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    Processions

    Hoshanot procession on Sukkot, engraving by Bernard Picart, c.1723

    Hoshanot procession on Sukkot, engraving by Bernard Picart, c.1723

    Religious processions abound on Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. They began with the Temple processions around the altar with the Four Species of plants.

    Over the centuries the processions – especially on Simchat Torah – varied from a stately, sombre shuffle to an ecstatic movement of spiritual passion. To some extent this echoed the range of countries and cultures where Jews lived. Central Europe was known for orderliness, Eastern Europe for wilder abandon.

    Recent decades have seen a greater preference for the Eastern European brand of Judaism, though we make a mistake if we denigrate what Central Europe contributed to Jewish history. Actually – as Milton Himmelfarb points out – it was from German-speaking Jewry that more or less every modern Jewish movement emanated. Even Chassidism, which has had such a revival in recent decades, though it began in Poland, only gained popularity because a Central European thinker, Martin Buber, transmitted the tales of the Chassidic Masters to the Jewish and general world.

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