What do we do on the last day of Sukkot?

Monday, 27 September, 2021 - 1:43 pm

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Today (Monday 27/9/21) is the last day of Sukkot 5782. This day is called Hoshaana Raba. (Tuesday 28/9/21 and Wednesday 29/9/21 are in some way a continuation of Sukkot but they are in fact a separate holiday, Shmini Atseret and Simchat Torah).

What is the significance of Hoshaana Raba, literally, the Big Hoshaana?

Every day of Sukkot, we do once the round of the Bima in the synagogue, holding the Four Kinds and reciting Hoshaanot. The same happened in the Temple, where they did circles around of the Mizbeach, the Altar where sacrifices took place.

Hoshaanot (the plural of Hoshaana) are special supplications which are recited during those rounds. Every day of Sukkot, we recite different Hoshaanot. Yet, on Hoshaana Raba, the 7th day of Sukkot, we do 7 circles around the Bima and recite the Hoshaanot of all the days. This is why it is called Hoshaana Raba, the big Hoshaana.

What is the reason for the Hoshaanot?

Our Sages explain that even though the judgment of the world beings on Rosh Hashana and concludes on Yom Kippur, this is a general judgment.

However, there is on Sukkot a special judgement for the water, which is essential for human survival. Man cannot live without water. On a deeper level, water represents our livelihood, especially then when everyone lived off fields and agriculture and were directly dependent on the rain. Thus, on Sukkot, we are judged for the water, i.e the amount of rain which will fall during the year that just started. This judgment takes place during Sukkot and is completed on Hoshaana Raba.

What are the customs of Hoshaana Raba?

First, as mentioned before, we recite the Hoshaanot, making 7 circles around the Bima.

Another ancient custom from the times of the Prophets is to take 5 Aravot, willow branches (not the one of the Lulav) and with it we strike the ground five times, symbolizing the “tempering of the five measures of harshness.”.

In Greece, especially the Romaniotes, have the custom of putting those Aravot near the Mezuzah.

Another custom is to stay awake during the night of Hoshaana Raba and read the Chumash Devarim (Deuteronomy) and the Tehilim (Psalms), and generally study Torah.

Finally, another custom is to eat an apple with honey, as on Rosh Hashana.

Happy Hoshaana Raba and Chag Sameach!

Arie from the Yeshiva

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