ot received the specific name of "'Aẓarta" (Josephus, "Ant." iii. 10, § 6; Pes. 42b, 68b), said to signify "the closing feast" of Passover (see Pesiḳ. 193a). Commenting upon this fact, the Rabbis say (ib.): "The closing feast of Sukkot ought rightly to have been, like that of Pesaḥ, on the fiftieth day; but, in order not to force the people to make another journey to Jerusalem in the rainy season, God fixed it as early as the eighth day." Another comment upon the name "'aẓeret" is as follows (ib.): "Whenever the people of Israel assemble in the houses of worship and instruction, God 'keeps in' His Shekinah with them." For the meaning of "'aẓar" Judges xiii. 15 is referred to. This is further illustrated by the following similitude (ib.): "A king gives to a large circle of friends a banquet which lasts seven days. When these have expired he says to his son: 'During these days of feasting we have had little opportunity of enjoying each other's company. Tarry ["be kept back" = "he'aẓer"] a day longer, that we may rejoice while holding a simple feast together.' So God speaks to Israel thus: 'During the seven days the Sukkot feast with its seventy bullocks for sacrifice was meant for the seventy nations [see Nations and Languages] of the world. Let this eighth day be a simple feast with one bullock and one ram as a sacrifice to express thy unique relation to Me'" (comp. Num. xxix. 35-37).
The peculiarities of Shemini 'Aẓeret in the liturgy are the following:
- 1. It bears the name given above, with the word "ḥag" (feast) either inserted between its parts or added at the end. It is thus distinguished from Sukkot.
- 2. In the "Ḳiddush" at the evening meal thanks are given for having reached this season ("zeman"). This is not done on the seventh day of the Passover.
- 3. Hallel is read unabridged. Many persons eat in the "sukkah" or booth, but no one recites the benediction over the command to sit therein (Suk.47a).
- 4. The Book of Ecclesiastes is deemed the proper reading for the day, professedly on account of the words (xi. 2) "give a share to seven, even to eight" therein contained. In the German liturgy phrases from this book are worked into the "piyyuṭim" for the day.
- 5. The reading from the Pentateuch (first scroll) embraces the list of festivals given in Deuteronomy, closing with xvi. 17, though this day is not mentioned therein. It begins at xiv. 22—in some congregations only on the Sabbath, in which case it begins on week-days at xv. 19. In Palestine, where since the influx of the exiles from Spain are observed the one-year cycle and single feast-days, the closing lesson of the Pentateuch is read, followed by Gen. i. 1-ii. 3; that is, the lessons which during exile belong to Simḥat Torah. From the second scroll Num. xxix. 35-37 is read; the prophetic lesson is I Kings viii. 54-66.
- 6. In the German ritual a memorial service for the dead is added (see Hazkarat Neshamot).
- 7. The winter, or, in Mishnah phrase, the "rainy" season, begins with the additional prayer of this day (see Geshem).