Shimini Atzeret is the last wisp of the High Holidays, the last day of Sukkot, which terminates with the celebration of Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah has as its primary readings the death of Moses and Bereshit, the end and the beginning once again.
What happens when Shimini Atzeret happens to fall on a Saturday? What torah portion is read that day?
As it turns out, some aliyot from Re’ieh are read. A few weeks ago, when I wrote about that parasha, I focused on the treatment of slaves, which for the times, seemed radically generous and enlightened. Slaves were expected to be freed in the seventh year, and if they chose to remain with their masters, the masters were expected to take care of them for life.
From the excerpt from Re’ieh that we read on Shimini Atzeret, it becomes apparent that the flow of the portion revolves around being conscious and being generous. Tithes are to be consumed in a big party. Yet the Levite, who has no hereditary portion, the stranger, and the widow are also to be invited to enjoy the blow-out. (Deut. 14:22-29)
Every seven years, debts are to be remitted. No kinsman is to be dunned. Further, no one is to be needy. If a kinsman is in need as the seventh year approaches, he is to be given something. “Give to him readily and have no regrets when you do so, for in return the Lord your God will bless you in all your undertakings. (Deut. 15:1-10)
And, in reiteration, during the Feast of Booths, “You shall rejoice…with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow in your communities.” (Deut. 16:14)
With this tone of inclusiveness, having atoned and celebrated, the people of Israel are ready to face the challenge of a new year with love of torah, spiritual work, and generous, conscious deeds.