Hosha’na Rabba FAQs

Hosha’na Rabba FAQs


Rabbi Hayim Asher Arking

​​Rabbi Ezra Ghodsi

What is Hosha'na Rabba?

There are three designated days in the calendar for good judgment, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Hosha'na Rabba. A judge can sign a court order, however, when it is handed over to the clerk is when it will go into effect. On Hosha'na Rabba decisions from Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are sent out to be delivered. We can, on this day, beseech Hashem, The Judge, before He hands decrees to His 'clerks' to reverse His decision.

Every day of Sukkot we walk around the Torah with our lulav and Etrog in hand asking Hashem hosha'na - to please bring salvation and goodness throughout the year. On the last day of Hol Hamo'ed Sukkot, as this is the seventh time that we encircle the Torah and the climax of Sukkot, we ask for salvation and help from Hashem in many ways, namely regarding the crops and rain. This is the why the day is called Hosha’na Rabba; hosha = save, na = please, rabba = great.

In the times of the Bet Hamikdash, circling the mizbeach with aravot was performed every day of Sukkot once, and on the seventh day – Hosha'na Rabba - seven times. This was so important, that even if it occurred on Shabbat, circling the mizbeach with aravot was still performed in the Bet Hamikdash. 

What do we do special on this day? 

1) We study the tikkun throughout the night reviewing the entire Sefer Devarim before midnight and then recite Tehillim with excerpts of selihot. We recite Hashem Hu HaElokim in Shaharit as we do during the High Holidays. 

2) After hallel we circle the Torah seven times reciting the hosha'not prayers which are all-encompassing as will be detailed. 

3) After the Tefillah we take five aravot and bang it against the dirt. It is customary after banging the aravot to go back inside the Bet Haknesset, open the hechal, and recite Nishmat Kol Hai until (but not including) the blessing by Yishtabah. 

What is the meaning of the extra hosha'not prayers?

We go around the Torah seven times with our lulav and etrog asking "hosha'na" – please help – while mentioning Selihot that upon each segment highlight the merit of one of the seven ushpizin, the first one corresponding to Avraham, the second to Yishak, etc. 

After the seventh circuit, we then build upon the refrain of hosha'na to more and more steps of beseeching, totaling ten steps. 

  1. Hosha'na - we open with the core prayer that we have so far every day been asking Hashem to save us and as we have just done so seven times. 
  2. Anna hoshia na - we ask for the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash,
  3. Ani VaHu hoshia na - we ask for salvation from oppression with the merit of the four species that correspond to parts of our body etrog = heart; lulav = spine; hadasim = eyes; aravot = lips.
  4. Anna El na Hosha'na v'hoshia na - we ask for Him to open the bounty of produce, (naming wheat, barley, spelt, oats, rye, rice, millet, beans, lentils, olive trees and its oil, grapes, figs, pomegranates, walnuts, dates, apples, pistachios, almonds, chestnuts, carob, mini fruit, peaches, berries, pears, Etrog, and all types of vegetables and grains.)
  5. Anna El na hosha'na v'hatsliha na - we ask to be transplanted back in Eretz Yisrael with its full blessings of bounty and water.
  6. Anna El na hosha'na v'harviha na Avinu attah - We invoke the merit of Noah, Avraham, Yishak Yaakov, Moshe Rabbenu with their encounters of finding favor in the Eyes of Hashem to not withhold blessed rainwater. 
  7. Anna El na refa na, selah na, hasha'na v'hoshia na, Avinu attah - we invoke the merit of Noah, Avraham, Yishak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon to have our prayers today be of glory, praise, cherished etc. to carry throughout the year.
  8. Hoshienu Moshi'enu ki lecha enenu ulecha lishuatenu - as we tomorrow on Shemini Aseret switch over to ask for rain reciting morid hageshem we pray for a year of light, blessing, etc. in Aleph Bet order, here we ask the first four of the Alpeh Bet seemingly introducing and opening the prayer of Shemini Aseret for rain.
  9. Ha'El l'mosha'ot am nosha BAdonai, hosha'na behasdicha meyahalim l'Adonai, ki lishuatecha kivinu Adonai, Adam u'behemah toshia Adonai, ki lishuatecha kivinu Adonai. The yearning for salvation from Hashem is the reason and source of us finding favor in the eyes of Hashem. 
  10. We then culminate with beseeching for the heralding of the final redemption through Eliyahu HaNavi with the recitation of – kol mevaser, mevaser v'omer

After musaf, one takes five aravot in a bundle and goes outside to strike them against the dirt. 

What is the meaning of banging aravot against the dirt?

The aravot represent the lips and also represent the non-virtuous as it has no scent and no taste. Throughout the month of Tishri and Sukkot we had many mitsvot surrounding and protecting us. As we culminate the 'season' of mitsvot we invoke through aravot representing the lips that all, namely the Satan, which speak negatively of us to be quieted of lashon hara through hitting it against the dirt [which is the food of the snake who is the paradigm of lashon hara] that any evil spoken about us shall be quieted. 

Can I use the aravot from my lulav?

Although one halachically can use the ones from his lulav, it is preferable to use aravot not from the lulav. If one does not have aravot, then after your friend has hit his bundle on the ground if there are still most leaves attached, one should use them again, better than putting together from the ones from your lulav. (יחוה דעת ג' מ”ח).

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