Hoshana Rabbah: Suggested Exercises
There are actually two cycles of Rosh Hashana, Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur. The first is the obvious cycle, the one we recently finished. However, the prophet, Ezekiel (40:1) describes Yom Kippur as Rosh Hashana. Ezekiel hinted to the second cycle of the Days of Awe, in which Yom Kippur is Rosh Hashana, followed by Ten Days of Repentance, concluding with Hoshana Rabbah as Yom Kippur. This second cycle is understood as a gift for those who did not take full advantage of the original set. (See Zohar, Volume 1, 202b) There are others who understand the second series of Days of Awe as a challenge and opportunity to repair a deeper level in our relationship with God. (Shelah HaKodesh, Masechet Succah, Amud Hashalom, Torah Or. See too Rosh at the conclusion of Tractate Yoma, Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, Kehillat Yaakov, Final Days of Succot #4)
Hoshana Rabbah is the conclusion of the festival of Succot, aka, “z’man simchateinu,” “our time of happiness”. Hoshana Rabbah is the climax of Succot. It should be the highest expression of our joy. We can repair two important ingredients in our relationship with God:
1. We can repair the damaged caused by the joy we experienced when we sinned.
2. We can reenergize all the prayers recited, the Mitzvot performed and Torah studied over the past year without joy.
Both Teshuva practices should be based on the Seven Sefirot/Divine Attributes and the people who restored those characteristics to the world:
Inner Glory_______Eternal Perspective
Repairing the Damage Caused by the Joy of the Sin:
1. Abraham: Chesed: Lifeforce:
This category includes any waste of our basic life force, or damaging the life force of another. Eating without making a proper blessing is included in this group, as would be purely physical intimacy between husband and wife. Wasting time is considered squandering God’s Chesed, or gift of life.
The Tikkun, or repair, we desire on Hoshana Rabbah is not for the specific sin, but to repair the damage caused by the joy experienced while sinning, the joy of eating when we did not recite a proper blessing, the happiness we felt while wasting our time, the physical pleasure of meaningless intimacy.
Joyfully perform an act of kindness that will nurture the life force of another. Putting money into a Tzedaka box will not suffice. This Tikkun must be something that will actually nurture someone else’s ability to thrive. Pass around the resume of someone who is looking for work. Help a poor family celebrate the coming holidays. Teach Torah to someone else. Invite someone who otherwise would not celebrate Hoshana Rabbah to have fun with you. This act of Chesed must be done in a manner that nurtures life force. We cannot do it in a way that will make the recipient uncomfortable or shamed. The Chesed must be done with great happiness: “I would love to help you.”