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    Secret of the Seventh Day

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

    Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot, has an unfortunate fate.

    Tucked in between the excitement of Sukkot and the exuberance of Simchat Torah, it seems to be largely ignored and broadly neglected.

    Yet it has a spiritual flavor that the rabbinic works acknowledge when they speak of the cantor wearing a white kittel and the congregation using Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur melodies for the prayers.

    Its very name conveys this message. Hoshana is a phrase from Hallel that means “Salvation”; the Hallel says, “O God, please send salvation”.

    Colloquially, hoshanot are the willow twigs (aravot) that are beaten towards the end of the service in token of our appeal to God to beat out of us the last trace of our sins.

    Hoshana Rabbah is a day of judgment, especially amongst the kabbalists. The Zohar says that on this day, the final decree goes out from the House of the King. This is why in some circles the day is called Yom HaChotem, “The Day of Sealing”.

    The reason for the day bearing the extra name of Rabbah, which means great or many, is probably the number of prayers said that day that begin with the word Hoshana.

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