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Kol HaTor Weekly

Restoration update

13 Tishri 5769/12 October 2008
















To our Jewish Associates – Articles in this Newsletter with Messianic content are identified with a label  Messianic content   and conform with KHT’s formal strategy NOT to evangelize Jews.  It therefore contains no proselytizing intent.  This Messianic content being non-relevant to Jews,  mainly has  importance for Returning 10-Tribers in the process of working for Reconciliation between Judah and the re-identifying House of 10-Israel.





Excerpts from an article:

Sukkot: The Temple Institute”


Biblical Verses - Lev. 23:33-44


"And the L-rd spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them, the 15th day of this seventh month shall be the Festival of Sukkot

seven days for the L-rd... for seven days, you shall present a burnt offering to the L-rd... "


"On the first day, you shall take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree (Hebrew: etrog), a palm frond (lulav), myrtle branches (hadas) and willows (aravah).

You shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d for seven days. During these seven days each year, you shall celebrate to G-d.

It is an eternal law for all generations that you celebrate in the seventh month."


"During these seven days you must live in thatched huts; all Israelites must live in thatched huts.

This is so that your future generations will know that I caused Israel to live in huts when I brought them out of Egypt.

I am the L-rd your G-d."


Background: The Time of our Joy


"All seven days of the festival, each one should turn the hut into his permanent residence, and his house into the temporary one" (Sukkah 2, 9)


It is most apropos that the Festival of Sukkot is referred to as "the time of our joy." For although it is marked by the observance of special, highly visible commandments such as the "four species" (see the Biblical verses quoted above); and while on the surface level, it commemorates a specific period and event in Jewish history - the huts in which the Jews lived after they left Egypt - nonetheless, the central theme of this season is the pure joy of having a relationship with the Creator. It was none other than King David who taught us that this is the epitome of true happiness - and true religious experience.


Now, some of our sages have stated that those original "huts" of that generation were actually G-d's Clouds of Glory, which He spread over Israel in His protection and Divine grace (BT Sukkah 11:B; Rashi). Whether or not this statement is taken literally is irrelevant - for what it symbolizes is a concept that not only personifies the very essence of this holiday, but the essence of Israel's faith as well.


What is the Source of this Great Joy at Sukkot?


We can find no better illustration for this than the unique festival of Sukkot. For the booths in which Israel live during these days symbolize her rock-steady, unshakable faith in the One G-d of Israel. Just in the fall, as the days are getting shorter and colder, most people are coming indoors. It is no longer pleasurable to sit outside as it was in the summer. But this is just when "every citizen in Israel" moves from the comforts and security of home, and takes up residence in temporary dwellings, thanking G-d for the harvest in this season and recalling His constant, enveloping presence. This knowledge is true joy! Unconcerned with sunshine or warm weather, these temporary dwellings do not appear to be "secure" in the physical sense... they may shake a little in the wind; their roofs are but thatches open to the stars. But yet Israel sits within, unmoved and unaffected by what may be mistakenly perceived as a hostile world - for like the booth, this world is temporary, and we are but temporary dwellers within her. But just as the walls of this hut surround us, so we are surrounded by the constant, protective presence of G-d Himself. The winds may shake and the elements may confront us, but the shadow of the Sukkah is the shadow of the Divine Presence.


"The Place Which He Will Choose"


Nowhere is this great wave of Sukkot joy felt so strongly as in the Holy Temple, focal point of worship, thanks, and connection to G-d... the connection which imbues the human condition with the vision of that which is real, and that which is merely illusion. For this is "the place which He will choose;" here He has chosen to cast asunder the imaginary veils which separate Him from His precious creations - for those veils exist only in the minds of men.


True Joy is Only Experienced "Before the L-rd your G-d"


The Biblically ordained expression of this happiness is the taking of the "4 species;" this is the vehicle through which G-d instructs Israel to demonstrate their joy to Him: "... you shall take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree, a palm frond, myrtle branches and willows. You shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d for seven days."


Indeed, it was only in the Holy Temple that this joy was given the opportunity to burst forth in true expression. For while today we are accustomed to rejoicing with the lulav (meaning all the species collectively) and reciting the festive hallel prayers all during the festival, this was not always the case:


The Mishna (Sukkah 3, 12) describes that in the time when the Holy Temple stood, the lulav was taken all week long only by those who worshipped in the Temple itself. However, outside the Temple-even for those in the holy city of Jerusalem proper - the lulav was only held on the first day; for the remainder of the week it was not used except in the Holy Temple. This is solely on account of the verse (Lev. 23:40) which reads "... and you shall rejoice before the L-rd your G-d for seven days." The great sages understood that the place which is "before the L-rd your G-d" is only the Holy Temple itself, the place of constant Divine revelation. The verse makes it clear that it is only there that an individual is required by the Biblical commandment to rejoice with the 4 species all week long; everywhere else is referred to by the words "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day" 4_minim(ibid.).


A Remembrance for the Temple"


It was only after the Holy Temple was destroyed that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai, head of the Sanhedrin-in-exile at Tiberias and composer of the Jerusalem Talmud, enacted that hallel  should be recited with the lulav everywhere during the entire festival of Sukkot - as a remembrance for the Holy Temple! This is the origin of our practice today.


What is the "Hallel?"


The hallel prayer, a collection of songs of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty, is one of the oldest and most original examples of traditional Jewish liturgy. It consists of the following chapters from the book of Psalms: 113-118, plus a number of important additional verses.  The sages speculate (BT Pesahim 117:A) as to its exact source and time of origin of the recitation of hallel, and essentially they are of two opinions: Either it was sung the first time by Moses and the Children of Israel when the sea split before them; or, it was written by King David.


How is the Hallel Recited?


While reciting the hallel, the lulav is held in the right hand, and the etrog (citron) is held in the left.


This is because, since precedence is always given to the right over the left, the right hand is involved in the fulfillment of more commandments: for the branches of the hadas and aravah are bound together with the lulav. The left hand grasps the etrog.


Shaking the Lulav


It is customary to shake the lulav lightly at various points while reciting the hallel. This was done in the Holy Temple (and still today, in all congregations of authentic Jewish prayer) at several points:


1.    During the words "Give thanks to the L-rd, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever" (this is the first and last verse of Psalms chapter 118); and

2.     During the words "We beseech You, O L-rd, please save!" (Hosha Na)


The Commandment of the Willow

A Tradition Handed Down from Moses


In addition to the Biblical commandment of taking the four species to rejoice on Sukkot, there are also two other commandments that were fulfilled in the Holy Temple during this festival. However, these two practices are not mandated by a verse in the Scriptures; they are included in that body of custom called halacha l'moshe mi'sinai - details of religious observance that G-d taught to Moses at the Sinai Revelation. Moses subsequently related these to Joshua, and on to the Elders of Israel, and likewise throughout all the generations they were transmitted orally. These two items are the "special commandment of the willow," and the water libation, which we will discuss further on.


This singular commandment of the willow is not to be confused with the 2 aravot, the willow branches that are included in the four species, tied together with the lulav branch and myrtle twigs.


For this willow branch of the Mosaic tradition is a different practice altogether, and one uniquely associated with the Holy Temple:


Placing the Willows Around the Altar


"There was a place at the foot of Jerusalem called Motza (there is suburb in Jerusalem's outskirts called Motza to this day). Each day of Sukkot, the people would descend there and cut down huge willow leaves. These branches were exceptionally long-their height reached 11 amot. The worshippers would place these branches all along the foundation of the altar, with their heads bent over the top" (Sukkah 4, 5).


