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What Is Hoshana Rabbah?

Considered the end of the “Days of Judgment,” Hoshana Rabbah marks the completion of Sukkot and features a special ceremony with willow branches.

Worshippers circle the holy scriptures seven times before striking the ground with willow branches.

© iStockphoto.com/olala23

Is Hoshana Rabbah a Public Holiday?

While this is not a public holiday in the United States, some Jewish-run organizations are closed on this date.

When Is Hoshana Rabbah?

Hoshana Rabbah is celebrated on the 21st day of the month of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in October in the Gregorian calendar.

Striking of the Willows

During Hoshana Rabbah services, the Torah scrolls are taken out of the Ark and held above the temple´s bimah or Torah reading table. The congregation then makes a procession of seven circuits around the bimah while reciting special Hoshaanot prayers.

Traditionally, each worshiper holds a lulav and etrog, or bundle of branches from date palm, myrtle, willow, and citron trees during this procession.

At the conclusion of the circuits, a bundle of five willow branches is beaten on the earth five times to symbolize the elimination of sin and as a prayer for good rainfall and bountiful crops in the coming year.

Afterward, a festive meal is often served in a sukkah, an outdoor shelter specially built for the Sukkot holiday. Bread and honey are often served, along with triangular kreplach dumplings filled with ground beef or chicken.

A Final Chance to Change Fate

Hoshana Rabbah is thought of as the end of a period known as the Days of Judgment that begins on Rosh Hashanah, continues through Yom Kippur, and ends on the last day of Sukkot.

Some ancient scholars held that divine judgment for the coming year is decided on Yom Kippur, but not delivered until the day of Hoshana Rabbah. So the belief is that there is still a chance to influence the final verdict on one's fate up until this time.

Jews often greet each other with a special blessing on this holiday using the Aramaic “pitka tava,” or Yiddish "a guten kvitel,” both translating as a hope that the divine verdict will be positive.

There are some small variations in traditions for Hoshana Rabbah. Sephardic Jewish communities include prayers for forgiveness known as selichot before services, and some congregations include shofar or ram´s horn soundings with the processions.

Jewish Holidays Last Longer Outside of Israel

In the Jewish diaspora—Jewish communities outside of Israel—an extra day is usually added to religious observances, with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts only one day worldwide, and Rosh Hashana, which is celebrated over two days in both Israel and the diaspora.

This custom has its roots in ancient times when the beginning of the months in the Jewish calendar still relied on the sighting of the crescent Moon following a New Moon.

The beginning of a new month was determined by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel in Jerusalem. Once the date was published, messengers were dispatched to spread the news among Jews living abroad. Since this process took some time, it was decreed that Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for two days to make sure the rules and customs applicable to each holiday were observed on the proper date. This rule is still observed today.

About Last Day of Sukkot in Other Countries

Read more about Last Day of Sukkot.

Last Day of Sukkot Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2019SunOct 20Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2020FriOct 9Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2021MonSep 27Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2022SunOct 16Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2023FriOct 6Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2024WedOct 23Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2025MonOct 13Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2026FriOct 2Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2027FriOct 22Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2028WedOct 11Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday
2029SunSep 30Last Day of SukkotJewish holiday

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.