GUIDE TO SERVICES cont'd
By Rev. Dr. Louis C. Gerstein
The conclusion fo the High Holy Day season is followed shortly by the celebration of a joyous festival. One festival among all was given the name in ancient times "The Festival" -- the holiday of rejoicing "par excellence." It was Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles.
For this occasion, Shearith Israel erects a beautiful Succah that embodies within itself the principle of "a beautiful dwelling," for it is at this season of the year that the Jew is bidden to move from a permanent dwelling to a more temporary one for the purpose of realizing that it is not the material things that have permanence but the spiritual qualities that prevail and that have lasting value. We are commanded to make the "Succah" or "harvest booth" beautiful and lovely and to dwell therein, to partake of food, to study and to do there all that would normally be done within the home. In our congregation we observe the "mitsvah" of the Succah with deep devotion and a consecrated spirit. Throughout the entire week of the festival, the Succah is maintained in all its loveliness and grace by the Sisterhood of the congregation.
On the evening preceding Hosha'ana Rabbah, the "Mismarah," a special service is held in the Succah. It consists of readings from the book of Deuteronomy which is chanted in its entirety, and then the book of Genesis is begun once again.
The tradition of spending the eve before "The Great Hosanna" in study and in the reading of religious texts derives from the fact that this day marks the occasion when the final judgment of every individual will be written into the book of life for the coming year. Though it occurs during the festival season, it carries with it some of the characteristics of Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment. It is the custom for some to remain awake throughout the night and to continue to read from the Psalms, the Zohar and other religious books for added spiritual uplift, and in order the more to merit blessing in the year ahead.
On the following morning, Hosha'ana Rabbah, the entire synagogue is bedecked in white, the color of purity, and there is a beautiful blending of the joy of the festival and the solemnity of the High Holy Days. The service contains melodies that recall the majesty of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur while at the same time expressing the sense of spiritual rejoicing associated with the Succoth festival. At the conclusion of the Musaf service, seven scrolls are carried from the Ark to the reading desk and are held there while seven circuits are made about them by men and boys, carrying the lulab (palm branch), willow and myrtle and the ethrog (citron) in their hands, the cluster of "four fruits" which are the symbol of the Succoth festival. This is indeed an impressive service to behold as fathers and sons, young and old alike, worship together, singing the words which glorify God and bring gratitude and thankfulness to the hearts of His children.
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