We should "begin with blessing." This is particularly appropriate on a festival, especially so, on Sukkos, "the season of our rejoicing," and even more so on Hosha'ana Rabbah, because of the uniqueness of the day.
Happiness is associated with a new influence, to borrow halachic terminology, panim chadashos, "a new face." Thus, the first day of Sukkos reflects a new source of happiness. However, on the second day -- and surely, on the subsequent days -- it is necessary to find a new element that serves as a source of happiness.
The unique element of Hosha'ana Rabbah is obvious from the prayers recited on that day. On each day of Sukkos, we recite a Hosha'ana prayer in alphabetical order which is appropriate to the nature of the day. As evident from the name Hosha'ana, these prayers reflect a request for Divine salvation. The alphabetical nature of the prayers alludes to their being prayers of a general nature, including all the prayers and blessings recited with the letters of the alef-beis.
On Hosha'ana Rabbah, we recite -- in addition to the unique prayers appropriate to Hosha'ana Rabbah -- all the prayers of the previous days. Thus, as the very name Hosha'ana Rabbah implies, it is a day of "great salvation." This also indicates that Hosha'ana Rabbah includes all the days of Sukkos. This is particularly significant because Sukkos is a seven day festival. Seven days reflects a complete cycle of time.
Prayer (and particularly, the unique Hosha'ana prayers) permeate all the three "garments" (means of expression) of the soul:
Thought -- as implied by the injunction "Know before whom you stand," and our Sages' statement, "What is the service in the heart? Prayer,"
Speech -- for prayer must be verbalized, and
Deed -- for "the movement of one's lips is equivalent to deed."
Similarly, prayer permeates the actual physical existence of a person and the world at large. This is reflected by the law requiring a person to face Jerusalem (and, more particularly, the site of the Beis HaMikdash) while praying. Man's position in prayer reflects his union with G-d's presence.
The unique nature of Hosha'ana Rabbah requires many special activities, beginning with the celebration of Simchas Beis HaShoevah, and including the recitation of the Book of Devarim and the Book of Tehillim at night. Similarly, during the day, there are many prayers that are said and preparations must be made for the hakkafos on the following days. Also, on Hosha'ana Rabbah, it is appropriate to search out other Jews to provide them with the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of lulav and esrog.
Throughout the Sukkos holiday, these efforts are appropriate. On Hosha'ana Rabbah, the day when each Jew receives a good kvitel, in the final phase of the judgment of Rosh HaShanah, many individuals -- even those removed from Jewish practice -- seek to fulfill more mitzvos. Therefore, efforts should be made to reach out to them with this mitzvah.
Although all these activities take up time, we are given unique potentials to complete all the above service in an appropriate manner. As implied by the statement, "A person who comes to purify himself, is helped," G-d gives us the potential to act above the limitations of time.
This year, there is another unique element to Hosha'ana Rabbah. It is followed by a three day continuum of holiness. All the above should contribute to the happiness of Hosha'ana Rabbah. May this happiness lead to the ultimate happiness that will accompany the coming of Mashiach. Indeed, Hosha'ana Rabbah is particularly related to Mashiach's coming as evident from the fact that the ushpiz of Hosha'ana Rabbah is Dovid, the first of the anointed kings.
Each day, we must believe and wait for Mashiach's coming. As the Rambam writes, a person who does not do so is considered as if he denied the truth of the Torah itself.
Together with King David come all the other ushpizen and the Chassidic ushpizen from the Baal Shem Tov until the Rebbe Rashab. The Rebbe Rashab is followed by his only son and heir, who is associated with Shemini Atzeres. [He is not, however, called an ushpiz, because the term ushpiz ("guest") is not appropriate on Shemini Atzeres when all concepts are internalized and brought into our homes.]
May Mashiach come soon. Our Sages relate that directly after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Mashiach was born. This implies that the potential for the redemption was granted and, were, "Israel to repent, they would immediately be redeemed." In particular, Mashiach's coming has been hastened by the "merit of righteous women," who have in the last year, increased their practice of modesty. (Indeed, it has been said -- although I have no first hand knowledge of such -- that gentile women are also dressing more modestly.)
May the above -- coupled with the influence of tzedakah, which will be distributed at the close of this address -- bring about the coming of Mashiach immediately.
- (Back to text) Indeed, the first day, opens up the celebration of the holiday. As mentioned in the Zohar, a beginning reflects the opening up of a new channel of service or influence.
- (Back to text) The fact that the Hosha'ana prayers are recited all together elevates each prayer to a higher level than when it is recited individually on one of the previous days of Sukkos.
- (Back to text) This is reflected by our statements in prayer: "Today is the first day of the week," Today is the second day..." On the surface, how is it possible to say that this is "the first day," many days have passed since creation. Nevertheless, since each week, a new cycle of time begins, each Sunday is, in fact, "the first day."
- (Back to text) Significantly, the prooftexts the Rambam cites for Mashiach's coming are in "the portion of Bilaam" (or according to other texts, "the portion of Bilaam and Balak"). This reflects the transformation of negative influences.
- (Back to text) And, indeed, only child.
- (Back to text) Furthermore, they associate his birth with the baying of a gentile's cow, implying how it has an effect on the world at large.