The The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. and early rabbinic sources describe Lit. Booths or huts Sukkot is the autumn harvest Festival of Booths, is celebrated starting the 15th of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Jews build booths (sukkot), symbolic of the temporary shelters used by the ancient Israelites when they wandered in the desert. Traditionally, Jews eat and sleep in the sukkah for the duration of the holiday (seven days in Israel and eight outside of Israel). The lulav (palm frond), willow, myrtle, and etrog fruit are also waved together. as a great celebration of the earth’s bounty in the form of a massive harvest festival. The holiday we celebrate today was built around an elaborate celebration of our relationship to the natural world and our intention to stay in balance with G-d’s many earth-based gifts to humanity.
It is not a stretch to declare that we are living in times of great imbalance between humanity and the earth. The climate crisis is evidence of recent generations’ refusing to live in balance with creation. In the fall of 2019 the voice of future generations wondering “what happened” to our planet manifested in the form of a 16-year-old Swedish citizen named Greta Thunberg who spoke to both the U.S. congress and the UN. She implored our leaders to remember the voices of the future and how they will look back on us if we don’t act now.
The following blessing sheet (download the PDF below) infuses Greta’s words with the ancient “Hoshanot” ritual.
The Hoshanot are an ancient synagogue-based ritual which occur each of the seven days of Sukkot. This prayer moment combines the arba minim (four species—On Sukkot, three of the four species (the palm, the myrtle, and the willow) are bound and waved together with the etrog. The lulav is said to symbolize the spine, while the myrtle's leaves symbolize eyes, the willow's leaves are lips, and the etrog is the heart. and A lemon-like fruit (citron) used at Sukkot as one of the four species. Women desiring to get pregnant were given the pitom (stem) to eat after Sukkot.), the Torah, an acrostic poem and everyone walking in a big circle as the Hoshanot are recited. (Sometimes there is even a A ram's horn that is blown on the High Holidays to "wake us up" and call Jews to repentance. It is also said that its blast will herald the coming of the messiah. for the last day!)
Customs vary on when Hoshanot happen in the Sukkot morning service. Many communities add Hoshanot to the The additional prayer service recited on holidays and on Rosh Chodesh, symbolizing the Temple sacrifice offered on those occasions. service. Some do it between Lit. “Praise” The Hallel prayers are additional prayers taken from Psalms 113-118 and are traditionally recited on the Jewish holidays of Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Chodesh, and Hanukah. and the Torah service.
The ritual begins when at least one Torah is removed from the ark and someone holds the Torah in the middle of the room. With lulav, etrog and siddurim in hand all worshippers begin a slow, single-file procession around the Torah as the prayer leader chants the words of the Hoshanah piyyut (prayer/poem). Hoshanah literally means “Save us now!” Each day has a different theme. Each time a word/phrase in the piyyut is uttered, “Hoshanah!” is proclaimed before and after, followed by a verbatim repeating by all those present. This is the rhythm of the prayer.
Leader: Hoshanah l’ma’an boreynu Hoshanah
Congregation: Hoshanah l’ma’an boreynu Hoshanah.
This is repeated until the piyyut is completed.
When a day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends. the ritual is modified so that just the ark is opened, but no Sefer Torah is removed. The traditional circling also happens on Shabbat, and the piyyut is chanted, but without the lulav and etrog.
The “Greta” Hoshanot can work the same way, including circling in synagogue. I would recommend reading the traditional Hoshanot first in Hebrew and then making sure everyone has a copy of the “Greta Hoshanot” so they can be the second verse.
And maybe, just maybe, heaven will hear the cry of the earth and the will of the people—and perhaps we can save ourselves and be saved from this dark future….