Hoshana Rabba

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HOSHANA RABBA (Heb. הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא; "the great hoshana"), a name for the seventh and last day of the *Sukkot festival.

In Temple times, the day was distinguished by the fact that seven circuits (*hakkafot) were made around the altar with the *lulav (instead of the single circuit made on the other days of the festival), and that willow branches, which on this day were specially cut at *Moẓa near Jerusalem, were stood around the side of the altar with their leaves overlapping the top (Suk. 4:5–6; Maim. Yad, Sukkah, 7:22–23). In the Mishnah the day is therefore known as yom ha-shevi'i shel aravah ("the seventh day of the willow"; Suk. 4:3). According to R. Johanan b. Beroka palm twigs were beaten on the ground and thus the day is known as yom ḥibbut ḥarayot ("the day of the beating of the palm twigs"; ibid. 4:6). It is generally known as Hoshana Rabba because of the numerous *hoshanot which are recited and is thus referred to already in the Midrashim (Mid. Ps. to 17:5; Lev. R. 37:2). The ceremony of the willow took place even if this day occurred on the Sabbath (according to Maimonides, loc. cit. 7:21, in order to publicize the obligatory nature of the practice). In Second Temple times this was a source of controversy between the Boethusians and the Pharisees who gave the ceremony biblical authority even though it is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. They considered it to be halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai, i.e., as having been instructed verbally to Moses during his stay on Mt. Sinai. According to the tradition of many of the rishonim (e.g., Tos. to Suk. 43b, Abraham b. David to Maim. Yad, Kiddush ha-Ḥodesh, 7:7; R. Nissim, to Alfasi, Suk. 21b s.v.u-farkhinan), the calendar was fixed in such a way that the New Year would not occur on a Sunday so that Hoshana Rabba should not fall on the Sabbath, which would cause the taking of the willow to be canceled (see *Calendar). Today, the obligation of taking the willow on the seventh day of Sukkot remains and it is the "custom of the prophets" or the "principle of the prophets" to beat it on the ground or on some object (Suk. 43b; cf. Maim. Yad, Lulav, 7:22). The custom of circling the interior of the synagogue seven times while reciting prayers and supplications is known from the period of the geonim (see *Hoshanot). Already in the Talmud (tj, rh 4:8, 59c) Hoshana Rabba is mentioned as one of the two days ("the day of blowing of the shofar and the day of the willow") on which all attend the synagogue service.

In the period of the geonim, the celebration of Hoshana Rabba acquired considerable solemnity and religious-mystic significance. In Jerusalem a large gathering took place on the Mount of Olives which was circled seven times; official announcements (such as fixing the coming year) were proclaimed; philanthropists and communities received blessings; and public excommunications were issued. The piyyut of Hoshana Rabba which opens with the words, "the power [or, the truth] of Thy salvation cometh," which deals with the splitting open of the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4) and the resurrection of the dead, probably has its origin in this ceremony. From the 13th century onward, there is evidence regarding special popular beliefs connected with Hoshana Rabba. There was a very widespread belief that he who did not see the shadow of his head on the night of Hoshana Rabba would die during that year, for Hoshana Rabba was the day of the "seal," wherein the verdict of man (passed on the *Day of Atonement) is "sealed," or the day on which the "notices" of the verdict were sent out (Sefer Ḥasidim, ed. by R. Margoliot (1957), nos. 452–3; Naḥmanides on Num. 14:9; Zohar, Ex., 142a–b). It is probable that the view of Hoshana Rabba as a day of judgment was originally connected with the ancient belief that "during the festival [i.e., Sukkot], the world is judged for the water to be received" (rh 1:2), i.e., whether the coming year would be blessed with rain or be one of drought and Hoshana Rabba is the conclusion of Sukkot. This would explain the numerous hoshanot of Hoshana Rabba in which the motif is water. There is also an allusion to a Prayer for Rain on Hoshana Rabba (Sefer Ḥasidim, no. 248).

