Today is Hoshanna Rabba. The last day of Sukkot, Hoshanna Rabba is like a mini-festival sporting the theme of THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO CHANGE YOUR FATE FOR THE COMING YEAR. All the joy of Sukkot; all the pleading of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; none of the nasty fasting!
Needless to say, this is not a holiday that I knew about before I became religious. After the heavy hitters of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the fuss associated with Sukkot (build a house outside your house; buy a perfect and expensive lemon-like fruit to wave with palm, willow, and myrtle branches), it gets a little bit lost.
What I like about it–even though it is a very long service* for a weekday morning**–is that it really speaks to the forgiving and cyclical nature of Judaism. Even with the 40-day build up to Yom Kippur (the month before Rosh Hashana, plus the week after), we still have almost two weeks afterwards to examine our souls before presenting the “final” version.
And it’s never really final. The door is always open to repentence, change, or the pursuit of self-improvement.
Wishing everyone a joyous Simchat Torah, which is going to barrel through in the next several hours. Not the best holiday to be a woman in a run-of-the-mill synagogue. One day I’ll find a meaningful place to be. Or go back to college, where it was fun and a lot more equitable. (Not really, on the college part. Too bad, though.)
* Adds psalms to the morning service normally associated with Shabbat and Holidays, plus Hallel (extra psalms for festivals–it is Sukkot, after all–added after the morning service), plus many extra call-and-response pleas on the whole “please save us from ourselves” theme of the day.
** In America our large synagogue usually had 3 or 4 different services, starting at 5:30 am and staggered every half-hour or so, because many people would then have to go to work. In Israel many more people are on vacation for Sukkot, so a 7:00 start is acceptable for most.