Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Willow Circle of Life

Today on Hoshana Rabba, G-d's book of judgment is sealed. All we have done from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur and Sukkot reaches its pinnacle today, as our personal fates are sealed (with G-d's help for good) and the world is judged for water (may it be blessingly abundant) and for the next year's fruit and crops.
Jews in synagogues around the world circle the bima, as they have for the past week of Sukkot, but today even more so.
They call out to Hashem in His many attributes (of kindness, strength, splendor, triumph, glory, foundation and Kingship) and ask for His blessings. We ask G-d for His salvation now.
We ask Him to save us as He saved our forefathers. We ask for the return of the Holy Temple and the services that were performed there for the Jewish nation as well as the nations of the world.
We pray for an end to the Exile.
We especially ask for rain. The hoshana service centers on the aravot, willow, which depends on water.
The Artscroll Women's Siddur says, "The Talmud teaches that during Sukkot, the Heavenly Tribunal judges the world with regard to its water supply for the following year. G-d ordained the water-libations of Sukkot as a source of merit..."
I attended this morning's Hoshana Rabba service in Efrat's Congregation Tiferet Avot. The men circled the synagogue with their four species, including the lulav and etrog. And then at the end of the service, we called out, "Open the gates of heaven, and Your goodly treasure trove may You open for us. Save us, do not let accusations be drawn out and save us, G-d of salvation."
We all took the willow in hand, recited, "Kol mevaser mevaser u'omer...the voice of the herald heralds and proclaims..." and beat our willow bundles to the ground five times.
May Hashem forgive our sins and grant us a blessed new year. As it is written, "May Hashem open for you His goodly treasure trove, the heavens, to give your land rain in its season and to bless all of your handiwork." Amen.
A video clip of this morning's service can be found here:

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