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, it will only go into effect when it is handed over to the clerk. On Hosha’na Rabba decisions from Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are sent out to be delivered. On this day we can 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 coming year. On the last day of hol hamo’ed Sukkot, as this is the seventh time that we encircle the Torah and is 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 that is special on this day?
1) We study the tikkun throughout the night reviewing the entire Sefer Devarim before midnight and then we 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 a bundle of 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 of Yishtabah.
What is the meaning of the extra hosha’not prayers?
We circle 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.
- Hosha’na – we open with the core prayer that we have recited every day of Sukkot, asking Hashem to save us.
- Anna hoshia na – we ask for the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash.
- 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.
- 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 their oil, grapes, figs, pomegranates, walnuts, dates, apples, pistachios, almonds, chestnuts, carob, mini fruit, peaches, berries, pears, etrogim, and all types of vegetables and grains).
- 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.
- Anna El na hosha’na v’harviha na Avinu attah – We invoke the merit of Noah, Avraham, Yishak, Yaakov, and Moshe Rabbenu, who found favor in the Eyes of Hashem, and in their merit, we ask Hashem to not withhold blessed rainwater.
- Anna El na refa na, selah na, hasha’na v’hoshia na, Avinu attah – we invoke the merit of Noah, Avraham, Yishak, Yaakov, Moshe, and Aharon to have our prayers today be of glory, praise, cherished, etc. to carry us throughout the year.
- Hoshienu Moshi’enu ki lecha enenu u’lecha lishuatenu – as tomorrow, on Shemini Aseret, we will 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 Aleph Bet, seemingly introducing and opening the prayer of Shemini Aseret for rain.
- Ha’El l’mosha’ot am nosha B’Adonai, 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.
- We then culminate these prayers with beseeching Hashem to herald the final redemption through Eliyahu HaNavi with the recitation of kol mevaser, mevaser v’omer.