Laws and Customs of Hoshana Rabbah, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah – 5782
Sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Brent Levison in memory of Brent’s father, Moshe Ber ben Avraham HaLevi – Marc Levison – whose Yohrtzeit is on Sunday, 20 Tishrei . May his Neshama have an Aliyah.
Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner in loving memory of Stephen’s father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella’s parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen
To sponsor or subscribe, please email email@example.com
For a print version of this article click here
Yom Tov Campaign
As this Yom Tov season winds down I’m still collecting money for local families (South Florida) and several in Israel. Over $25,000 has been received and distributed so far. Thank you to all the contributors.
Please give generously if you have not yet done so. You can participate in this Mitzvah in one of the following ways: (Please write “Yom Tov Families” in the memo)
1) Online here
2) By Venmo to @Aryeh-Citron
3) By Cash app to https://cash.app/$
4) With Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org
5) Paypal to paypal.me/
6) Check to The Surfside Minyan 8910 Carlyle Ave Surfside Fl 33154
May Hashem bless you and your family with a good sweet year with good health, much nachas and plentiful parnassah.
All times are for the Miami area. For other times, see here.
Hoshana Rabbah – Sunday night and Monday
21 Tishrei/ Sep. 26 and 27
Hoshana Rabbah (the last day of Sukkot) is the day on which the judgment of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is considered final. The Talmud (Rosh HaShana 16a) says that on Sukkot we are judged for water upon which the entire food chain depends. Rabbi Akiva explains that this is symbolized by the water libations which took place on the Holy Altar in the Holy Temple on every day of Sukkot. Many of the Hoshanot prayers also deal with this judgment of water. In addition, the mitzvah of the four species represents the judgment for water since these species are especially dependent on water (Yerushalmi Ta’anit 1:1). Since Hoshana Rabbah is the last day of Sukkot, this judgment is finalized on this day (Mishnah Berurah, 664:7).
In addition, Hoshana Rabbah was a day that more (private) sacrifices were brought than on any other day of the year. This was because Hoshana Rabbah, as the last day of Sukkot, was the final day of the year that one could bring the sacrifices one had pledged during the year and not transgress the prohibition of delaying the fulfillment of one’s vows. (If one vowed to bring a sacrifice and delayed doing so past a full cycle of the three holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot [in that order], one would transgress the prohibition of delaying a sacrifice.) The Talmud (Yevamot 78b) says that rain is withheld for the sin of not fulfilling one’s vows (to charity). For this reason, when bringing their sacrifices, the Jews would tie the animals with willow branches and say: “Master of the World, we have not withheld our vows to you. So please do not withhold from us. Just as these willows grow on water, so grant us water.”
- The Zohar (Vol. 3, pages 31b-32a ) says that “On the seventh day of Sukkot, the judgment of the world is finalized, and the edicts are sent forth from the King… On Hoshana Rabbah the idolatrous nations come to the end of their blessings and enter into judgment while Israel comes to the end of its judgments and enters into its blessings. For on the next day (Shemini Atzeret) they rejoice privately with the King and receive blessings from Him for the entire year and obtain any request which they make.”
The Torah study, extensive prayers, and Hoshanot of this day reflect this judgment.
What’s in the Name?
The name “Hoshana Rabbah” is given to this day because of the additional aravot/willows that were waved in the Bait HaMikdash and which we still wave on this day. The aravot are referred to as hoshanot because we pray “hoshana” [save us] with the aravot (Ta’amei HaMinhagim, page 355, ot 812).
In addition, hoshana (הושע נא) can be translated as “save 51.” This alludes to the fact that this is the 51st day that we are praying for salvation – since Rosh Chodesh Elul (ibid).
On the night of Hoshana Rabbah, it is customary to stay up all night and study Torah. This is reminiscent of David HaMelech (King David), the guest (ushpizin) of Hoshana Rabbah, who would stay up all night studying Torah and singing praises to the Al-mighty (see ibid, Mishnah Beurah 664:1 and Brachot 3b).
- The widespread custom is to read the entire book of Devarim because that is where the main discussion of loving and fearing Hashem is found (Aruch HaShulchan 664:11). Most read it from a Chumash while many Chassidic groups read it from a Sefer Torah (see Piskei Teshuvot 664:1). This symbolizes the reading of this book by the Jewish king on Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot every seven years, in fulfillment of the mitzvah of Hakhel.
- Some have the custom of reading the entire Chumash and reviewing any parsha(Torah portion) that one failed to review (shnayim mikra) during the course of the year (Shibolei HaLeket, Siman 371).
- It is also customary to read the entire Book of Tehillim. This alludes to the fact that David HaMelech, author of the book of Tehillim, is the honored Sukkot guest of Hoshana Rabbah.
- It is preferable to read the Tehillim after midnight (1:11 a.m.) or at least after the moon rises. (The moon rises in Miami at 10:54 a.m. on the night of Hoshana Rabbah.) [ See below for the times of other locations.]
- The Chabad custom is to say Tehillim while wearing a gartel and to recite it quickly (Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad).