Over the generations, the conception of Hoshana Rabba as a day of judgment has been expressed by a series of distinct customs, all or some of which have been included in the prayer service of the day in the various rites (see Sh. Ar., oḤ 664:1): numerous candles are kindled in the synagogue, as on the Day of Atonement; in some rites the Ḥazzan wears a white robe; the *Pesukei de-Zimra of the Sabbath and the *Nishmat prayer are added to the service; the sentences (of the Ten Days of Penitence), "Remember us unto life," and "Who is as Thou," are included in the *Amidah;*Avinu Malkenu, the Great *Kedushah, and U-Netanneh *Tokef are said in the Musaf prayer; and the shofar is blown during the processions. In some rites seliḥot are recited. The Amidah and the Reading of the Law, however, remain the same as on the other intermediate days of the festival. There is a widespread custom to stay up during the night of Hoshana Rabba and to read the whole of the Pentateuch or the books of Deuteronomy and Psalms, and the like. This custom does not go back further than the 13th century. Its original intention was probably to ensure that even those who were not particular concerning the reading of the Pentateuch during the whole of the year would complete it together with the public on *Simḥat Torah (Shibbolei ha-Leket, ed. by S. Buber (1886), 334). This custom later assumed the character (probably through the kabbalists of Safed) of a tikkun ("purification"; Tikkun Leil Hoshana Rabba, "Tikkun of the night of Hoshana Rabba").


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 138f.; et, 8 (1957), 527–35; Y.T. Lewinsky, Sefer ha-Mo'adim, 4 (19522), 180–207; Wilhelm in: Alei AyinS. Schocken Jubilee Volume (1948–52), 130–43.

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HOSHANOT (Heb. הוֹשַׁעְנוֹת), poetical prayers, thus named because of the recurrent expression "Hoshana" (or "Hoshi'aNa," "Save, I Pray!"). Hoshanot are recited on every day of *Sukkot, usually after the Shaḥarit or Musaf prayers. Each day while they are said a circuit is made of the synagogue (on the seventh day, seven circuits; see below). The origin of the prayers and the procession lies in the Temple ritual: "Every day [of Sukkot] one circles the altar once and says, 'Pray! O Lord, save, I pray! Pray! O Lord, give success, I pray!'; and R. Judah says, 'I and He, save, I pray.'…, and on that day [i.e., the seventh] one circles the altar seven times" (Suk. 4:5). The first references to this practice in the synagogue come from the period of the geonim.

Already in ancient times, the words hosha na were linked into one word hoshana. The word served as a response, or a call, after every rhyme or section of prayers which were composed in later generations for this purpose. Of these prayers (usually written in alphabetical order), many are undefined in content (e.g., "For the sake of Thy truth, for the sake of Thy covenant"); others are supplications for water or for a blessing for the produce (e.g., "Save, I pray! the land from being cursed, the animal from losing its offspring"); while still others are concerned with salvation from exile and with redemption.

In all prayer books – from those of R. *Amram Gaon and R. *Saadiah Gaon to those of the present day – there are hoshanot on various subjects and in different forms. It can be assumed that several of the hoshanot, which are signed with the name "Eleazar," were written by R. Eleazar *Kallir. There is insufficient evidence, however, to determine the authorship of other hoshanot. Some were also written for the Sabbath of Sukkot, and include topics pertaining to the Sabbath. But on that day there is no procession. In some rites hoshanot are not recited on the Sabbath of Sukkot at all. The hoshanot of the seventh day, *Hoshana Rabba, are of a special character. Seven processions take place; in some rites the hoshanot of all the previous days are repeated while others recite hoshanot written specially for this day. Under the influence of the Kabbalah, piyyutim dealing with the seven guests (see *Ushpizin) have been supplemented to the hoshanot of this day. Indeed, the seven processions allude to them.

Hoshanot is also the name of the special willow branches taken on Hoshana Rabba, from which the expression "a beaten hoshana" derives (applied for example, to a man who has come down in the world). In the Babylonian Talmud (Suk. 31–34), the myrtles which are bound to the *lulav (palm branch) together with the willows are referred to as hoshanot.


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 219f.; et, (1957), 535–9; Idelsohn, Liturgy, 42 no. 7, 201–3 no. vi.

[Eliezer Eliner]

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Hoshana Rabba (Heb., ‘the great hoshana’). The seventh and last day of the festival of Sukkot. Special willow branches (known as ‘hoshanot’) are cut for the festival and beaten on the ground, and Hoshana Rabba is described in the Talmud as the ‘Day of the Willow’.

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Hoshanot (willow branches): see HOSHANA RABBA.

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