01. Shemini Atzeret – a Holiday in Its Own Right

The Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeret is both a continuation of Sukkot and an independent festival. The fact that the Torah calls it the “eighth” (shemini) indicates that it is a continuation of the seven days of Sukkot. Likewise, with respect to the mitzva to make a pilgrimage and offer an olat re’iya (pilgrimage burnt offering) and shalmei ḥagiga (festival peace-offering), it was deemed a continuation of Sukkot; one who ascended to the Temple and offered the requisite sacrifices on Sukkot did not need to offer them again on Shemini Atzeret, while one who did not offer the sacrifices on Sukkot could offer them on Shemini Atzeret (Rosh Ha-shana 4b).

On the other hand, in several respects, Shemini Atzeret is considered an independent festival. First, the special mitzvot of Sukkot do not pertain to it: There is no mitzva to sit in the sukka, to take the lulav and etrog, or to offer a water libation with the tamid offering. Therefore, it has a different name; it is not called Sukkot, but Shemini Atzeret in the prayers, kiddush, and Birkat Ha-mazon.[1] Second, the sacrifices offered on Shemini Atzeret in Temple times were different. On each day of Sukkot, fourteen lambs and two rams were offered, but on Shemini Atzeret, seven lambs and one ram were offered. On Sukkot, 13 bulls were offered on the first day, 12 on the second, and so forth until 7 bulls were offered on the seventh day. If Shemini Atzeret were a continuation of Sukkot, presumably 6 bulls would have been offered. In fact, only a single bull was offered, indicating that Shemini Atzeret is an independent festival (Bamidbar 29:32-39).

Since, in some ways, Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right, we recite the berakha of She-heḥeyanu in kiddush at night; the She-heḥeyanu recited on the first night of Sukkot does not cover Shemini Atzeret (Sukka 47b; SA 668:1).


[1]. If one mistakenly says “Ḥag Ha-Sukkot” instead of “Shemini Atzeret” in the Amida, then if he has not yet completed that berakha, he should return to the beginning of the paragraph that begins “Va-titen lanu” and correct himself. If he completed the Amida before realizing his mistake, some say that be-di’avad he has fulfilled his obligation, since in some ways Shemini Atzeret is a part of Sukkot (Beit Yehuda, OḤ §4; Ḥayei Adam 28:15). However, the mainstream position and that of most poskim is that he has not fulfilled his obligation and must repeat the Amida (Birkei Yosef 668:2; Ma’amar Mordekhai ad loc. 1; R. Shlomo Kluger, Responsa Shenot Ḥayim §140; Sho’el U-meshiv 4:6:22; Yabi’a Omer 4:51). If he remembered that it is Shemini Atzeret but simply misspoke, some maintain that he does not have to repeat (Bikurei Yaakov 668:2; Ben Ish Ḥai, Ve-zot Ha-berakha §2). If one says “Ḥag Ha-Sukkot” instead of “Shemini Atzeret” in Ya’aleh Ve-yavo of Birkat Ha-mazon, he need not repeat Birkat Ha-mazon because, according to many poskim, even one who forgot to say Ya’aleh Ve-yavo altogether need not repeat Birkat Ha-mazon, as we are concerned for the view that there is no obligation to eat bread at a Yom Tov meal. Sephardim and some Ashkenazim follow this opinion in practice. In this case, where there is an additional uncertainty (i.e., Shemini Atzeret may be part of Sukkot), all agree that there is no need to repeat Birkat Ha-mazon. (See Peninei Halakha: Mo’adim 2:6 n. 5; Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 4:8.)

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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Editor: Nechama Unterman