I told Navy Vet Terp I would write something about Sukkot, and here it is the end of the holiday, and I'm just starting. So with apologies, here are some thoughts about Sukkot and Simchat Torah (which comes at the end of Sukkot).
For the past year or two, I have begun thinking about the fall holidays as one sequence that begins the liturgical year. We begin at the beginning of the 7th month with Rosh Hashanah, celebrating the start of the Days of Awe - a period of introspection and taking stock which culminates with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day of fasting and prayer in which we are cleansed of sin and ready to begin again. And since we are enjoined to run to do righteous deeds, tradition says that on the very evening after we break the fast, we should begin to build a Sukka, a temporary dwelling in which we will celebrate the harvest and remember that the Israelites in the desert (and the Judeans in the days of the Temple) lived in tents or huts.
Sukkot lasts 8 days in the diaspora (7 days in Israel). The 7th day in Simchat Torah, a festival during which we read the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis, and rewind the Torah scrolls back to the beginning, thereby ending and beginning the liturgical year.The last day is Sh'mini Azeret - an extra day of celebration.
When I was a child, I wondered why we didn't roll back the Torah on Rosh Hashanah, which is, after all, the new year. But Rosh Hashanah is only the beginning of a process of renewal. We have meditated, sought forgiveness of people we have hurt and of God, rejoiced in our enjoyment of the good things of the earth, rejoiced in Torah, and finally are ready to begin the year, refreshed.