In the synagogue, the Torah scrolls are still dressed in their white mantles. Traditionally, we keep the Torah dressed in its High Holy Days clothes until we reach this day, Hoshanah Rabbah.
Hoshanah Rabbah is the seventh and final day of Sukkot. It includes the most elaborate and the most joyful rituals of the Sukkot festival. The lulav and etrog are paraded around the synagogue seven times.
It is clear, though, that Hoshanah Rabbah is a very different day of judgment. It could not be more different in tone and expression than Yom Kippur. Hoshanah Rabbah is not a day of somber self-probing. It is not a day of fasting and self-denial. It is, rather, a day of joy. Hoshanah Rabbah is the greatest day of celebration of zman simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing.
We have, it seems, two distinctly different routes toward redemption. First, we must pass through the day in which we seek forgiveness by confronting our wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. It is only after that day that we can experience the redemption of joy. We acknowledge today that
we complete our t'shuvah by giving ourselves over to joy.
Life is not just about acknowledging our faults and feeling remorse, and neither is our relationship with God. There is a second path toward atonement, a second day for discovering our scarlet sins turned to the whiteness of the Torah scroll mantles. Before the final judgment is delivered, we are given a chance to experience transformation, healing and wholeness through the path of joy. We march around the synagogue, waving our lulav and etrog, and affirm that deep and fulfilling happiness puts us on the path of return.
Pitka tava. May Hoshanah Rabbah conclude your season of judgment on a good note.
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