Since the altar itself was 10 amot high and the branches measured 11 amot, a length of one amah would hang over the top of the altar on all four sides. This was the essence of the oral commandment that Moses received at Mount Sinai... to place these aravot all around the altar.


Trumpet and Shofar Blasts


As an expression of the feeling of great joy which reverberated through the congregation on account of the opportunity to fulfill the will of G-d through this precept, the bringing of these branches each day and their arrangement along the altar was accompanied by trumpet-blasts and the sounding of the shofar by the priests and levites.


Surrounding the Altar


Each day of the festival, after the willow branches were thus arranged firmly along the altar's foundation, the priests would march one time around the altar, making a circle with their lulavim in hand, appealing to the Almighty "We beseech You, O L-rd, please save us! We beseech You, O L-rd, please grant us success!" (Ibid.)


On the last day of the festival, the seventh day, they would "surround" the altar seven times-as a remembrance of the conquest of Jericho (JT Sukkah 4, 3). It was customary on the last day of Sukkot, after the final circling of the altar, for the children to playfully snatch the four species from the adults, and eat their etrogs! The adults would graciously indulge the children.


"This Beauty is Yours!"


At the conclusion of these prayers around the altar, the priests departed from it with these enigmatic words: "This beauty is yours, O altar! This beauty is yours, O altar!" (Rashi explains this to mean "we are beautifying you, for you atone for us"). We give thanks to G-d, and we praise you, O altar. You are beloved before Him, for you atone for us."


The Water Libation


The other non-Biblical commandment observed in the Temple during Sukkot was the water libation. Like the special willows, the water libation is also a Mosaic commandment and also takes place at the altar.


Each morning of the festival, during the daily sacrifice, water was poured onto the altar in a special manner. The joyous service was purposely conducted with great public ceremony - and for good reason: as we learned earlier, during the era of the Second Temple a sect called the Sadducees had substantial influence in society. The platform of this cult was based on denial of all aspects of the Oral Tradition.


What is the Water Libation? How is it Done?


silver_cup-smallAt the foothills of Mount Moriah, down below in the City of David, flows a natural spring called Shiloach. This spring is ancient, and as it is located literally in the shadow of the Holy Temple, it has always had spiritual significance for Israel. It is the original source of Jerusalem's water.


Silver altar cup and golden flask


Every day of the festival, the priests descended down to the Shiloach, accompanied by all the congregation assembled in the Temple. There, they filled a golden flask with 3 lug (about 1/2 liter) of the pure water. Ascending back up, carrying the flask with song and elating with that singular feeling that comes only from fulfilling the Holy One's will, the gathering entered back into the Temple through the Water Gate, one of the gates on the southern side of the court (it received its name on account of this event (Shekalim 6, 3). As they entered the gate, their steps were greeted by the sound of trumpets and shofar-blasts, in fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah's words (12:3) "With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation."


Once in the Temple, the priest who had the honor of performing this service now carries the golden flask up the altar ramp. At the top, he turns to his left. Since the ramp is located at the south side of the altar, this means that the cohen now faces the southwest corner; it is here that the libations were poured. Here at this corner, two silver cups were fixed on the top of the altar, sitting next to each other. The one further east received the wine libations that are poured out every day at the time of the daily tamid sacrifice; the other was designated for this service, which took place on exculsively on Sukkot.


Each of these cups featured a narrow opening into which the libations were poured. These openings were of two different sizes; the cup that received the water libation had a bigger opening than that of the wine. This is because the wine and water libations were poured out at the same time, and it was a necessary requirement that they flow at the same pace and reach the bottom of the altar simultaneously. Since water is thinner than wine and therefore flows faster, the opening for the water was narrower to accommodate for this. Thus the two liquids were kept flowing at the same ratio.


At the bottom of the altar, the libations collected into a reservoir system called the shi'tin. The Talmud teaches that young priests-in-training would clean out this reservoir when it became full.


The Festival of the Water Libation


"With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).


Based on this verse, the drawing of water from the Shiloach spring and its libation upon the altar of G-d was accompanied by great rejoicing and celebration in the Holy Temple. In fact, this joy was so immense, and the celebrations so uplifting, that the sages of Israel emphatically stated: "Whoever has never seen the celebrations of the Festival of the Water Libation-has never experienced true joy in his life" (ibid. 5, 1).


But what was the cause of such great happiness, to the extent that this statement was recorded for all posterity? Indeed, what could be so moving about the simple act of gathering up some water, and pouring it onto the altar? True, there is always a feeling of joy when an individual has the opportunity to fulfill the will of G-d. And true, too, that this observance has always been associated as a propitious harbinger for the coming season's rainfall. But there is still more significance to this great rejoicing...


"Closeness to G-d is Good"


The answer can be found in the words of King David, expressing one of the purest of human emotions: "But as for me-only closeness to G-d is good" (Psalms 73:28). Man, being a most limited and finite creature relates to everything by comparison. When we consider something to be "good" or "bad" it is solely on the basis of experience; if something is thought to be good, it can only be in relation to something else which we have previously encountered and know to be good. But David said that all pursuits, endeavors and aspirations are but folly for him, for the only thing in which he had any interest, that which uplifted him and motivated him, was the ultimate goodness to which nothing can be compared... only closeness to G-d.


This is the true aspiration of the Jew who wishes to live his life in connection to G-d, guided by His commandments and determined to sanctify himself through them. And it is in the holy Temple that this pursuit reaches its resounding crescendo, for there, unlike any other spot on earth, G-d beckons to man to come forward and recognize that the universe has direction, life has meaning... and ultimately, that not only does man seek to know his Creator, but the Creator seeks man as well...


Thus at the celebrations in the Temple, the famed sage Hillel enigmatically recited: "My feet lead me to a place that I love to go. And the Holy One, blessed be He, says 'If you come to My house, I will come to your house. And if you do not come to My house, I will not come to yours' - for the verse states (Ex. 20:21) 'In all places where I will cause My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you'."


The Epitome of True Happiness is Spiritual Fulfillment


This realization of connection to G-d, and a life led for Divine purpose, is the true secret to happiness. This is King David's message in these words. Sukkot, itself "the time of our joy," is the season for great rejoicing - and its climax is at the water libation. This is the holiday of true faith in "the shadow of the Divine Presence." When the heart is freed and opened to this experience, the true happiness of spiritual fulfillment actually leads to prophetic enlightenment. The sages teach that prophecy itself can only come about through joy. A prophet can never receive enlightenment unless he is in a state of joy, for the Divine presence itself only rests on one who is joyful. Thus with regard to the prophet Elisha, the verse states (II Kings 3:15) "And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the L-rd came upon him."


Drawing Down the Spirit of Prophecy


Herein lies the true secret of the "festival of the water libation," states the Jerusalem Talmud: the great joy was in the receiving of prophetic inspiration. For the Hebrew word for the "drawing" of the water, sho'eva, also indicates drawing in a different direction - the drawing down of prophetic enlightenment. Thus "whoever has never seen the celebrations of the Festival of the Water Libation, has never experienced true joy in his life" - for it was here that prophets like Jonah the son of Amitai received their prophecy. The Jerusalem Talmud relates that Jonah was not expecting any revelation, but merely arrived at the festival of the water libation along with all the other holiday pilgrims. He was so overcome with joy that he received Divine inspiration... and in turn, there can be no greater joy than this.


