Sukkot Chol ha-Moed Day 5 (Hoshana Raba) – סוכות יום ז׳ (הושנא רבה)
Various customs have arisen owing to the day’s status as a time of Divine Judgment.
Extra lights are lit in the synagogue.
It is customary to remain awake and spend the entire night of Hoshana Rabbah reading from the Torah and Tehillim (Psalms). The particular order to be followed is printed in a special volume called Tikkun Leil Hoshana Rabbah.
In some congregations, Mishneh Torah, i.e. the entire book of Deuteronomy, is read from a Torah scroll. (No blessing is recited over this reading.)
In some congregations, the entire Book of Tehillim, the book of Psalms, is recited communally. A gartl is worn for the reading of the entire Book of Tehillim after midnight on Hoshana Rabbah. This reading is customarily not lengthy.
At the completion of each of the [five] books of the Book of Tehillim (corresponding to the five books of the Torah), one reads the brief prayer (beginning Yehi Ratzon) which is read on Hoshana Rabbah, as well as the similar prayer which is read after the moon has risen, but not the prayer which is said on Yom Tov.
On [the morning of] Hoshana Rabbah, before Hallel, one removes the two upper rings that are bound around the lulav alone, leaving only the three rings which join it with the hadassim and the aravot.
During Each day of Hag HaSuccoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, we circle the bimah with the lulav and etrog while reciting the hashana prayers. On Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Hag HaSuccoth, we circle the bimah seven times. As we mentioned earlier, we also beat the willow branches at the end of the shacharit service.
These processions commemorate similar processions around the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. The processions are known as Hoshanot, because while the procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, “Hoshana!” (help us, we pray!). On the seventh day of Succoth, seven circuits are made. For this reason, the seventh day of Succoth is known as Hoshanah Rabbah (the great Hoshanah).
The hoshanot (“help us, we pray”) are performed like those of the other days of Hag HaSuccoth except that many or all of the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark. One tradition is to take out seven Torah scrolls and return one to the ark with each circuit. Another custom is to carry a separate bunch of willows that will be beaten on the floor. A less common practice is the blowing of the shofar at the end of each circuit.
In keeping with the penitential undertone of the day, in some synagogues the leader of the service wears a kittel as on Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim. The service itself differs in that the psalms said only on Shabbat and Yom Tov are added by the Ashkenazim to the introductory portion of the service. Also, the melodies of Yom Tov are used for parts of the service.