- There is a special prayer (Yehi Ratzon) for Hoshana Rabbah that should be recited after each sefer (section) of Tehillim. This is in addition to the Yehi Ratzon that is recited when the moon is out. The Yehi Ratzon of Yom Tov should also be said. Kadish is recited in between each sefer of Tehillim if there are mourners present. At the end of the Tehillim it should be recited by someone whose parents have passed away if there are no mourners present.
- There are also certain readings from the Zohar that are customarily recited on this night. The Sefardic custom is to recite these as part of the Tikun Leil Hoshana Rabbah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe mentioned this custom on several occasions.
Apples and Honey
The Lubavitcher Rebbe mentioned that there was an ancient custom for the Gabboim (shul attendants) to give out apples in Shul on this night during (or after) the saying of Tehillim. One should eat his apple in the Sukkah (after finishing Tehillim) and dip it in honey before doing so.
- Some men have the custom to immerse in the Mikvah before dawn. The Rebbe Rashab would do this. Some (also) immerse before nightfall in order to study in a state of purity.
- It is best for couples to refrain from relations on this night unless it is the Mikvah night.
Hoshanot, The Mitzvah of the Day
The Hoshanot are five willow branches (aravot) which are used during the prayers of Hoshana Rabbah (see below).
- The Yemenite custom is to use three branches.
- The custom of hitting the ground with willows originates from the prophets while the ritual of leaning willow branches against the altar in the Holy Temple (see below) was an oral tradition handed down from Sinai. This custom is so important that the Jewish calendar was structured in such a way to ensure that Hoshana Rabbah never coincides with Shabbat, thus ensuring that this custom is fulfilled every year.
- This is the reason for part of the rule that Lo Ad”u Rosh – The first day of Rosh Hashanah can never be on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. (See here.) Were Rosh Hashana to be on a Sunday, Hoshanah Rabbah would fall out on Shabbat (See Rambam, Kiddush HaChodesh, 7, 1 and Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 428:1)
- See Tosfot (D.H. Lo ikla on Sukkah 43b) as to why the calendar was arranged to prevent Hoshanah Rabbah from coinciding with Shabbat while no arrangement was made to prevent the first day of Rosh Hashanah from coinciding with Shabbat.
- It is customary in some communities to prepare hoshanot for each member of the family including small children.
- Although technically one can fulfill one’s obligation with one willow branch that has only one leaf on it, it is customary to take five branches that are complete with leaves and that look nice.
- See here for a discussion of the spiritual significance of this law.
- The Arizal said that the aravot for the Hoshanot should have all the specifications that would make them kosher to use for the Lulav. Thus, the branches should be at least 3 tefachim (10 inches) which is the same length as the aravah in the Lulav.
- Some have the custom to tie the branches together with a lulav leaf. One should not break off a leaf from his Lulav for this custom. If one’s Lulav is larger than the required size (four tefachim / handbreadths) some permit the removal of leaves from the bottom for this purpose. If one’s aravot are tied with a rubber band, it is best not to hold them (while striking them – see below) in the place of that band.
- Some have the custom of personally preparing the hoshanot for every member of their family (Otzar Minhagei Chabad, page 334 based on the custom of the Rebbe Rashab).
- The hoshanot should preferably be prepared at night. Some have a custom to pray for children to be upright Jews at this time. The gematria (numerical value) of ערבה /aravah (willow) is זרע /zerah (seed) – see below.
- It is possible to discern one’s destiny in the coming year by standing in the moonlight on the night of Hoshana Rabbah and observing one’s shadow. Since most people do not know how to interpret this properly, it is recommended that one not try to do this. Rather, one should trust in Hashem and not seek to figure out the future.
Monday, Hoshana Rabbah Day
Sep. 27/Tishrei 21
It is proper to wear Shabbat clothes on this day.
- The appropriate greeting for this day is “Good Yom Tov” or “Chag Same’ach (Aruch HaShulchan 664:13 ).”
- Some wish each other a “gmar tov” “gmar chatimah tovah,” “a gutt kvittel,” or “pitka tava.” This means that the final sealing of the judgment should be a good one.
- The Ot Chaim Veshalom (by the Munkatcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira) says that one should not say “gmar tov” which literally means “good ending,” but rather ”gmar chatimah tovah” – a sealing for the good.
- Although this is not the official Chabad custom, the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave these wishes on several occasions.
- It is customary in many communities to come to Shul early on this day (Eliyahu Rabbah, 664:3).
There are five days that one should arise early to go to Shul:
Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah, Purim, Tisha Be’Av
A mnemonic to remember these days is the verse וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר (And Avraham rose early in the morning
אַבְרָהָם stands for
- אב (Tisha Be’Av)
- בּריאת העולם (Rosh HaShana, day of Briat Ha’olam/creation of the world)
- רבּה (a reference to Yom Kippur which is referred to as the great fast day [Rabbah means great])
- הושׁענה רבּה (Hoshana Rabbah)
- מגילה (Purim on which we read the Megillah)
In some communities, the chazzan wears a kittel (white garment resembling a shroud) on this day. This is not the Chabad custom.
- Some have the custom of praying the Pesukei DeZimrah of Shabbat and Yom Tov on this day (except for nishmat since there is no additional soul on Hoshana Rabbah) as well as the Kedusha of Musaf. This is not the Chabad custom. Indeed the Arizal prayed the standard Chol HaMo’ed prayers on Hoshana Rabbah except for the Hoshanot.