Thus, on the holiday that is predisposed to joy, we find the epitome of true celebration taking place in the hallowed courtyards of the L-rd. There, His people experienced such spiritual happiness that it resulted in no less than the highest brush with the Divine possible for a human being to attain: the prophetic experience. All this came about by the fulfillment of the will of G-d in His presence.


Preparing for the Festivities


While the actual act of pouring the water on the altar takes place early in the morning, this libation is preceded by celebrations which last the entire night, each night of Sukkot.


Balconies in the Women's Court


It was in the Women's Court that most of the daily festivities took place. At the conclusion of the first day of the festival, the priests and levites prepared this area by erecting raised balconies all along the periphery of the court. In this gallery, the women sat and gazed down at the Temple court from above, and the men would stay below. This enabled the women to be present during the entire festival. The sages of Israel sought to make a separation between the men and women, since together they may inadvertently come to levity. Because proper behavior between men and women is of such paramount importance, this remodeling was referred to as a "great rectification" (Sukkah 5, 2).

In fact, it was on account of this act that the Women's Court received its name. For in reality this area of the Holy Temple was not designated for women only, as many assume. This was the place where all Israelites who were pure could enter.


Great Lamps of Gold


Huge lamps were erected in the Women's Court to illuminate the Festival of the Water Libation. These each consisted of four containers of oil mounted on a huge pole. Young priests-in-training were given the task of filling these lamps by climbing up to them on ladders while carrying great jugs of oil, and pouring them into the containers at the top. Each one of the jugs these young men pulled up to the top contained 30 lug of oil - about 15 liters.


The wicks for these lights were made from the old and worn pants and belts of the priests. The lamps towered over the court and shone forth with a light so bright that "there was not a single courtyard in all of Jerusalem that was not illuminated by the light of the Festival of the Water Libation" (ibid, 3).


Musical Accompaniment of the Levites


While these celebrations were in progress down on the floor of the Women's Court, the Levites stood upon the fifteen steps that lead up from the court to the Court of Israel. These fifteen steps correspond to fifteen other "steps" - the "songs of ascent," chapters 120-134 of the book of Psalms. Normally, the levite choir stood within the Court of Israel, opposite the outer altar and facing the entrance to the Sanctuary building. A special platform was located there, just within the Nikanor Gates, and the Levites stood there and sang every day during the daily sacrifices. But now at the water libation it was upon these steps that they sang and played with "innumerable music instruments" like harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets.


The Priests' Trumpet Blasts


Additionally, two priests with silver trumpets stood at either side of the entrance to the great Nikanor gates. At the moment of dawn, with the rooster's crow and the overseer G'vini's cry of "Arise and stand to your duties," these two priests delivered blasts of the trumpets to signal that the time has arrived for all to descend down to the Shiloach spring, to bring up water for the libation.


As they began the descent down the steps, the entire assemblage began to move out of the court to exit the Temple. The two priests blew again when they reached the tenth step, and again when they reached the floor of the Women's Court. The priests elongated these last blasts, trumpeting as they continued to walk, until they reached the Eastern Gate - the gate which leads from the Women's Court, out of the Holy Temple complex and out onto the Temple Mount.


There at the Eastern Gate, the entire congregation turned their backs as one man, and once again stood facing west, towards the direction of the court and the Sanctuary.


"We are to G-d!"


At this moment, after spending the entire night occupied with praises of G-d, as the first rays of the dawn now begin to shine and the nation stands with anticipation, ready to fulfill the commandment of the water libation, they gazed upon the Holy Temple - and this is what they recited together:


"Our fathers stood in this place with their backs towards the Sanctuary of G-d, and their faces towards the east. They prostrated themselves to the sun in the east. But we - we are to G-d, and to G-d our eyes turn. We bow to G-d and our eyes look to Him in hope" - meaning, we acknowledge Him for what has been, and hope to Him for the future.


This was a reference to the close of the First Temple era, paraphrasing the prophet Ezekiel. The verse (Ez. 8:16) actually reads: "And He brought me into the inner court of the L-rd's house, and behold, at the door of the Temple of the L-rd, were about 25 men - with their backs towards the Temple of the L-rd, and their faces towards the east; and they were prostrating themselves towards the sun eastward."


Sukkot: A Unique Connection to the Gentiles


Of all the sacred seasons that G-d commanded Israel to observe, the festival of Tabernacles has the strongest implications for the nations of the world. Even today, vast numbers of Gentiles identify with the holiday of Sukkot, and converge on Jerusalem just to be in the holy city at this time of year. It is as if their heartstrings are pulled by some invisible magnet, the source of which they know not. Some force draws them to connect between Sukkot and the location of the Holy Temple.


In the Written Torah and the Oral Tradition


This is well understood, for it is a connection emphasized by both the written Scriptures and the Oral Tradition. The relationship between the nations and the holiday of Sukkot dates back to ancient times, and arcs through our own period as well... to form a bridge into that future, rectified world that we all yearn and long for, Jew and Gentile alike-the day when "the L-rd and His name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).


The Sacrifice of Seventy Bulls


During Sukkot in the time of the Holy Temple, a unique sacrifice was offered on the altar - with a unique intention. In chapter 29 of the book of Numbers, the Bible outlines the sacrifices that are to be offered over the span of the holiday. Counting the number of bulls that are offered over the seven day period, we find that the total number was seventy. And in chapter 10 of the book of Genesis, there are seventy nations mentioned. These are the primordial nations, sometimes referred to as the "seventy languages," which represent all humanity. The Talmud (BT Sukkah 55:B) teaches that the seventy bulls that were offered in the Holy Temple served as atonement for the seventy nations of the world. Truly, as the rabbis observed, "if the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it" (Bamidbar Rabbah 1, 3).


Here we can already sense that inherent within the very nature of the holiday, an inexorable bond - as expressed through its sacrificial requirements - links it to the earth's peoples. Sukkot was mandated by the Creator Himself to be a holiday for all the world.


Prophecies of the End of Days


The haftorah, the section of the prophets read in the synagogue on the first day of the festival, comes from the 14th chapter of the book of Zechariah. This prophecy deals with the end of days, when the nations of the world will all gather together to do battle against Jerusalem. At the culmination of this, the L-rd will be King over all the earth.


Before continuing, it would be most beneficial for the reader to study the entire chapter in the book of Zechariah. Here is a brief scan at some of the key verses:


Behold, a day of G-d is coming, when your spoils will be divided in your midst.

For I will gather all nations to do battle against Jerusalem...

Then G-d will go forth, and fight against those nations...

On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives...

On that day there will be neither bright light, nor thick darkness,

But it will be one continuous day known as G-d's...

G-d will be King over all the earth; on that day G-d will be One and His name One.

All the land will become a plain... but Jerusalem will remain elevated on its site...

Men will dwell in it... Jerusalem will dwell in security


This prophecy contains elements of a theme which recurs many times throughout the Bible: the idea that not everyone will merit to survive the awesome judgment of the end of days, but only a remnant - both of Israel and of the nations. Here, the prophet tells us that all the nations will gather together to wage war against Jerusalem.


