WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29: The seventh and final day of Sukkot—as well as the final day of the entire High Holy Day season—has arrived for Jews. Today on Hoshana Rabbah, according to Jewish tradition, any chance to make spiritual reparations preparations for the new year comes to an end. But don’t think of this as an unfortunate day; Jewish men and women who follow traditional practices have spent many hours asking forgiveness, reflecting on their lives and working hard to seal a good New Year. For most people, today is a time of joy!
The details of Hoshana Rabbah and the earlier Yom Kippur may seem confusing to non-Jews. Traditionally, men and women pray to G_d in repentance through Yom Kippur (Sept. 17-18 this year), when judgment for the new year closes. (Wikipedia has details.) Jews still have a chance to repent until Hoshana Rabbah, however, and today is the final day—the end of the line. On Hoshana Rabbah, fate for the New Year is sealed.
Hoshana Rabbah isn’t an observance mentioned in the Torah; Jews are allowed to work today. Nevertheless, many spend time in the synagogue, making seven circuits of the synagogue’s perimeter in commemoration of seven patriarchs (ex: Abraham, Moses and David). For some, an ancient custom in Orthodox Judaism is practiced: a type of “rain dance” is performed by beating the ground with willow branches, and participants pray dually for rain and for the forgiveness of sins.
Hoshana Rabbah may be the end of this season of the High Holy Days, but it’s also seamlessly tied with the rest of the year. Many Jews will begin reading Deuteronomy tonight, and that reading will continue through the coming holiday of Simchat Torah.
Care to read more on Jewish High Holy Days?
If you’re just joining us, here are links to earlier stories:
Festivals & Holidays: Stephanie Fenton looks at the New Year and includes links to other great resources.
OffLining for Yom Kippur: A couple of clever marketing guys promoted a day-long fast from all digital media.
Festivals & Holidays: Stephanie Fenton’s overview with links to other online resources.