What Is Hoshanah Rabbah?

The last day of Sukkot has its own rituals

Hoshanah Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot is a semi-holiday in its own right.

Still counted among the days of Hol Hamoed (intermediate days of the festival), this day’s name means “the great hoshanah.” A hoshanah is a series of seven liturgical poems calling upon God to rescue and redeem the Jewish people, primarily by sending rain.

Hoshanah Rabbah was viewed by the rabbis of the Talmud as a mini-Yom Kippur, a day on which the entire Jewish community is judged by God to be worthy or not of the seasonal rains. All seven hoshanot prayers are recited in seven hakkafot, or processions, around the sanctuary.

lulav and etrog sukkot

At the conclusion of the seven processions, a special ritual is conducted in which the branches of the willow (the lulav) are struck upon the ground. This is a symbolic attempt to rid ourselves of any remaining sins (the leaves representing these transgressions) that might influence God’s decision to send the seasonal rains.

On the evening following Hoshanah Rabbah, the festival of Shemini Atzeret begins. While for many Jews, Hoshanah Rabbah is the last day one shakes the lulav and etrog and dwells in the sukkah, a number of traditional Jews continue to dwell in the sukkah through Shemini Atzeret.

Discover More

Sukkot 101

Beginning five days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot is named after the booths or huts (sukkot in Hebrew) in which Jews are supposed to dwell during this week-long celebration.

What is Shemini Atzeret?

Not quite Sukkot, not quite its own holiday.

Intermediate Days of Sukkot

Called Hol Hamo'ed, the intermediate days are observed differently than the beginning and final ones.