- Before Hallel, one should remove the two upper rings binding the lulav, leaving only the three bottom rings. (Some have the custom of removing the rings after Hallel, before Hoshanot.) Several reasons are given for the custom of removing the binding rings:
- To increase in joy with the extra spreading of the lulav branches.
- The waving of the lulav is done as a prayer to G-d that He protect us from bad winds and dew. Thus, on the final day of the prayers for rain, this waving is increased.
- The lulav branches, which are now more spread out, represent the Jewish people who are spread out amongst the nations.
- The removal of the constricting rings also represents the easing of the birth pangs of Moshiach and the birth of Moshiach.
- It is customary to take out all of the Sifrei Torah from the Aron Kodesh (holy ark) and have people hold them at the bimah (table for the Torah reading) during hoshanot. Preferably, people who do not have their own lulav and etrog should be given this honor. If there are not enough people who do not have lulavim to hold the Torah scrolls, the scrolls should be placed on the bimah (Torah reading table). All the hoshanot are then recited while the congregation and Chazzan circle the Bimah seven times (Siddur pg. 368).
- When reciting the Hoshanos, the Chabad custom is that the chazzan begins reading aloud from the stanzas which begin with the letter samach or ayin just as he does during the hoshanot of the other days of Sukkot (according to Chabad custom).
Several reasons are given for the seven circles around the Bimah.
- This is similar to the procedure that was done in the Bait HaMikdash on this day (Levush see Sukkah 45a).
- In addition, the number of circles around the bimah corresponds to the number of circles the Jews walked around Jericho when conquering it. This may be related to the custom that some have to blow the shofar while circling the bimah. This is reminiscent of the Kohanim blowing the shofar while circling the city of Jericho. In addition, the fact that we circle the bimah once for the first six days of Sukkot and then seven times on the seventh day parallels the way the Jewish people encircled Jericho before the walls came tumbling down.
- These seven circles also resemble the seven times that the Kallah walks around the Chattan under the Chuppah. This is done to prepare the Chattan and Kallah for their unification. We are similarly preparing ourselves for our unification with G-d which takes place on Shemini Atzeret (Tiv HaKehillah by Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz).
At the conclusion of the Hoshanot, the Sifrei Torah should be returned to the Aron Kodesh, and the Chazzan should recite Kaddish. One should then take the five Aravotand beat them on the ground five times. One then recites the paragraph beginning Yehi Ratzon (pg. 382).
- According to the Arizal, one should not hold the aravot together with the lulav and etrog at all as this can cause an improper “mixture” of Chessed (kindness) and Gevurah (severity).
- Women customarily fulfill the mitzvah of striking the aravot on the floor.
What To Do with the Aravot and the Lulav and Etrog after Yom Tov?
- Some have the custom to throw their hoshanot on top of the Aron Kodesh (holy ark). Some relate this to the leaning of the aravot on the Mizbe’ach (holy altar) in the Bait HaMikdash.
- The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often put the aravot in his Siddur and take them out of Shul with him.
- Some save the aravot (as well as the lulav etc.) and use them for burning the Chametz before Pesach. If this is not possible, they burn them beforehand to ensure that they are not treated in a disrespectful way.
- Some say that carrying a leaf of the hoshanot is a segulah (spiritually propitious act) for general protection, safe travels, protection from anxiety and bad dreams, and for having children since Arava is the same gematria as zera [seed] (Piskei Teshuvot, 664, note 26 citing Likutei Maharich and others).
- Some have a custom of using the etrog as besomim (spices for havdalah); others cook it and make jam out of it. Eating it is considered a segulah for an easy childbirth. This is especially true if eaten on Tu Bishvat.
- Some save the Haddassim and use them as besamim for havdalah (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 297, 6).
- There was a custom for pregnant women to bite off the pitam of the etrog as a segulah for an easy labor. Due to various Halachic issues, the halachic authorities are glad that the custom has become neglected (see Piskei Teshuvot, 665, note 2).
- If one does not plan on using these items in the above ways, it is best not to throw them in the garbage. One should also not step on them. They can be left somewhere (under bushes or the like) where they do not get in the way and just naturally decompose. They can also be burned.
- By the letter of the law one may wrap them in a plastic bag and then throw them out.
It is proper to give extra Tzedakah on this day to sweeten the judgments just as the striking of the aravot sweetens the five levels of judgment.
Hoshana Rabbah Meal
It is customary to eat a festive meal in the Sukkah during the day of Hoshana Rabbah (Aruch HaShulchan 664:13). The meal should be eaten in the morning or early afternoon but not in the late afternoon as this would diminish one’s appetite for the evening Yom Tov meal. No Kiddush is recited.
After reciting Hamotzi, one should dip the bread into honey. According to Chabad custom, this is the last “honey dip” of this season (Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad). It is not necessary to have lechem mishnah (two loaves of challah) at this meal.