He goes on to tell us that G-d will smite all those who stood against Jerusalem with a

horrible plague; He will cause a great confusion to fall on them. But of those who have survived this time, the prophet has this to say:


Then every one who remains of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem will go up each year to worship the King, the L-rd of Hosts, and to keep the Festival of Sukkot. But if any of the nations of the earth does not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the L-rd of Hosts, there will be no rain upon it. If the family of Egypt does not go up and enter, there will be no rain on them; there will be the plague with which G-d will smite the nations that do not come up to keep the Festival of Sukkot. This will be Egypt's punishment, and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Festival of Sukkot."


Thus we see that the mark of separation, that which will distinguish those who remain after that awesome battle, is the single fact that they will celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. And a stern warning is issued to those who do not observe it.


The Final Judgment - and Sukkot


A similar thought is echoed by the Oral Tradition. The Talmud (BT Avoda Zara 3) relates that in the end of days, all the nations of the world will express a desire to repent, and G-d will judge them through the commandment of building a sukkah... He will give this single commandment to the entire world to fulfill.










This study has some Messianic content:


Excerpts from:


“Hoshana Rabbah

By Hillel ben David


Hoshana Rabbah is the Hebrew name given to the last and greatest day of Hag HaSuccoth, the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the mechanics of the calendar, Hoshana Rabbah will never fall on Shabbat. In fact, Hoshana Rabbah always falls on the same day of the week as Hag Shavuot of the previous year.


Hoshana Rabbah is the seventh Chol HaMoed (the Intermediate days) of Hag HaSuccoth, which is the day before Shemini Atzeret. Named for the fact that more hoshanot are said on this day than all the previous days of the festival.  This day marks the culmination of this incredible part of the year which began with Rosh HaShana (Yom Teruah[1][1]).


On Hoshana Rabbah afternoon we bring our "keilim" (vessels) FROM the succah back INTO the house, in preparation for Shemini Atzeret. This may highlight the primary purpose of this Yom Tov, i.e. to move the spiritual message of the succah into our homes for the remainder of the year.


The Zohar (Tzav 31b) describes Hoshana Rabbah as a judgment day akin to Yom HaKippurim (Yom Kippur[2][2]), for on Hoshana Rabbah the parchments containing the Yom HaKippurim decrees are made final.[3][3] The Mystics state that whereas our fate is sealed on Yom HaKippurim, the writ containing the decision of the Court on High is only rubber-stamped on the seventh day of Succoth which is Hoshana Rabbah, the day on which we make seven circuits around the bimah with the lulav assembly. Hence, until this day, a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court may carry some weight by virtue of extenuating circumstances. Hoshana Rabbah assumes special importance as a day of prayer and repentance. On Rosh Hashanah all people were judged. The righteous were given a favorable judgment, those found wanting, but not totally evil, were given until Yom HaKippurim to repent. If they failed to do so, the verdict against them was written and sealed, but not yet ‘delivered’. That was not done until Hoshana Rabbah, a day when Jews assemble in prayer, dedication, and supplication. The joy of Succoth reaches its climax not in revelry but in devotion. In mercy, HaShem finds ample reason to tear up the parchments bearing harsher sentences, as it were, and replace them with brighter tidings. The following chart illustrates this relationship:


Rosh HaShana

Yom HaKippurim

Hoshana Rabbah

Judgment Day – The judgment is rendered.

The judgment is sealed.

The judgment is delivered.


In the Midrash, HaShem says to Avraham, "I will give your descendants a special day for forgiveness: Hoshana Rabbah. If they are not forgiven on Rosh HaShana (Yom Teruah) then let them try Yom HaKippurim; if not, then Hoshana Rabbah."


The morning following Hoshana Rabbah is when the judgment that was delivered, begins to be manifest to the world.




On Succoth the world is judged for rain. In fact, we begin praying for rain the day after Hoshana Rabbah, on Shemini Atzeret.


The Aravah (willow)[4][48]


"Torah Tziva lanu Moshe

Morasha Kehillat Yaakov."

“Moses commanded us the Torah. It is an inheritance for the community of Jacob.”


On Hoshana Rabbah we take the willow (hoshana-arava) branch, which only grows near water, as a symbol of rejuvenation and re-awakening through rain and redemption.


Ashkenaz Customs


It is traditional to wear your good clothes on Hoshana Rabbah. This is the only time Hasidim do so other than on Yom Tov or Shabbat.


Among some people, a festive meal customarily follows the morning service. The meal features Challah dipped in honey, nuts, kreplachs (symbolizing the covering of severity with loving-kindness) with meat, and carrots cut into rings (the shape being a sign of wealth). This festive meal is eaten in the succah.


People wish each other ‘pikta tava’ (Aramaic), literally “a good note”, but meaning a good writ of judgment. This is based on the Zohar (Tsav 31b): “The seventh day of the festival is the close of the judgment of the world, and writs of judgment issue from the Sovereign.”


The afternoon of Hoshana Rabbah is the winding down of Hag HaSuccoth.


The Ashkenazic custom is to wear tefillin because some work is permitted.


In Ashkenazic communities, there are some minor variations in the prayers for this day. During the chazan's repetition of Musaf, the complete Kedushah is recited instead of the abbreviated version recited on chol hamoed.


Sefardic Customs


The last night of Succoth is Leil Hoshana Rabbah. The period  which commenced on Rosh Chodesh Elul, of Selihoth and supplications  for forgiveness, reaches its end on this day with a final scaling of our  judgement. On this night the men stay up reading the entire book of  Devarim (Deuteronomy) and (time-permitting) various other prescribed readings[5][68], including the "Zohar - book of splendor".  


In Sephardic countries, those mourning a loved one bring grapes and cake to those who are studying. This is served with sweet coffee and cinnamon tea.


In most Sephardic communities, there is no difference between the text of the prayers on Hoshana Rabbah and the other days of chol hamoed.


The Sephardic custom is not to wear tefillin because the Chol HaMoed retain some of the special characteristics of the full festival days, during which tefillin are not worn.


Synagogue Customs


Various customs have arisen owing to the day’s status as a time of Divine Judgment.


1.    Extra lights are lit in the synagogue.

2.    It is customary to remain awake and spend the entire night of Hoshana Rabbah reading from the Torah and Tehillim (Psalms). The particular order to be followed is printed in a special volume called Tikkun Leil Hoshana Rabbah.

3.    In some congregations, Mishneh Torah, i.e. the entire book of Deuteronomy, is read from a Torah scroll. (No blessing is recited over this reading.)

4.    In some congregations, the entire Book of  Tehillim, the book of Psalms, is recited communally. A gartl is worn for the reading of the entire Book of Tehillim after midnight on Hoshana Rabbah. This reading is customarily not lengthy.

5.    At the completion of each of the [five] books of the Book of Tehillim (corresponding to the five books of the Torah), one reads the brief prayer (beginning Yehi Ratzon)[6][69] which is read on Hoshana Rabbah, as well as the similar prayer which is read after the moon has risen,[7][70] but not the prayer[8][71] which is said on Yom Tov.[9][72]

6.    On [the morning of] Hoshana Rabbah, before Hallel[10][73], one removes the two upper rings that are bound around the lulav alone, leaving only the three rings which join it with the hadassim and the aravot.


