Shemini Atzeret -"the Eighth [day] of Assembly"- is celebrated beginning Wednesday night,
September 25th, immediately followed by Simchat Torah - "Rejoicing of the Torah" - on
Thursday night, September 26th. (In Israel, the holidays are combined into one and either name can be used).
The focus of the holiday of Shemini Atzeret is water. We recite the prayers for rain to renew the land, and are
reminded that it was through the merit of the prophet Miriam that we received water as we dwelt in the desert.
Miriam was a brave woman who foresaw the redemption of her people, and she knew that to achieve that redemption,
she had to speak out for what was right, even against the fears of her own people, who, notoriously, complained
throughout their time in the desert about the risks they had to take to reach safety.
Then, on Simchat Torah, we return to the beginning of the Torah scroll, and as we celebrate turning the Torah back to its beginning once again, we hope that this year we will turn ourselves towards a just and secure peace, speaking out even in the face of our fears to move ahead, for it is indeed, now, a time for peace.