Ashkenazim have a custom to eat kreplach (pockets of dough and meat) at this meal. The reason for this custom is that on Yom tov days we eat meat. On days that are semi Yom Tov — Purim, Erev Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah – we eat a Yom Tov meal but work is not forbidden. On those days it is customary to eat meat that is covered with dough (kreplach) (Minhag Yisrael, vol. 3, page 184 quoting the Ge’ulat Yisrael ). In addition, the meat symbolizes (Divine) judgment and the dough (Divine) kindness. Thus, the covering of the meat with dough represents the tempering of the judgments with kindness (Zera Kodesh by the Ropshitzer Rebbe).
According to Chabad custom, the last time one recites LeDavid Hashem ohri (Psalm 27) in this holiday season is during mincha of Hoshana Rabbah. In some communities, this psalm is recited on Shmini Atzeret as well.
Shmini Atzeret – Night and Day
Monday night and Tuesday, Sep. 27 and 28/ 22 Tishrei
This holiday is called (Shmini) Atzeret to indicate that the Divine Presence asks us (so to speak) to stay and celebrate for one more day with Him (Atzor means to stop). The holiday of Shavuot is also called Atzeret, indicating that Shmini Atzeret is considered equal to the day of the giving of the Torah (Kad HaKemach cited in Taamei HaMinhagim).
Candle-lighting time is 6:53 p.m. (Miami time).
The candles should be lit in, or at least be visible from, the Sukkah (see below).
The following two Brochos should be recited: Baruch…L’hadlik Ner Shel Shabbat Veshel Yom Tov and Baruch…Shehechiyanu. According to some customs, women should not say Shehechiyanu (See Mishnah Berurah, 263:23).
It is customary for those who recite Yizkor to light a 24-hour candle in memory of their departed relatives. One candle is sufficient even if one is reciting Yizkor for more than one person. No beracha (blessing) is recited over this candle.
Even those who (thank G-d) do not have to say Yizkor should light a 48-hour candle to ensure that they have a flame with which to light the candles on the evening of Simchat Torah.
The first night the procedure for saying the Kiddush is as follows:
- Borei Pri Hagafen
- Bracha of Kiddush for Yom Tov
(We say the blessing of Shehechiyanu on Shmini Atzeret as opposed to on the Seventh day of Pesach when we do not, because Shmini Atzeret is considered a separate holiday in this respect. [see Sukkah 47b])
Accepting Shmini Atzeret Early
One who accepts Shmini Atzeret early should not begin his meal until nightfall. The reason for this is that technically it is still Sukkot and during Sukkot one must make a bracha before eating in the Sukkah. In fact, however, he has accepted Shmini Atzeret upon himself and on Shmini Atzeret we do not make a bracha on the Sukkah (see below). We therefore avoid this situation by not eating until nightfall.
- If in the Amidah or in the Kiddush one mistakenly said “Chag HaSukkot Hazeh” instead of “Shmini Atzeret HaChag Hazeh”, he should go back and correct that mistake. If one realized his mistake after already completing the Amidah or the Kiddush, there is an argument as to whether one should repeat the Amidah (or Kiddush) or not. In practice, in this case, if possible, it is best to listen to the Chazan’s repetition of the Amidah (or to someone else reciting Kiddush) with the intention of fulfilling one’s obligation.
Hakafot on Shmini Atzeret
After Ma’ariv, the custom in many Chassidic communities, based on the Arizal, is to do Hakafot (Siddur pg. 383) and dance with the Torah.
In the words of the Alter Rebbe in his siddur: “It is an ancient custom of the pious to make Hakafot on the eve of Shmini Atzeret just as on Simchat Torah – to carry the Torah Scrolls in procession around the bimah seven times with great joy, to dance and sing before them [the Torah Scrolls], to go around (the bimah) with them with great rejoicing…”
- The reason for this custom seems to be that since Simchat Torah is celebrated in Israel on the eve of Shmini Atzeret, so the Jews outside of Israel participate in their rejoicing by making Hakafot as well.
- In non-Chassidic communities, there are no Hakafot on this night.
- In some Chassidic communities, there are Hakafot on the day of Shmini Atzeret as well. They are thus participating in the joy of those in the land of Israel. This is not the Chabad custom.
- In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on Shmini Atzeret (Mishnat Chassidim, Sukkah 12, 9).
- It is best to refrain from marital relations on this night (unless it is mikvah night). The same applies to the night of Simchat Torah (Kaf HaChaim, 668, 11 in the name of the Arizal).
Precious 48 Hours
The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote (Sefer HaMinhagim, Chabad): “My revered father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, citing his father, the Rebbe Rashab, earnestly taught that the 48 hours of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah should be dearly cherished, for at each moment one can draw bucketsful and barrels full of treasures both material and spiritual, all of which is accomplished through dancing.”
In or Out of the Sukkah?
According to most Halachic authorities, it is proper to eat in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeret if one is in the diaspora just as one does on Sukkot, albeit without the bracha of leisheiv ba’Sukkah. The reason for this is that outside of Israel, every day of Yom Tov is treated as if it might be the previous day. We cannot, however, say the bracha of leisheiv basukah since it is actually the holiday of Shmini Atzeret when one is not obligated to eat in the Sukkah (by Torah law). Thus, reciting the bracha would denigrate the holiday of Shmini Atzeret (Mishnah Berurah, 668:7).
- Regarding one who sleeps in the Sukkah on Sukkot, some say that one should not sleep in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeret as this would demean the holiday of Shmini Atzeret, while others say that one should sleep in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeret (see sources quoted in Kaf HaChaim 668:5).
