Hoshana Rabbah

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Hoshana Rabbah

Between September 27 and October 24; Tishri 21
On each of the first six days of the Jewish Sukkot festival, a single stanza of the Hoshanat litany is recited (except on the Sabbath) and the congregation circles the reader's platform carrying the four species: a palm branch, citron, three myrtle twigs, and two willow branches, all gathered into a bouquet. But on the seventh day, known as the Great Hoshana, the congregation makes seven circuits around the altar, after which the four species are laid down and a bunch of five willow branches is picked up and beaten on the ground three times to symbolize humanity's dependence on rain.
Because Hoshana Rabbah is considered the last possible day on which one can seek forgiveness for the sins of the preceding year, the morning service on this day is very solemn. According to Jewish tradition, on Yom Kippur God seals the Book of Life and thus each individual's fate for the coming year. Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day of Tishri.
But since the Middle Ages, Hoshana Rabbah has been regarded as an extension of the deadline for Divine judgment. According to an old Jewish folk belief, notes fell from Heaven on this day informing people of how they had been judged. The traditional Yiddish greeting, a gute kvitl, "May you receive a good note," reflects this belief. There is also a popular superstition claiming that a man who doesn't see his shadow on this night is fated to die in the coming year.
SOURCES:
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 272
OxYear-1999, p. 726