During each day of Hag HaSuccoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, we circle the bimah with the lulav and etrog while reciting the hashana prayers. On Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Hag HaSuccoth, we circle the bimah seven times. As we mentioned earlier, we also beat the willow branches at the end of the shacharit service.


These processions commemorate similar processions around the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. The processions are known as Hoshanot, because while the procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, "Hoshana!"  (help us, we pray!). On the seventh day of Succoth, seven circuits are made. For this reason, the seventh day of Succoth is known as Hoshanah Rabbah (the great Hoshanah).


The hoshanot ("help us, we pray") are performed like those of the other days of Hag HaSuccoth except that many or all of the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark. One tradition is to take out seven Torah scrolls and return one to the ark with each circuit. Another custom is to carry a separate bunch of willows that will be beaten on the floor. A less common practice is the blowing of the shofar at the end of each circuit.


In keeping with the penitential undertone of the day, in some synagogues the leader of the service wears a kittel as on Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim. The service itself differs in that the psalms said only on Shabbat and Yom Tov are added by the Ashkenazim to the introductory portion of the service. Also, the melodies of Yom Tov are used for parts of the service.


Torah Readings


Hoshana Rabbah – The Day of the Great Hoshana


Numbers 29:26-34

Nazarean Codicil:

Matityahu 21:1-9


Torah Reading:

Reader 1 – Bemidbar 29:26-28

Reader 2 – Bemidbar 29:29-31

Reader 3 – Bemidbar 29:32-34

Reader 4 – Bemidbar 29:29-34


Hoshana Rabbah Events


The following events occurred on Hoshana Rabbah:


Hoshanah Rabbah - the Great Rejoicing. The last and greatest day of the feast. (Gateway to Judaism, pg. 342)


A burnt offering of seven young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect.  Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:32


Ritual of the Water Libation is performed. day 7. Sukkah 42b


Zerubbabel is strengthened and told that a future temple would be greater than Solomon's temple.  Haggai 2:1-9


Yeshua invites the thirsty to drink living water. Note the “last and greatest day” in Yochanan (John) 7:37).  


John 7:1-44 -  “After this, Yeshua went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Yeshua's brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him.


Therefore Yeshua told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come." Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.


Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?" Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Yeshua go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" Yeshua answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" "You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?" Yeshua said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."


At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Mashiach? But we know where this man is from; when the Mashiach comes, no one will know where he is from." Then Yeshua, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, But I know him because I am from him and he sent me." At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Mashiach comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"


The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Yeshua said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?"


On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Yeshua stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Yeshua had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Mashiach." Still others asked, "How can the Mashiach come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Mashiach will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" Thus the people were divided because of Yeshua. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.”


Talmudic Texts




Sukkah 55b  R. Eleazar[15][96] stated, To what do those seventy bullocks[16][97] [that were offered during the seven days of the Festival] correspond? To the seventy nations.[17][98] To what does the single bullock [of the Eighth Day] correspond? To the unique nation.[18][99] This may be compared to a mortal king who said to his servants, ‘Prepare for me a great banquet’; but on the last day he said to his beloved friend, ‘Prepare for me a simple meal that I may derive benefit from you’.


In The Temple

Simhat Bet Ha-Sho'eivah

Simchat Bais HaShoeva


Simchat Bet Hashoeva is celebrated every night of Succoth. On Hoshana Rabbah, however, the joy of the celebration must be infinitely greater, as emphasized in its very name, “the Great Hoshana.” Likewise, additional prayers are said on this day.


The performances and activities were led by the greatest Sages and the most venerable tzadikim. The simcha of Beit Hashoeva - literally the place of drawing water, is described in the Gemara (Succah 51) as being unprecedented and unparalleled, anywhere and anytime. "He who has not seen the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen simcha (joy)!" The Talmud Yerushalmi (Succah 5:1) goes further to say that that the word shoeva - drawing - refers not only to the water that was drawn, but to the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) that was available to be drawn from that most exquisitely inspiring and spiritually stirring simcha. The Gemara elaborates this in great detail.



“The Complete ArtScroll Machzor – Succos”, Mesorah Publications.

The Jewish Holidays, A Guide and Commentary, by Michael Strassfeld.





Excerpt from
60 DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays

By Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Tishrei 22, Shemini Atzeret



The name of this holiday, Shemini Atzeret, has many meanings. 


The Hebrew word shemini means “eighth” but it comes from the same root as shuman meaning “fat” or “rich.”  The Hebrew word atzeret can mean “retention/absorption” or “restraint/retreat” or “in-gathering/assembly.” And it can also mean “essence.” Thus Shemini Atzeret represents the richness of the essence of the entire year, because this day consummates all the energy of the holidays of Tishrei and channels it into all the days of the year.


Rashi, in his commentary on Torah, explains the significance of Shemini Atzeret with the following parable:


There was once a king who invited his children for a banquet of several days. When it came time for them to go, he said to them: “My children, please, stay with me one more day—your parting is difficult for me....”[10]


In the parable, the king does not say, “our parting is difficult for me,” but “your parting is difficult for me.” Indeed, G-d is everywhere and so He never parts from us. It is we who part from G-d, moving on to a state of diminished awareness of our relationship with Him.


“Your parting” has yet another meaning—the parting we take from each other, which, in G-d’s eyes, is synonymous with us parting from Him. When we are one with G-d, we are also one with each other, united as children of our royal father. The same applies in reverse: when we are one with each other, united in our common identity as G-d’s children, we are one with G-d.


This parting is distressful to G-d. So He retains us one day longer, for an eighth day of “retention” or “absorption” or “ingathering”—a day on which dwelling in the sukkah is no longer a commandment but on which the unity of Sukkot suffuses us nonetheless.


On this day it is not we who are in the sukkah, but the sukkah is within us. On this day we are empowered to internalize the unity of Sukkot, to distill it into an essence, and store it in the pith of our souls so that we may draw on it in the months to come.


Shemini Atzeret, “Eighth Day of Assembly” or “Eighth Day of Retention,” retains and absorbs the attainments of the seven days of Sukkot and the entire month of Tishrei.



The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the festival of Sukkot for seven days.... The eighth day shall be a sacred calling to you … it is an atzeret (a time of retention).” (Leviticus 23:33-36)


“On Shemini Atzeret the joy is reserved for Israel alone, and they are the private guest of the king who can obtain any request which he makes.” (Zohar III 32a)




Shemini Atzeret is the conclusion and consummation of the entire holiday season; it retains the “conception” that results on this day from our union with G-d; it guarantees that birth will follow. Shemini Atzeret channels all the energy of the holiday into our lives so that it can bear fruit all year long.[11] This one day is therefore filled with enormous power:


1.    The final day of all judgments,[12] when the decree and verdict is sent on its way.[13]

2.    The day when we say the primary prayer for rain—the source of all blessings.[14]

3.    We dance with unbridled joy for the Torah, for the Second Tablets and the forgiveness we received on Yom Kippur.


Shemini Atzeret is unique in the fact that on this day single offerings were brought in the Temple (“one bullock, one ram”), unlike all other holidays, and especially Sukkot when each day these offerings were brought in multiple numbers. The Talmud explains the reason, with a parable of a king:


After asking his servants to join him for a large banquet (the seventy offerings during Sukkot), on the last day the king asks his beloved: “Please join me for a small meal, so that I can take pleasure in you.”[15] After elevating the entire world during Sukkot through the seventy offerings, Shemini Atzeret is the single day when everything else is put aside and we, “the single nation”—are alone and intimate with the King,[16] without any strangers present, [17] for one last time before entering the dark, cold days of winter. [18]


Laws and Customs:

Prayers are the same as on Sukkot, with Shemini Atzeret references.