- Some say that while one should eat grain foods in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeret, one need not go into the Shukkah to eat non-grain foods, although during Sukkot it is a mitzvah to eat these in the Sukkah (Derech HaChaim, quoted in Shaar HaTziyun, ibid, 8). The Chabad custom is to be particular on Shmini Atzeret and eat and drink all foods (including water) in the Sukkah (Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad, see Likutei Sichot, vol. 9, page 227, note 17).
- The custom of many Chassidic communities is to make kiddush and have mezonotin the Sukkah and to eat the rest of the meal indoors (see Piskei Teshuvot, 668, note 3).
- The Talmud (Sukkah 47a) says, “And the law (regarding Shemini Atzeret) is that we sit in the Sukkah, but we do not make a blessing.” As such one should only follow the lenient opinion if this is the custom of one’s family and/or community (see ibid).
- In Israel, one need not eat in the Sukkah at all on Shmini Atzeret.
- The Chabad custom is to not dip the challah in honey on Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, rather, one should dip the challah in salt as usual (Hayom Tov, 21 Tishrei ).
- We do not say “Harachaman hu yakim lanu et sukkat David hanofalet” when reciting Birkat HaMazon on Shmini Atzeret.
Shmini Atzeret Day
Tuesday, Sep. 28 / Tishrei 22
Shacharit of Yom Tov should be followed by complete Hallel.
Although we eat in the Sukkah (in the diaspora) on Shmini Atzeret (as explained above), we do not shake the Lulav on this day since it is muktzah on Yom Tov. On the first days when it is an actual mitzvah, it is not muktzah. But since the eighth day is not actually Sukkot, we do not shake it since the only reason for it to not be muktzah is if it’s not Yom Tov. Thus, shaking it would be denigrating the Yom Tov of Shmini Atzeret. Whereas sitting in the sukkah is not denigrating the Yom Tov since one may sit in a Sukkah on Yom Tov as well.
- An additional reason for not shaking the lulav on Shmini Atzeret is that the mitzvah of shaking the lulav from the second day of Sukkot and on, is only Rabbinic. As opposed to Sukkah which is a Torah mitzvah throughout the holiday. The rabbis were not strict regarding a Rabbinic mitzvah in a case of doubt (Sefer HaMichtam on Sukkah 47a, in the name of the Raavad).
- Ashkenazim begin the Torah reading begins with Aser Te’aser (“Tithe, you shall surely tithe”) since this is the season of separating the tithes (Mishnah Berurah 668:12). Sefardim begin with Kol HaBechor which is later in that same reading (Shulchan Aruch 668:2).
After the Torah reading, Ashkenazim recite Yizkor (pg. 337 in the Siddur).
- The reason we recite Yizkor at the end of every Yom Tov is to elicit the merit of our holy ancestors on behalf of ourselves and our children. A similar occurrence would take place in the Bait HaMikdash (Holy Temple) on the three Regalim(pilgrimage festivals) – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The neshamot (souls) of the patriarchs are manifested in the spiritual Bait HaMikdash that is in heaven. The heavenly Bait HaMikdash would in turn be manifested within the physical Bait HaMikdash in Jerusalem. It was for this reason that on these festivals there was always enough room to bow down despite the vast numbers of people.
- It is customary for those not reciting Yizkor to leave the Shul while it is being recited. The reason for this is that if they were to remain inside, people might think (or say) that their parents passed away. This may cause an ayin hara (negative judgment) against them (Ta’amei HaMinhagim, page 247).
- One who is within the first year of the passing of his relative should remain in Shul for Yizkor but not recite the prayer in their memory. This is the Chabad custom (Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad regarding Yom Kippur). Some say that they should leave the Shul during that year as well.
- The reason for this is that if they would remain in Shul and say the Yizkor prayer, they may wail and cry, thus disturbing the joy of their Yom Tov as well as the concentration of others. An additional reason is that during the first year after passing, the memory of one’s loved one is so strong that one does not need to recite the prayer to “remember” them.
- It is beneficial for the souls of one’s departed relatives that one commit to giving tzedakah in their merit. Nevertheless, one should not say that they are vowing to do so as one who does not fulfill a vow is committing a serious sin which can have negative results. Rather, one should say “bli neder” (without the strength of a vow) or simply “she’etein l’tzdakah” (that I will give to tzedakah).
The Prayer for Rain
We begin praising G-d for giving us rain by saying mashiv haru’ach umorid hageshem(He makes the wind blow and the rain fall) in the second blessing of the Amidah on Shmini Atzeret day.
Although the rainy season (in Israel) actually begins on the first day of Sukkot, we do not mention rain in our prayers during Sukkot as rain in the Sukkah is a sign of a curse (Ta’anit 2a).
- We do not begin mentioning rain on the eve of Shmini Atzeret since not as many people come to davening in the evening as they do in the morning. Nor do we begin mentioning rain in Shacharit (morning prayers) of Shmini Atzeret as it is forbidden to interrupt between the blessing of Ga’al Yisrael and the Amidah in order to make the announcement of Mashiv HaRu’ach (see Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 114:1 and below).
