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Contrary to popular belief, it would seem that the practice to read Vezos HaBeracha, the final parsha of the Torah, on the second day of Shemini Atzeres wasn't in order to finish the Torah on that day. The gemarra in Megillah 31a simply says that is that day's Torah reading, and it's not clear that they had the custom to finish the Torah then as we do.

Rashi explains why certain festivals had certain readings, but not for the second day of Shemini Atzeres. What is the reason? This answer, addressing a different question, cites two reasons:

  • (Sefer Ha-Eshkol, Sefer Ha-Manhig, Abudraham, Orchot Chaim, see references here) include so that the blessings of Moshe, as they appear in the final parasha of the Torah, are purposely read on the day on which we read how Shlomo Ha-Melekh blessed the people of the eighth day of Sukkot (Melakhim I chapter 8)
  • because the Torah mentions the commandment of “simcha” twice on Soukot (see Devarim 16:15) (The Machzor Vitry 385)

I'm looking for other reasons (if there are any). If these are the only two reasons given, that can count as an answer.

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  • Worth noting that, on this theory, the reading for the holiday was probably just Devarim 33 and NOT finishing with Devarim 34.
    – Double AA
    Jan 12 at 14:34
  • Do you find something lacking in the "king blessing" answer? Seems eminently plausible to me.
    – Double AA
    Jan 12 at 15:15
  • @DoubleAA no it's pretty good. Just want an exhaustive list, if possible.
    – robev
    Jan 12 at 15:34
  • There’s an issue with the “king blessing” answer. Namely, we don’t say that haftara nowadays but rather we say Yehoshua, as mentioned in Tosfos from Rav Hai Gaon
    – Chatzkel
    Jan 13 at 2:38
  • sefaria.org/sheets/… Has a different possible reason for this
    – Chatzkel
    Jan 13 at 3:35
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I remember seeing a reason (I recall it being in Meiri but I don't see it now on that Gemara) that Shemini Atzeres is a holiday celebrating the connection of Hashem and the Jewish people (see here), so it is fitting to read the blessings of the Jewish people on that day.

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  • Wouldn't bechukotai be more appropriate then? Those are blessings said by God to the Jewish people
    – Double AA
    Jan 14 at 13:00
  • Good question. I think the reason is that a) those promises are only conditional and b) in Vezos Habracha Moshe Rabbeinu also spells out what is special about each tribe.
    – N.T.
    Jan 14 at 22:07

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