Special rain prayer is said in Musaf.

Close to the end of the day it is customary to enter the sukkah for the final time and “say goodbye,” by eating something.


Simchat Torah begins this evening (outside of Israel). Following the recitation of the 17 verses of Atoh Horeiso, we take out the Torah scrolls from the ark and make a hakofah (“circling”) around the bimah in the synagogue, singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls with great joy, in grand celebration of the special gift that G-d gave us—the Torah. We repeat this for seven hakofot.


Tishrei 23, Simchat Torah


On Simchat Torah we complete the cycle of reading the Torah (the last verses of the Book of Deuteronomy) and we begin anew (with the Book of Genesis).            

The very last words of the Torah read: “… and all the great deeds which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:12)


Rashi states that this refers to Moses’ breaking of the tablets.[19] But, surely, his breaking the tablets was a failing rather than an accomplishment. How could it be a great deed?

It was a great deed because his breaking of the tablets made possible the inscribing of the second tablets which were indestructible.


The first tablets can be compared to a tzaddik—a person who is born innocent and leads a holy life; the second to a baal teshuvah (“master of return”)—a person who falls, but then gets up, repents and starts anew, and is infinitely stronger for the experience.


The second tablets—which came into being because the first ones were broken—reflect the challenge of life itself: the fall of man and his ability to rise to new, unprecedented heights.


The second tablets also reflect the power of human initiative: They were carved by Moses and were given by G-d on Yom Kippur after 80 days of Moses’ tireless efforts. The second tablets therefore revealed a new dimension in our relationship with G-d. That even after we have fallen, through our efforts (of teshuvah), we can demonstrate the invincibility of our inherent connection with G-d and Torah, that transcends all our weaknesses. It was the breaking of the first tablets that uncovered this power and invincibility.


The second tablets, in short, revealed a new and unprecedented dimension within us, the Torah,[20] and our relationship with G-d.


Simchat Torah is the celebration of that new dimension. We therefore dance with absolute passion and no limits. We dance with our legs, our arms wrapped around a Torah scroll. It is a dance that touches the very essence of the Jew, the very essence of the Torah, and the very essence of G-d. It is a dance that transcends our limited intellects and emotions, that encompasses all people, regardless of education, background, and spiritual station. It is an infinite dance that touches immortality itself.




“The 48 hours of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah should be greatly cherished. In every moment (of these two days) we can draw treasures in pitchers and barrels, materially and spiritually. And we do this through our dancing.”  (The Rebbe Sholom Ber[21])


“Simchat Torah means two things: We celebrate (simcha) with the Torah, and the Torah celebrates with us.” (The Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak[22])




Simchat Torah[23]—though not specifically mentioned in the written or oral Torah[24]—marks the climax of the festival-rich month of Tishrei. As the final day of the holiday season, it epitomizes the power of the entire month of Tishrei. The awe of Rosh Hashana, the sacredness of Yom Kippur, the unity and joy of Sukkot, all reach their highest expression on Simchat Torah[25] as we rejoice in the Torah and the Torah rejoices in us. Thus, Simchat Torah represents, in many ways, the highest point of the year, certainly the most joyous one.

The Hakofot (“circlings”) around the Torah platform are containers for the highest Divine revelations, which come in a form of “circles” (iggulim in Kabbalistic terms). They are too great to be restricted in limited containers; they therefore can only be expressed in an explosive circling dance.[26]


Without experiencing it personally, it is impossible to describe the joyful exuberance of the Simchat Torah celebration in Jewish communities worldwide. What can be plainly stated is that the joy, the dancing and the singing is at the greatest possible level that mortals can achieve.

We dance with our legs, and they lift our entire beings—even our minds and hearts—to places that we could not have reached on our own. This dance is the “Dance of the Essence”—the essence that transcends all levels, layers and definitions. As we say in the verses recited before the dancing:  “You—in Your absolute Essence—have revealed Yourself so that we know You.”

This essence—the “You”—cannot be accessed with the mind, the heart and any of our limited and defined tools. It can only be accessed by reaching into our own essence, and breaking into a dance with profound innocence, with no limits and constraints, with no considerations and no deliberations.


We dance with each other and with G-d. We dance and celebrate the very essence of life and the gift of our mission.


After all the outpouring of prayers during this month, all the mitzvot, all the different expressions of awe and love—it all comes down to an unadulterated celebration of dance and song that expresses most our absolute passion and fundamental connection with G-d.

[1] How was the mitzvah of aravah fulfilled? There was a place below Jerusalem called Motza. They would go down there and pick branches of willows and would then come and place them alongside the altar with the heads (of the willow branches) bent over the altar. They then sounded the shofar: a tekiah, a teruah, and a tekiah. Each day they would circle the altar once and say, "Ana Hashem Hoshiah Na (Please, G-d, bring us salvation), Ana Hashem Hatzlichah Na (Please, G-d, bring us success)'... On that day (i.e., Hoshana Rabba) they circled the altar seven times. When they had finished they would say, "Beauty is yours, O altar, beauty is yours." As was done during the week was done on Shabbat (i.e., if Hoshana Rabba fell on a Shabbat) except (that if it was Shabbat) they would gather them (the aravos) on the eve (of Shabbat) and place them in golden basins so that they would not become wilted (Sukkah 45a).


[2] Zohar III 31b-32a. II 132a. The Zohar explains that this is alluded to in the verse, “And Isaac returned and redug the wells of water” (Genesis 26:18).  “Wells” is written with a missing letter. What does it mean that “Isaac returned?” This passage refers to the day of Hoshana Rabba. Isaac (gevurah), having sat on the Throne of Judgment, which begins on the first day of the seventh month [Rosh Hashana], now returns to awaken the gevurot (severities of judgment) and to conclude them. So he redigs the wells of water to pour gevurot upon Israel to stimulate the waters, because gevurot (their power and might) cause water to fall to earth. On this day we awaken the gevurot which send the rain, and to circle the altar seven times and sate it with the water of Isaac, in order to fill the well of Isaac with this water, and then all the world is blessed with water. [Hoshana Rabba is the day of judgment for the waters, and this day concludes the judgment that began on Rosh Hashana]. This is also why on this day we take ‘willows of the brook’ and strike them on the ground to put an end to the severities that come from the brook, which refer to Isaac’s wells… On Hoshana Rabba the idolatrous nations come to the end of their blessings and enter into judgment, and Israel come to the end of their judgments and enter into blessings. For on the next day [Shemini Atzeret] they rejoice privately with the King and receive from Him blessings for the entire year ands obtain any request which they make.


[3] Malchut is the seventh and final emotion, completing the full emotional spectrum of our relationship with G-d, with ourselves and with other people. On each of the first six days of Sukkot we refined one of the six corresponding emotions; on Hoshana Rabba we conclude and elevate all of them (thus, the seven Hoshanot and the seven circles), culminating the building of malchut, the coronation of G-d as our King, that began on Rosh Hashana 21 days ago.