- Nevertheless, we don’t begin asking for rain in our weekday prayers (in the ninth blessing of the Amidah) until the seventh of Cheshvan in Israel or the fourth of December in the Diaspora (see ibid 117:1).
- Prior to Mussaf, the Gabbai announces that we begin saying Mashiv HaRu’ach U’morid Hageshem (G-d makes the wind blow and the rain to fall). As mentioned, this is added in the second bracha (blessing) of the Amida. “The Sages placed the mention (of rain) in the blessing that praises G‑d for resurrecting the dead because the rains are considered equivalent to the Resurrection. For just as the Resurrection of the Dead (brings) life to the world, so too, rains [bring] life to the world (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 114:1).”
- The Chazzan recites the special Tefilla of Geshem – prayer for rain (Siddur pg. 355) during his repetition of the Musaf Amida.
If One Forgot
Following the announcement, if one forgot to say Mashiv HaRu’ach U’morid Hageshem,the law is as follows:
- If one at least said Morid Hatal (G-d makes the dew fall) [this praise is recited during the summer by Sefardim as well as by Ashkenazim who pray Nusach Sefard or Arizal], he need not repeat the Amidah. Nevertheless, if one realized his omission before saying the name of G-d at the end of the second blessing (mechayeh hameitim), he may insert Mashiv Haru’ach etc. in the middle of the bracha at any point before the words “Baruch Attah…”
- One who didn’t say either Mashiv HaRu’ach or Morid Hatal and already completed the blessing and started the next one must stop where he is and repeat the Amidah from the beginning.
- If one remembered before beginning the next bracha, he may say it at that point.
- One who is praying alone on the morning of Shmini Atzeret should not say Musaf before the time that the announcement of Mashiv HaRu’ach is made in Shul (Shulchan Aruch HaRav ibid).
- One who heard the Mashiv HaRu’ach announcement before davening Shacharit (praying the morning service) must say Mashiv HaRu’ach when he prays Shacharit if he is praying without a minyan (Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad).
Taking Leave of the Sukkah
On the afternoon of Shmini Atzeret, it is customary to visit the Sukkah for one last time to “take leave” of the Sukkah. In Yiddish, this is referred to as “bazegennen zich mit di Sukkah.”
There is a Yehi Ratzon prayer that many recite on this occasion. In it one prays that we should merit to sit in the Sukkah made of the Leviathan skin. The Chabad custom is to not recite this but to simply have a small snack. In Israel, one should take leave of the Sukkah in the afternoon of Hoshana Rabbah.
Reviewing the Final Parsha
In keeping with the law of reviewing each parsha with the Aramaic translation, (shnayim mikrah ve’echad targum), one should read the Torah portion of Vezot HaBracha (twice with the translation of Onkelus) on Shmini Atzeret afternoon or Simchat Torah morning before the Torah reading is completed.
This is the Chabad custom. Some say that this reading should be done on Hoshana Rabbah, or on the evening of Simchat Torah. In Israel, where Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are combined into one day, this reading should be done on Hoshana Rabbah.
- Certainly, one may not do this reading before Hoshana Rabbah.
- If one missed this reading before Simchat Torah, one can do it on the night following Simchat Torah.
- One may not prepare for the second day of Yom Tov before 7:44 p.m.
Tuesday night and Wednesday, Sep. 28 and 29/ 23 Tishrei
Candle-lighting time is not before 7:44 p.m. and should be done using a pre-existing flame.
One should recite two brachot: L’hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov and Shehechiyanu.
After Maariv (and Kiddush) we have Hakafot with celebration and dancing.
In communities where it is customary to make Kiddush before Hakafot, they should be very careful not to get drunk at that point. The joy during Hakafot should be the joy of the Torah and not the joy of alcohol.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted that his chassidim visit Shuls of other communities on Simchat Torah. The purpose of this is that having “new faces” increases the joy in those shuls. This is referred to as Tahalucha (a march).
Some have a custom to leave a lit candle in the Aron Kodesh (holy ark) when all the Torah scrolls are removed. This is based on the verse, “For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah is light (Mishlei 6:23).” Others question this practice. The Chabad custom is not to do this.
If necessary, one may do the hakafot without a minyan.
It is customary to recite various significant Torah verses beginning with “Atah horeita” before beginning the hakafot.
In some communities, the Aron Kodesh (holy ark) is opened during the Atah horeitawhen the verse vayhi binso’ah is recited. This is not the Chabad custom.
The custom in the shul of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (770 Eastern Parkway) in the later years was to repeat the verses of Atah Horaitah three times.
The Chabad custom is to add the verse Vehaya Zaracha etc. (Gen. 28:14) at the end of the third Atah Horaita.
“One should dance and sing in honor of the Torah as it says concerning King David: ‘King David [was] skipping and dancing before the L-rd (Samuel II, 6:16).’ It was testified regarding the Arizal that he said that the highest level that he achieved was in the merit that he rejoiced with all his strength at a simcha (joy) of a mitzvah (Mishnah Berurah, 669:11 in the name of the Maharik).”
- One may not refuse the honor of holding the Torah during a hakafah just as one may not refuse the honor of receiving an aliyah (Piskei Teshuvot, 669:1 in the name of Rav Shlomo Kluger).
