(My Jewish Learning) Shemini Atzeret is a celebration that occurs immediately after the seven days of Sukkot. Its name literally means “the assembly on the eighth day.” In the Haftarah for Shemini Atzeret, we read about the observance of Shemini Atzeret in First Temple times.
The Haftarah begins in medias res, with King Solomon in the midst of dedicating the First Temple. It’s a sequel of sorts to the Haftarah for the second day of Sukkot, in which we read the beginning of this dedication ceremony.
As the Haftarah commences, Solomon has just finished with the rituals of prayer and sacrifice at the altar of the Temple, and has recited a long, private prayer. He proceeds to address the whole assembled crowd of Israel, declaring blessings and praise to them.
The tone of Solomon’s address is a celebratory one, as well as a beseeching one. He gives thanks to God that he and his nation were able to complete the construction of the Temple, and that their society is both economically and spiritually prosperous. And he encourages the assembly to “devote yourselves with a whole heart to the Lord your God, following God’s statutes and keeping God’s commandments, as on this day” (8:61).
Following this address, Solomon and the rest of the country celebrated “the Festival”–a common appellation for Sukkot–for the next seven days. On the eighth day (that is, on Shemini Atzeret) the throng was dismissed from the Temple, and they celebrated among themselves in their own communities.