Malchut also relates to the inherent dignity and majesty within each of us, by virtue of the fact that each of us is created in the Divine image and is a child of the Divine King. (See also Tishrei 3.) In his blessing today King David is essentially saying: ‘no weapon’ can succeed in undermining our inherent and indispensable value resulting from our unwavering relationship and absolute connection with G-d. (See also Tishrei 3.)


[4] Siddur Torah Ohr. See Shaar HaKolel ibid, citing the Chida (in Moreh B’etzba). In some places it says to recite the psalm until Simchat Torah (Siddur Arizal of Rav Shabsi).


[5] With the blessing: “Blessed Are You, O G-d, King of the Universe, who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to light the flame of the holiday.” (On Shabbat say, “to light the flame of Shabbos and the flame of the holiday.”) Then say the Shehecheyanu blessing: “Blessed are You, O G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season.”


[6] This day has several names:

Seventh day of the willow (Mishne Sukkah 42b). Day of the willow (Siddur Rasag). The day of the beating of the willow (Sukkah 45a). Hoshana (Vayikra Rabba 37:2). Hoshana Rabba (Midrash Tehillim (Buber) 17:5).


Reasons for the name Hoshana Rabba:


·         Hoshana Rabba means the ‘great salvation.’ This is the final and primary day of judgment (which begins on Sukkot) for the upcoming year’s blessing of water, upon which all of life is dependent. We therefore designate this end of the ‘water’ year as an important day, by reciting special prayers beseeching G-d for deliverance (Rokeach 221. Tur and Levush 664).

·         Hoshana Rabba means the great Hoshana. Because on this day we recite a large number (‘rabba’) of hoshana prayers.

·         Today is 26 days from the day of creation (Elul 25). 26 is the gematria of G-d’s holy name (Havaya), which is called a ‘great’ name, ‘shem rabba,’ therefore the day is called Hoshana Rabba (Bachya Deuteronomy 33:21). This is also the reason that on Hoshana Rabba we stop saying psalm 27, because we have now completed the full cycle of the 26 (days) of compassion related to G-d’s great name, and Hoshana Rabba is ‘the end of judgments’ and we no longer need the psalm for this purpose (Shaar HaKolel ch. 45:6).

·         Hoshana is another name for the willow twig (arovah). Hoshana Rabba is thus: Great Willow, which is the main focus of this day – ‘the day of the willow.’ On this day the priests would circle the Temple Altar with willows in hand.  We commemorate this today by circling the bimah seven times, and then gather five willow twigs, and at the conclusion of the hoshanot prayer, strike them on the ground five times. This aravah rite was prescribed for Hoshana Rabba, because the aravah grows near water, and Hoshana Rabba is the judgment day for water.


[7] G-d says to Abraham, ‘I am unique and you are unique, I will give your children a unique day to atone for their sins, the day of Hoshana Rabba.’ Because the name of G-d (‘Ehe-ye’) is the gematria (numerical equivalent) of 21, and Abraham was unique in the 21st generation after Adam, and so Hoshana Rabba is the 21st of Tishrei. G-d said to Abraham: If your children were not redeemed on Rosh Hashana, they can be redeemed on Yom Kippur, and if not then, it will be on Hoshana Rabba (Mateh Moshe 957).


[8] They seek me day [after] day (Isaiah 58:2) – this is tekiyah and aravah (Talmud Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashana 4:8). Everyone is seeking G-d on Rosh Hashana (tekiyah) and Hoshana Rabba (arovah), because on Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the judgment, and Hoshana Rabba is the conclusion (Yefei Mareh ad loc). See Zohar III 31b-32a. II 132a. The difference between Hoshana Rabba and Shemini Atzeret in this regard is explained in Zohar I 220a, that the decree is sealed on Hoshana Rabba, but delivered to the ‘messengers’ on Shemini Atzeret. See Pri Etz Chaim Shaar HaLulav ch. 4. Asoreh Maamorot, Maamar Choker Din, sec. 2 ch. 26-27. Sheilat Yaavetz ch. 33.


[9] See Rameh of Pano (Asorah Maamorot, Choker Din, sec. 2 ch. 24): On the first Rosh Hashana, when G-d came to judge Adam for the first sin, He spoke to him about the event, and hinted to him the mystery and the days and hour of mans’ judgment. G-d said to Adam “Ayeko,” ‘where are you’? The four letters of Ayeko in Hebrew is an acronym which tells us the mystery of Divine judgment:


Alef – the 1st of Tishrei, Rosh Hashana – the beginning of the judgment

Yud – the 10th of Tishrei, Yom Kippur – the conclusion of the judgment

Chof – the 20th of Tishrei, after which comes Hoshana Rabba, when the judgment is sealed

Heh – the 5th day of the week (when the first Hoshana Rabba fell), and the 5th hour of the day, when the sealed judgment is given to the messengers for delivery.


There are 243 hours from Rosh Hashana till the end of Yom Kippur (including the additional hours that we add to holy days). Gemar (end of judgment) is 243.


243 more hours between Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabba. For a total of 486 – b’tuf u’mochol – after tuf (486) hours your mochul (forgiveness) will be complete.


On Hoshana Rabba we have the power to achieve complete forgiveness and healing – 21 days after Man was created and 26 (Havaya) days after the creation.


This is why we add in prayers and forgiveness on Hoshana Rabba.


[10] Rashi on Leviticus 23:36; cf. Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba 7:4: The Atzeret of the festival of Sukkot ought to have been fifty days later, like the Atzeret of Passover. Why, indeed, does Shemini Atzeret immediately follow Sukkot? Rabbi Joshua offers the following parable in explanation:


A king had many daughters. Some of them were married off nearby, and some of them were married off in faraway places. One day, they all came to visit the king, their father. Said the king: ‘Those who are married off nearby have the time to go and come; but those who are married off afar do not have the time to go and come. Since they are all here with me, I will make one festival for them all and I shall rejoice with them.’


Thus, with the Atzeret of Passover, when we are coming from winter into summer, G-d says: “They have the time to go and come.” But with the Atzeret of Sukkot, since we are coming from summer into winter, and the dust of the roads is difficult and the byroads are difficult ... G-d says: “They do not have the time to go and come; so, since they are all here, I will make one festival for them all and I shall rejoice with them.” See also note 3.


[11] This is also emphasized in Midrash (Pesikta D’rav Kahana, on Shemini Atzeret): G-d wanted to give Israel a holiday in each of the summer months. In Nissan – Passover. Iyar – Pesach Sheni. Sivan – Shavuot. In Tammuz he wanted to give them a great holiday, but because they built the golden calf they lost [holidays in] three months, Tammuz, Av and Elul. Tishrei compensates for these three months with its three holidays: Rosh Hashana compensates for Tammuz. Yom Kippur compensates for Av, and Sukkot compensates for Elul. Then G-d said: “He [Tishrei] is able to compensate for others, but not for himself?! [What holiday does Tishrei get?] Give him the day of Shemini Atzeret. And this is the meaning in Shemini Atzeret ‘’will be to you.” Shemini Atzeret is thus the essence of all the holidays of Tishrei.


[12] This is also related to the fact that the 515 prayers of Moses to enter the Promised Land began on Rosh Hashana and concluded on the morning of Shemini Atzeret – a period of 516 hours (21 days x 24 hours + 12 hours of Shemini Atzeret eve), one hour for each of Moses 515 prayers. In the final (516th) hour the decree was sealed and delivered and Moses was told he should no longer pray.