- The Sifrei Torah should be adorned with their crowns for this dancing (Zohar, Parshat Pinchas 256b).
- While the Sifrei Torah are being carried, it is proper for all present to stand and not to sit. If one is weak and needs to sit, he may do so during the hakafot but (preferably) not while the Sifrei Torah are being placed in or taken out of the Aron Kodesh. In addition, one should try to stand for the first time the Torah is taken around the Bimah for each of the Hakafot (Halichot Shlomo, vol. 2, 12:9).
- It is not proper to give the Sefer Torah to a child for him to carry and dance with (ibid 10).
- If one completed the hakafot in his shul and then goes to visit another shul where they are still doing the hakafot, he should rejoice and sing with them (Siddur HaRav see Kaf HaChayim 669:30).
- The Chabad custom is to return the Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls) to the Aron Kodesh between each hakafah.
- There are certain songs that were customarily sung by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Hakafot. Some of these are: The Hakafot Niggun, the hakafot nigun of Reb Levi Yitzchak (the Rebbe’s father), Al HaSela Hach, Vechol Karnei Reshaim and others.
- The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe once said (Sefer HaSichot, 5704, pg. 36) that since the Torah cannot dance, we become the feet of the Torah when we dance with it at Hakafot.
- One who is in the year of mourning after the loss of a parent should not dance with the Torah. He may, however, be present during the Hakafot. According to Chabad custom, he may walk around the Bimah while holding a Sefer Torah if he is accompanied by someone else Sefer HaMinhagim Chabad, see Kaf HaChaim, 669:33).
- It is the custom of the Jewish people to rejoice on these days even more than on other Yamim Tovim or on Simchat Bait Hasho’eva.
- The Kabbalistic meaning of clapping one’s hands is to overpower the left with the right, the kindness over the strength and the mercy over the judgment. The five fingers of the right hand represent the five levels of Divine kindness while the five fingers of the left hand represent the five levels of Divine judgment.
- It is customary for the children to wave flags during the hakafot of Shimchat Torah. This represents that our “flag” (i.e., our identity) is the Torah (Minhag Yisrael Torah, pg. 207).
Some have a custom to read from the Torah on the evening of Simchat Torah after the Hakafot. This is not the Chabad custom.
- Aleinu is recited after the end of Hakafot.
It is customary in many communities in Israel to make a “second Hakafot” on the night after Shmini Atzeret although the Yom Tov is finished in Israel at that time. The reason for this custom, which was the practice of the Arizal, is to share in the joy of the Jews outside of Israel.
Kiddush and Havdalah (Siddur Page 329)
The order of the kiddush of Simchat Torah is
1. Borei Pri Hagafen
2. Bracha of Kiddush for Yom Tov
3. Bracha of Shehechiyonu
When saying the blessing of Shehechiyanu on Simchat Torah, one should bear in mind that the blessing is not only on the holiday but also on the Torah itself.
For this reason, some say that it is best for every man to make his own Kiddush on the night of Simchat Torah rather than listen to the Kiddush said by someone else (see Likutei Sichot 19, page 371 and note 6).
“It is known to all that when reciting the verse of Shema Yisrael before going to sleep on Simchat Torah, one should accept upon himself to be completely devoted to spreading Torah with self-sacrifice of his body, spirit and soul. In fact, this must become the very essence of his being.”
Simchat Torah Day
Wednesday, Sept. 29/ 23 Tishrei
It is customary in many communities (including Chabad) that the Kohanim give their blessing in Shacharit of Simchat Torah instead of Musaf. The reason for this is that many people make kiddush before Hakafot and drink alcohol. This may invalidate a kohen from reciting the priestly blessing.
In some communities the Birkat Kohanim is recited during Musaf as usual. In such a community, the Kohanim should make sure not to drink alcohol before this blessing.
On the day of Simchat Torah, the Chabad custom is to recite all seven Hakafot while circling the Bimah three and a half times. Following this, all join in dancing with the Torah.
Aliyot for All
Following the Hakafot, all men and boys over Bar Mitzvah should be called to the Torah. This is done by repeating the Torah reading as many times as necessary (up to the aliyah of Chattan Torah). In some communities it is customary to call several people up to one aliyah. In such communities it is proper that at least the first five aliyot be given to one person each.
If there are many Kohanim and/or Levyim, one may call them up for the fourth or fifth Aliyah.
When repeating the reading in order to give everyone an Aliyah, if the kohanim already received aliyot, they need not leave the room when giving the first Aliyah (of the later rounds) to a non-Kohen. The Gabbai should simply call the Levi or Yisrael and say “Af Al Pi Sheyesh Kohen – Even though there is a Kohen present.”
A special Aliyah is reserved for all of the children. It is called Kol Hane’arim (all the children). In many communities, it is the final Aliyah before the Chatan Torah. It is customary in some communities to spread a Talit over the children’s heads while they receive this Aliyah and to read the verse of Hamalach hago’el after the Aliyah. Although this concept is correct on a spiritual level, it is not the Chabad custom.
Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit
In some communities, the Rav or an outstanding Torah scholar is honored with the Chatan Torah Aliyah (the Aliyah that completes the Torah). In other communities such a person is honored with the Chatan Bereishit Aliyah (the Aliyah that begins the Torah). In any case, it should be a person who is honored and respected because of his importance or his wealth.
