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Hoshana Rabbah

Hoshana Rabbah

Halachot and Customs of Hoshana Rabbah

Published on Sunday November 28th, 2021

The Magnitude of This Day

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah. It is a day when we totally immerse in Torah study and supplication. The Midrash teaches: "Hashem said to Avraham Avinu: "I am unique in My world and you are unique in your world. In the future, I will give your children a special day to repair their faults, this day is Hoshana Rabbah. If the sins of your children have not been amended by Rosh Hashanah, they will be given a chance to atone for them on Yom Kippur. And if not, they will get another recourse on Hoshana Rabbah. " (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.436)

The Sages explained the above through a parable to make it clear to us: "When the lion roars, who isn't paralyzed by fear?". Aryieh (a lion, is spelled in Hebrew: "aleph-reish-yud-hey"), these are the first letters of the words "Elul (begins with "aleph"), Rosh Hashana (begins with "reish"), Yom Kippur (begins with "yud"), Hoshana Rabbah (begins with "hey"). All these are auspicious days for repentance and forgiveness to all the People of Israel. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.436)

Why Are Sleepers Awake?

The holy people of Israel are accustomed to staying up all night on Hoshana Rabbah. They study the Torah, following the order of "Kriyeh Moed" (Order and timing of the reading) and read the book of Devarim, and the Midrash Rabbah on the Parshah "Vezot Habracha". After midnight, they complete the entire book of Psalms, adding a few supplications and verses until the early morning. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.438)

The most critical texts that are read on the night of Hoshana Rabbah must be completed before midnight. Thus, it is advisable to gather the people together in the synagogue at least two and a half hours before midnight, to ensure that they complete the reading of the book of Devarim by the middle of the night. And not, as accustomed in some communities, where they are late to begin the study of Devarim and thus miss the main "Tikkun" of the night. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.438)

If one foresees that he will be unable to stay up all night, the correct avenue to adopt is as follows: he will read the complete order of the texts at the beginning of the night, except the Psalms. Then he will take a rest in the Sukkah. When he rises, he will do the ablutions of the hands, followed by the morning blessings and the blessings of the Torah. Then, he will read the Psalms with the assembly and in the morning before Shacharit, he will not repeat the blessings of the Torah.

If he eats a small piece of cake during the night of study, he should be careful not to exceed the quantity of Kabeitsa [54g] outside the Sukkah, as explained below.

The Morning Blessings

One who has been awake all night will recite the morning blessings and the blessings of the Torah at daybreak, except for the blessing "Al netilat yadaim". He will do the ablution of the hands without the blessing. He will not recite the blessing "Asher Yatzar" unless he has answered the call of nature. However, some people among the Ashkenazim are accustomed to listening to the morning blessings and the blessings of the Torah from someone who has slept through the night and whose intention is to acquit them.  However, the custom among Sephardim is different: everyone recites the blessings, and even some Ashkenazim are lenient on reciting the blessings themselves.



Dawn (Amud Hashahar)

The break of dawn is fixed at 72 minutes before sunrise (Netz Hachama). Whoever pronounces the blessings of the Torah before Netz Hachama is liable of reciting meaningless blessings (bracha levatalah), according to Shulchan Aruch and most decision-makers. However, it is permissible, according to the strict rigor of the law, to pronounce the morning blessings from midnight (Chatsot). (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.438)

Morning Prayer

A man must strive to be strong as a lion and avoid falling asleep during the reading of Shema and the Amidah, so as not to compromise his merit. It is advisable that the Shaliah Tzibur (officiant) avoid reciting the prayer using tunes that might lengthen the prayers' duration. Instead, he must enunciate the prayers reasonably quickly, word by word, so that the congregants do not fall asleep.

After the recitation of the Hallel, it is customary for the congregants to circle the Teva seven times with their Lulav. By making these Hakafot around the Teva which stands as a Mizbeach (altar), we symbolically bring down the walls of our enemies and eradicate them, as the children of Israel circled the walls of Jericho seven times until the latter came crumbling down. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.436)

The Mitzvah to Beat the Aravot

After the Mussaf prayer, we tie five Aravot together, of at least three tefachim (24 cm) in length and strike them five times and no more, on natural ground, to perpetrate what the Prophets of Israel established for the People. (Chazon Ovadia Sukcot, p.440, p.443)

With each blow given against the ground, we will see in our mind's eye the following five letters, in this order: Mem-Nun-Tsadik-Fe-Chaf (sofit). (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.440)

Some claim that the Mitzvah of Aravot is accomplished by shaking them, while others object that it is incumbent to strike the ground with them. Thus, it is advisable to be rigorous and to perform both customs. (Rama, Chap.664, §4, Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.444)

 "Nishmat Kol Chai"

It is customary to return to the synagogue after performing the Mitzvah of beating the Aravot. After opening the Heichal, the congregation sing together the passage of "Nishmat Kol 'Chai" and "Or Meolam vead' olam ata Kel". Then the following sentence is pronounced:

"Harei anachnu mekablim aleinu bli neder kabalat guemura lomar nishmat kol chai beyom hoshana rabbah leshana habaa, beet hazot achar tefilat shacharit o mussaf. Veheyi ratson milifnei Avinu shebashamayim sheyachtom otanu besefer chaim tovim, venizke venichiye shanim rabot neimot, venagila venismecha beyishuatecha".

We take upon ourselves, without guarantees (bli neder), the important command of reciting' Nishmat Kol Chai "on the day of Hoshana Rabbah in the coming year, after the morning and Musaf prayer. May it be the will of our Father in heaven, that we be inscribed in the book of life and that we deserve to live long and good years, and that we rejoice in your deliverance ". (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.444)

Rav Hagaon David Pardo writes that anyone who is perturbed by worries should resolve to take it upon himself to say "Nishmat Kol Chai" as soon as Hashem answers his prayers. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.444)

"Shnayim Mikra Veechad Targum" repeating the verses twice in Hebrew and once in the "Aramaic Translation."

On the day of Hoshana Rabbah, the text of the passage of Parshat "Vezot Haberacha" should be read twice and the Targum (translated part of the text, written on the sidelines of the Parshah, called Targum Onkelos) should be read once. If we have forgotten to do so or failed to complete the reading, we may do so on the night of Simchat Torah or in the morning preceding Shacharit prayers. (Chazon Ovadia Sukkot, p.403)

A Difficult Parting

Before leaving home to go to the synagogue for evening prayers on the eve of Simchat Torah, we return to the Sukkah and part from it in the following words:"May if be thy will, Hashem our God and God of our forefathers that just as I was privileged to live in the Sukkah and merited the fulfillment of this mitzvah, so may I be privileged by the merits of the coming years to sit in the sukkah of the hide of Leviathan (the sukkah of Mashiach) . As it is said (Job 30:21): "Can you fill his hide with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?”(Kol Bo, Rama Chapter 667).

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