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A Message from Rabbi Eligberg

Hosha Na – Save Us

The following was written by one of my teachers, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, z”l, in his Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom. I share it with you as it touches on some of the celebrations of our ancestors in the ancient Temple and their connection to our current worship. The Hoshanot passages also remind us of our ongoing dependence on the Holy One and the blessings of God’s creation to meet our ongoing necessities.

Moed Tov –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

Hoshanot

The Festival of Sukkot is undoubtedly the most colorful holiday of the Jewish year. It is referred to as “the season of our joy” since it celebrates an abundant harvest. Throughout the ages, different ways have been found to celebrate and concretize this happiness. Simchat Torah, for example, which was added to the celebration of Sh’mini Atzeret (the day following Sukkot), expresses the joy of reading and studying the Torah through exuberant song and dance.

In the days of the Temple (prior to 70 C.E.) Sukkot was the most widely observed of the three Pilgrimage Festivals and the ceremonies in the Temple were the most variegated and colorful. The Mishnah describes the “Water-Drawing Ceremony” that was held in the Women’s Court during the intermediate days of the Festival. So many lights were kindled there that “there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illuminated by the light of the Festival” (Sukkah 5:3). Pious people, including great sages, would dance with lit torches, while the Levites played songs of joy on a variety of instruments. All this led to the drawing of water from the Shiloach Brook, which was poured on the altar as a symbol of the rain that would begin to fall during the coming winter season.

A major feature of each day’s Temple ceremony during Sukkot was a procession in which the Kohanim would walk around the altar holding lulavim and willows, chanting phrases calling upon God to save and deliver them (Sukkah 4:5). It is possible that the people present joined in the procession. At a minimum, they joined in the singing that accompanied the procession.

The songs chanted during the processions came to be known as Hoshanot, from the words Hosha Na, Save Us. Our synagogue service derives from this ancient celebration. We too form a procession with the lulav and etrog and walk around the sanctuary chanting special Hoshanot prayers.

Most of these Hoshanot are very ancient. If they were not those composed to accompany the Temple processions, they were composed not long there-after and followed an ancient pattern. Some of them were written by early liturgical poets who also followed the simple pattern of the early hymns. All of them are litanies — brief, simple, repetitive, alphabetical songs that enable the congregation to join in as a chorus. The Hoshanot all repeat the same theme: salvation. This type of chant may have been recited on special days of crisis, when the people would hold fasts and appeal to God for help.

Since Sukkot is a time of great rejoicing, not of crisis, the question arises: “What help and salvation are we talking about here?” One possibility is that we are praying for a year in which we will be saved from any possible troubles or disasters. However, given that the Mishnah states that, “On the Festival (Sukkot) the world is judged concerning water” (Rosh Hashanah 1:2), it seems more probable that the concern is drought, and the need is for rain that will enable crops to grow and furnish us with food for the year.

A Message From Cantor Marx

 

In Sukkot we recall all the years the children of Israel spent in the desert in route to the Land of Israel, and the fact that God protected them under difficult desert conditions. And the temporary, flimsy Sukkah reminds us that God created a real sense of security and protection for the people of Israel.

In our current reality it is our turn to offer security and protection to the generations to come by doing all possible to protect the world against some of what happens outside our Sukkot. At the rate humankind is evolving Global Warming and Climate Change will define where and how we will be able to live.

I purposely said “generations to come” because the effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible on the timescale of people alive today, and will worsen in the decades to come. Temperatures will continue to rise, frost-free season will lengthen, changes in precipitation patterns, more droughts and heat waves, hurricanes will become stronger and more intense, sea level will rise, arctic likely to become ice-free, just to name a few of the consequences.

As God protected us, we shall protect God’s creations

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782