WHAT IS HOSHANA RABBAH?
Hoshana Rabbahh is is the special name for the seventh day of Sukkot. It is the end of the serious time in the Jewish year that starts with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). Hoshana Rabbahh is the last day of this time of judgement as we believe that right up until the end of this day, God may change his judgment about what will happen to us during the coming year.
Although important, Hoshana Rabbah is not a yom tov or Shabbat (day on which work is forbidden). We are still allowed to work and do everyday activities, like go to school, cook, drive in cars and so on.
WHAT DO WE DO ON HOSHANA RABBAHH?
Jewish adults spend the night before Hoshana Rabbahh praying and studying. Like on the other days of Sukkot, we also wave the Four Species; that is, we pick up the lulavand etrog together and move them back, upwards and downwards, shaking them three times in every direction.
In ancient times in the Holy, the Jews used to walk in circles around the altar holding the lulav in their hands reciting the Hallel and Hoshana prayers. On Hoshana Rabbahh today we say both the whole Hallel prayer and also the Hoshana prayers. That’s why it’s called ‘Hoshana Rabbahh’ (‘the big Hoshana Prayer’!)
During Sukkot Jews make lots of processions in the synagogue and on Hoshana Rabbah these continue. We walk around the bimah carrying the lulav and etrog in circles calledhakafot. We make seven hakafot, and then we make five aravot (bundles of willow twigs). We beat the aravot on the ground until the leaves begin to fall. Then we take the Torah scrolls out of the Ark.
Just like on Rosh Hashanah, on Hoshana Rabbahh we eat honey to symbolise a sweet year. We also greet one another with the phrase ‘G’mar Tov’.
The Torah scrolls remain covered in white, and so does the curtain across the Ark. In some synagogues, the chazan still wears the white robe or kittel, like he does on the High Holy days.