- The Lubavitcher Rebbe would customarily receive the Chatan Bereishit aliyah.
- Some say that the Chatan Bereishit Aliyah is a segulah (spiritually propitious act) for wealth and should therefore be given (or sold) to a generous person who will use his wealth properly.
- A Kohen or Levi may receive these aliyot.
- A father may receive the aliyah of Chattan Torah even if the son received the previous aliyah (or vice versa). It would seem that the same would apply to Chattan Torah and Chattan Bereishit (see Kaf HaChaim, 669:11).
- One who already received an aliyah during the regular Torah reading may still receive one of these aliyot. But one person should not be both the Chattan Torah and the Chattan Bereishit (Mishnah Berurah 669:2).
- It is considered proper to pay for receiving these (and many other) honors. This indicates how precious we consider the Torah and Mitzvot (Ta’amei HaMinhagim). The proceeds should go towards supporting the Shul or Beit HaMidrash and towards supporting Torah scholars.
- The Chatan Torah (the one honored with the final aliyah of the Torah) completes the Torah using the first Sefer Torah
It is customary in many communities for the person doing hagbah to lift up the Torah while reversing his hands and to then turn the Torah around in midair. This symbolizes the need to delve into the Torah. It also symbolizes how Moshe shared the Torah with the people and did not keep it for himself. This is not the Chabad custom.
- The Ashkenazi custom is to not recite Half kaddish between the Chatan Torah and Chattan Bereishit. Nevertheless, if one started to say Kaddish he may finish it (Kaf HaChaim 669:8).
- Some Sefardim have the custom to say half-kaddish between these readings (ibid 8).
- The second Sefer Torah is used for the Chatan Bereishit Aliyah (the one honored to begin the Torah).
When reading the beginning of the book of Bereishit, the community recites aloud the words at the end of each day of creation (Vayehi Erev Vayehi Boker etc.) as well as the paragraph about Shabbat (Vayechulu).
This is to publicly proclaim our belief in the creation story as recorded in the Torah and to indicate that the continued existence of the world is dependent on the Jewish people’s continued devotion to G-d (Ta’amei HaMinhagim). Half-Kadish is recited after the Chatan Berieshit Aliyah. If half-Kaddish was mistakenly recited after Chattan Torah, it should be recited again after Chatan Bereishit (Elya Rabbah).
The third Torah is used for Maftir.
Following the Torah reading, we recite Sisu V’simchu (Siddur pg. 388) and pray Musaf.
The Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit usually sponsor a feast on Simchat Torah in honor of the completion of the Torah. A mourner may participate in this meal (Rama 669, Mishnah Berurah 8).
Chumash of the Day
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted that on a daily basis one should study a portion of the weekly parsha, a daily section of Tanya, and recite a section of Tehillim. This is called Chitas (an acronym of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya). On Simchat Torah one should complete the Torah portion of Vezot HaBracha until the end and begin the portion of Bereishit up until the portion of that day (i.e., the first reading – Revi’i, since Simchat Torah is on Wednesday.)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe would lead a farbrengen starting on Yom Tov after Mincha and continuing on into the night. This was to draw the holiness of the Yom Tov into the rest of the year. It was customary at this farbrengen to sing all of the songs of the holy Rabbeim. The Rebbe would encourage everyone to wash and eat bread at these farbrengens.
VeYa’akov Halach Ledarko
In many communities, including Chabad, it is customary for the Gabbai to bang on the bima after Ma’ariv and announce: “VeYa’akov Halach Ledarko” (And Yaakov went on his way – Gen. 32:2) at the end of both the Simchat Torah and Shabbat Bereishit services. This indicates that the Yom Tov season has finished and that it is now time to actualize one’s resolutions and “go” in the way of Torah and mitzvot.
Yom Tov ends at 7:43 pm.
Havdala is done without a candle and Besamim (spices) as it is the end of a Yom Tov that doesn’t coincide with Shabbat.
We do not say Tachanun for the duration of this month (HaYom Yom, Tishrei 9).
Thursday, Sep. 29 and 30/Tishrei 24
Isru Chag (the day after a major holiday) is considered a minor holiday. One may not fast on this day. In addition, one should have a (somewhat) festive meal in honor of the day.
Laws for one who davens without a minyan
- On Hoshana Rabbah
One may recite all of the hoshanos and strike the aravot on the floor.
One need not walk around with the lulav and esrog
- On Shmini Atzeret
See below re Hakafot
One should not daven Musaf until the time that his Shul is expected to daven Musaf. He may then mention rain in Musaf. If he doesn’t daven Shacharis until the time that his usual shul already davened Musaf he should mention rain in Shacharit as well.
One may say Yizkor without a minyan
- On Simchat Torah
One may recite the verses of the Ata Horaita and the hakafot when praying alone. If one happens to have a Torah scroll they may dance with it. Otherwise, one may dance on their own (although this is not obligatory).
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father was exiled to Siberia he once spent the night of Simchat Torah dancing with a mishnayot that he had – in the small space between his bed and the table in his room. See here
Wishing you a Gut Mo’ed, a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach and a Good Yom Tov. May Klal Yisrael be blessed with a good year in every way!