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What is Hoshanah Rabbah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Sukkot » Season of Rejoicing | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The day before Shmini Atzeret, the last day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot, is called Hoshanah Rabbah. According to Jewish tradition, the verdict for the new year which is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is not handed down by the Heavenly Court until Hoshanah Rabbah.

On this day we encircle the Bimah seven times with the Four Species and offer special prayers for prosperity in the upcoming year. During the course of the morning prayers it is also a traditional custom, to take five willows and beat them on the ground five times.

Some have the custom to give and/or receive honey cake ("lekach") during the course of this day.

It is also customary to eat kreplach1 on this day. See recipes for basic or fancy kreplach. During the meals of the day, the bread/Challah is dipped into honey -- reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah.

Footnotes

  • 1. Kreplach are small squares of rolled pasta dough filled with ground beef or chicken, and folded into triangles. They can be boiled and served in soup or fried and served as a side dish.

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Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Chol Hamoed
(lit. "mundane [days] of the festival"), the intermediate days of the Festivals of Passover and Sukkot. On these days many of the holiday work restrictions are lifted.
Shmini Atzeret
A joyous one-day autumn festival immediately following the holiday of Sukkot. Outside Israel this holiday is celebrated for two days, the second day is known as Simchat Torah.
Four Species
There is a Biblical command to take "Four Species" on the autumn holiday of Sukkot. These species are: palm branch, citron, myrtle and willow. It is customary to shake these species to all directions.
Challah
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.
Bimah
Table at the center of the synagogue upon which the Torah is placed when it is being read.