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Jews complete 3-weeks of penance on Shemini Atzeret / Hoshana Rabah - exclusive video

Jews around the world observed Hoshana Rabbah on Friday, 9 Oct. The day is known as the day of the final sealing of judgment for the coming year, which began on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, 3-weeks ago.

Prayer services at Los Angeles' Orthodox "Happy Minyan" were filled with pleas for forgiveness and blessing, as begun on Yom Kippur. Hoshana Rabbah marks the final day of the holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles.

The modern day observance of the rituals of Hoshana Rabbah are reminiscent of the practices that existed in the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. During Sukkot, the four species (citron and woven lulav) are taken in a circuit around the synagogue once daily. On Hoshana Rabbah, there are seven circuits.

The priests carried the palm branches or willows in their hands. The entire ceremony is to demonstrate rejoicing and gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year.

Five willow branches are beaten on the ground or other surface to symbolize the elimination of sin. This is also symbolic as a prayer for rain and success in agriculture. According to the Kabbalah, beating the ground with the five willow branches is done to "Sweeten the Five Severities". There is no blessing said for this ritual, but the Aramaic expression "chabit, chabit velah barich" is chanted. This happens to be the oldest known Jewish custom (or Minhag) in Orthodox Judaism. (Source Wikipedia)

Today marks the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret - and tonight and Sunday, the celebration marking the completion of the annual cycle of temple-readings of the Torah - Simkhat Torah begins. Synagogues' Torahs are carried, kissed, and danced around the congregation (and sometimes overflowing into the streets).

The Torah's are scrolled back to the beginning - and the cycle of reading, worship, and study begins anew.

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