Rabbi Dovid Saks
Succos 5774 Wings to Rise!
There is Yiddish expression Ah Tzugeklapta Hoshana, which is used to describe someone or something that looks forlorn or downtrodden.
Where is a Tzugeklapta Hoshana derived from?
The Mishna Oral Law teaches us that while the Temple in Jerusalem was in existence they would go every day of Succos except for Shabbos, to a place called Mozah in the foothills of Jerusalem and cut a tall willow branch. This branch was around 22 feet tall and it would be placed on the side of the Altar drooping over the Altar. The Kohanim priests while holding the Esrog and Lulav would circle the Altar once, accompanied by various trumpet blasts.
On the seventh day of Succos the Priests would circle the Altar seven times with their Esrog and Lulav.
Our custom today is that each day of Succos during the morning services, the Torah is taken from the Ark and a person stands by the Bimah holding the Torah. At this time, the Chazon walks around the Bimah once, with the congregation following behind him while holding their Lulav and Esrog. The Chazon leads the congregation in prayers that begin and end with the word Hoshana (Save us).
On the seventh day of Succos many more prayers are recited and the Bimah is circled seven times. This day is called Hoshana Rabah the great plea for G-ds salvation. Our Sages tell us that on Hoshana Rabah, G-ds judgment of Yom Kippur is culminated to a degree, therefore it is a day associated with additional and fervent prayers.
At the end of this procedure, the Lulav and Esrog are put down and a bundle of five Aravos - willows are taken. This bundle is called Hoshanos. Additional prayers are recited and then the willows are smacked on the ground five times. The willows, needless to say, take a beating and they become Tzugeclapta Hoshanos.
This custom dates way back to the time of our prophets.
It is interesting that our prevalent custom is to take the beaten Hoshanos and store them on top of the Ark housing the Torah scrolls.
This begs the question, why?
A little background about what the Aravah / willow represents will perhaps shed light on the matter.
Our Sages explain that of the four species that are taken and waved on Succos, the Aravah willow is the simplest; it has no taste or smell. It represents the category of people within the Jewish people who have no spiritual motivation.
When holding the four species, the Aravah finds itself sandwiched between the prestigious Esrog and Lulav. The Esrog and Lulav represent those who have a higher degree of appreciation of G-d, His Torah, and His Mitzvos. The Aravah due to its close proximity with the Lulav and Esrog becomes elevated and uplifted. The message is that each person can acquire positive energy by associating themselves with Torah scholars and people of good deeds, either personally or through the study of the works they have written.
Additionally, I came across an interpretation over the holiday that was inspiring. The Avravah leaves can resemble wings. The prophet Isaiah describes Heavenly angels as having six wings. Two cover their eyes; two cover their leg, and two with which they fly.
Our tradition is that we have two Aravos in the Lulav set. The message conveyed is, the two Aravos which represent the uninitiated and uninspired, once they are combined with the virtuous Lulav and Esrog, acquire angelic wings. Wings represent uplift and elevation, and serve to inspire us, that no matter how spiritually unfilled one may feel, there is always room for hope, optimism and an ability for personal spiritual growth.
My uncle Rabbi Moshe Saks of Jerusalem explains that the five Hoshana branches that are used to beat against the ground are not to be taken from the Aravos willows that were used with the Lulav. The reason for this is that the Aravos that were on the Lulav became elevated through the Mitzvah and cannot be beaten against the ground.
The beating of the Hoshanos on the ground represents breaking the lethargic spiritual nature within us.
After this is completed, the Hoshanos adorn the top of the Torah Ark as a representation and reminder that we