Last Great Day
THE LAST GREAT DAY -- Shemini Atzeret, or the "Eighth day of solemn assembly" is the final day of the festival of Sukkot or Tabernacles. It takes its name from the regulations in Leviticus 23:36 on how it should be observed (that is, as a day of "solemn assembly"). A special prayer for rain is recited during the musaph service. Among the Ashkenazim, the yizkor memorial prayer is said on this day.
It has been
said that Shemini Atzeret is the "Zionist holiday" because it kept alive
a strong identification between world Jewry and the land of Israel.
Reciting the prayer for rain when it was needed in Israel, and not in
their native lands, was the Jews way of maintaining an unbroken tie with
the land YEHOVAH God gave them.
The rabbis recognized that
this day, in itself, is a very special holy day. They saw that it is
distinct from the Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles. They understood that
in a special sense, this day is connected to STORING UP and COLLECTING
all the knowledge, spiritual food, and instruction that we have gained
in the preceding holy days -- especially from Rosh Hashana (Feast of
Trumpets) through the Feast of Sukkot -- all the spiritual lessons of
repentance, forgiveness, character development, obedience, faith, joy,
love -- the lessons of complete spiritual maturity -- that we have
learned during the High Holy Day season through the Feast of Sukkot.
The very name of this festival, (Shemini Atzeret," literally means "The Eighth Assembly." It is the final holy day of YEHOVAH God's Holy Day Plan. However, there is great significance in the number "eight" itself! Even as "seven" is YEHOVAH's number of perfection, or completion (as the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which completes and perfects the week), so "eight" is the same as the first day of the Next week, but counting from the days of the previous week. Thus it represents clearly "A NEW BEGINNING."
In reality "Shemini Atzeret" is the "staging ground," the THRESHOLD, the NEW BEGINNING of the NEXT PHASE of YEHOVAH God's Plan.