[13] Shemini Atzeret is the final day of sealing all the judgments. On Rosh Hashana the judgments and edicts are written, on Yom Kippur they are sealed and on Hoshana Rabba the sealing is finalized. On Shemini Atzeret the sealed edicts are delivered to the “messengers” in order to be implemented (Zohar 1 220a. Pri Etz Chaim Shaar HaLulav ch. 4. The Rameh of Pano (Asorah Maamorot, Chokur Din sec. 2 chs. 26-27) explains that the edicts are sealed and sent out on Hoshana Rabba, and on Shemini Atzeret begins a new order). That is when we dance in unbridled joy, with the absolute confidence that we have prevailed. This dance in turn bewilders the “messengers” and helps guarantee that the edicts be only sweet ones.


[14] The prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret brings to conclusion all the blessings and love of the holiday season, symbolized in water. Shemini Azteret absorbs and consummates the relationship developed through the month of Tishrei, and ensures that it will be “watered” and nurtured throughout the year. That’s why Shemini Atzeret is so vital to the welfare of our lives for the upcoming year.


[15] Sukkah 55b.  Cited in Rashi Numbers 29:35-36. See Bamidbar Rabba 21:24. Midrash Tehillim 109.


[16] See Zohar I 64a-b. II 187a. See Zohar III 32a: On Shemini Atzeret the joy is reserved for Israel alone, and they are the private guest of the king who can obtain any request which he makes. See also Zohar I 208b on the verse ‘no other person was there when Joseph confessed to his brothers’ (Genesis 45:1).


[17] Proverbs 5:17. Shemot Rabba 15:23.


[18] In the continuing analogy of our developing relationship with G-d: After the preparatory days of Elul and the renewal of Rosh Hashana comes Yom Kippur, “the day of marriage,” with the giving of the Torah in the second tablets. This is followed by the Sukkot celebration with all the guests – the seventy nations – and everyone receives their blessings and gifts. Shemini Atzeret is the conclusion and consummation of the marriage, when we are alone with the King.

On each of the seven days of Sukkot, we make a complete circle during Hoshanot, each day/circle corresponding to one of the seven emotions, one of the seven Sabbatical cycles of time. On Hoshana Rabba we circle seven times, encompassing and uniting all the seven cycles that affect all of existence (like the seventy offerings corresponding to the seventy nations). We then are ready to enter Shemini Atzeret, the great Jubilee, when we spend time with the King alone (Tolaat Yaakov Shemini Azteret. Cited By Shaloh, end of Mesechta Sukkah. See also Asorah Maamorot, Choker Din, sec. 2 ch. 27). This also corresponds to the four letters of G-d’s holy name: Yud – Yom Kippur (10th – yud – of Tishrei), Heh – 5 days after Yom Kippur is Sukkot, Vov – six days later is Hoshana Rabba, Heh – Shemini Atzeret, the ‘small meal’ (Shaloh ibid).


[19] Rashi on Deuteronomy. 34:12.  “His heart emboldened him to break the tablets before their eyes, as it is written, ‘[and I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my two hands] and I broke them before your eyes.’ (Ibid 8:15). G-d's opinion then concurred with his opinion, as it is written, ‘[... the first tablets,] which you broke’ (exodus 34:1) ---I affirm your strength for having broken them.”


[20] “He will tell you secrets of wisdom, doubly powerful” (Job 11:6). Shemot Rabba 46:1: G-d said to Moses: Do not be distressed over the First Tablets, which contained only the Ten Commandments. In the Second Tablets I am giving you also Halachah, Midrash and Agadah.


[21] Sefer HaMaamorim p. 79.


[22] Sichat Simchat Torah 5703. 5736.


[23] “It is the custom in these lands on the night and day of Simchat Torah to take all the Torah scrolls out of the ark. Psalms and prayers are recited, in each community according to its custom. It is also customary to circle the reading table in the synagogue with the Torah scrolls ... all this to increase the joy.” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 669:1).


[24] Which is what makes this such a powerful celebration, being that it is initiated from ‘below,’ out of our love for G-d (see Introduction to Hoshana Rabba). Yet, every authentic Jewish custom is based in Torah. Indeed, we find reference to Simchat Torah in the Zohar (III 256b): Jews have the custom to celebrate on Shemini Atzeret, and it is called by the name ‘Simchat Torah.’ They adorn the Torah scroll with its crown… See also Zohar III 214b. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 21 (56a).


We also have a source in Midrash for celebrating at the conclusion of the Torah. The Midrash derives this from King Solomon’s celebration upon hearing that G-d is granting him wisdom more than anyone that ever lived or will ever live (Midrash Rabba, Shir Hashirim 1). Early sages write, that this is why we celebrate on Simchat Torah to honor the conclusion of the Torah (Ha’Eshkol p. 105. See Tikkunei Zohar 2i. Nitzuzei Zohar ibid. Rabbi Zevin in HaMoedim b’Halacha ch. 6).


One can say that Moses was actually the first one who celebrated Simchat Torah, when he concluded the Torah (Torat Sholom p. 2).


[25] “There are 13 days between Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah, in which the 13 attributes of compassion (of Yom Kippur) manifest and are revealed below… all the forty days from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur) are a preparation for Simchat Torah.” (Siddur Shaar HaElul 227d. 231a).


[26] After all the revelations of the holiday season, in the form of makif and pnimi (see introduction to Hoshana Rabba), we are now ready to receive the greatest makifim, and then internalize them. The revelation of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur becomes manifest on Sukkot in a revealed way. But on Sukkot it is still in a form of makif. On Shemini Atzeret this revelation is retained in a pnimiyut, internalized. And then higher level of makif are revealed during the hakofot of Simchat Torah (Ohr HaTorah V’zot HaBrocho p. 1867). Shemini Atzeret is retention and consummation. Simchat Torah – is the beginning of the revelation and drawing down, which empowers us to integrate the energy of Tishrei into the entire year (Sichat Shemini Atzeret 5703. Likkutei Sichot vol. 9 p. 394). On Shemini Atzeret G-d gives us the ability to become true containers to contain all the energy. Shemini Atzeret is the revelation of an Essential light, but the light is sealed and locked from every side. We open these containers with our dancing on Simchat Torah (Likkutei Dibburim vol. 1pp. 259.)$Hoshana_Rabba,_Simchat_Torah_AND_Shmini_Atzeret.php



The Feet of the Torah


Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch once said: the Torah wants to circle the bimah, and since it cannot do this, a Jew becomes its “feet,” transporting the Torah around the reading table, just as feet transport the head.


The explanation of a Jew being the “feet” of a Torah scroll is as follows: the foot is utterly nullified to the will of the brain, as we can see from the fact that a person’s thought-impulse to move his foot is instantly obeyed. A foot that does not heed the command of the brain is not healthy. Similarly the dancing of Simchat Torah expresses complete acceptance of the Heavenly yoke and submission to the Supernal Will, so that the Torah’s commands are fulfilled without hesitation or deliberation.


(Likkutei Sichot, vol. 4, p. 1169)




Generation AliYah!

Judah and Ephraim are coming home!

Until after Sukkot from the Kol HaTor team!





Compiling editor:  Agatha van der Merwe

Content control:  OvadYah Avrahami

Participating editors:  Dr Robert Mock, Geoffrey Messervy-Norman, Stephen Spykerman

Torah Guidance:  Rabbi Avraham Feld


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