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Celebrating Jewish holidays, Sukkot through Simchas Torah, with the Carlebach "Happy Minyan" of Los Angeles

Cantor Yehuda Solomon shakes the lulav in all directions of the sukkah
at Happy Minyan's 2020 Hoshana Rabbah prayer service in L.A.

Sukkot, followed by Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah is the culminating celebration of the High Holiday period. Following the weighty days of personal reflection and repentance on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, these joyous days spent feasting in outdoor booths and dancing with the Torah help us balance the disparate observance of these holidays. This fall harvest festival brings us back to the reality of the outside world, integrating our "new" selves with our "old" lives.

The four species: Willow leaves (aravah), date-palm tree frond
(lulav), myrtle tree bough w/leaves, and citron-tree fruit (etrog)
Hoshana Rabbah is known as the last of the Days of Judgment which began on Rosh Hashana. The Zohar says that while the judgment for the new year is sealed on Yom Kippur, it is not "delivered" until the end of Sukkot (i.e., Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot), during which time one can still alter their verdict and decree for the new year. Chabad.org offers a good description of these holidays.

Consequently, the blessing which Jews give each other on Hoshana Rabbah, פתקא טבא (piska tova or pitka tova), which in Yiddish is "A guten kvitel", or "A good note", is a wish that the verdict will be positive. In this spirit, the cantor wears a kittel as on the High Holidays. Since Hoshana Rabbah blends elements of the High Holy Days, Chol HaMoed, and Yom Tov, in this spirit the cantor, in the Ashkenazic tradition, recites the service using High Holiday, Festival, Weekday, and Sabbath melodies interchangeably. 

The Carlebach Happy Minyan of Los Angeles has relocated from temporary synagogue locations (seen above) to its own, new permanent location in the Pico-Robertson district (with prayers led by Cantor Yehuda Solomon in video above and at end; Jonathan Hoenig (not shown here), and Jeffrey Rohatiner (shown below).


At the annual Hoshana Rabah service at L.A.'s Happy (Carlebach) Minyan in 2020, Rabbi Aaron Parry and Cantor Yehuda Solomon teach us their thoughts about Hoshana Raba, the concept of "Mechilah" (which means seeking forgiveness) - and how long beyond Yom Kippur may we still influence our fate for the coming year?

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