Hoshana Rabbah – The Last Day of Sukkot

On the 7th and final day of the Jewish holiday Sukkot comes Hoshana Rabbah. This Jewish holiday is celebrated by a special synagogue service in which the congregation circles the synagogue seven times while shaking the lulav and ertog. (For questions regarding the lulav and ertog see our Sukkot Jewish holiday article.) Seven circuits around the synagogue are made because it’s the seventh day of Sukkot and also to correspond to the seven words in Psalms 26:6, “Erhatzbenikayon kappay, va’ashovevah et mizbahakha Hashem.” Translated into English it means, “I wash my hands in purity and circle around Your altar, O Lord.”

The entire ceremony is to rejoice and show gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year. It also serves to tear down the iron wall that separates us from G-d, much like the wall of Jericho. At the conclusion of the Jewish holiday service, five willow branches are beaten on the ground while the Aramaic expression “Chabit, chabit velah barich” is chanted to symbolize the elimination of sin. This act is also a prayer for rain and success in agriculture in the coming year.

Final Judgment

During the festival of Sukkot, the world is judged for water. The seventh day of Sukkot, the Jewish holiday Hoshana Rabbah, is the final sealing and since human beings need water for basic survival, the Jewish holiday is seen in a similar light as Yom Kippur. So on this Jewish holiday there are many prayers for repentance and the cantor wears a kittel, just like on the High Holidays.

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