Jerrold Landau
Genealogical and Translation Services




Hoshanot are the set of piyyutim recited during the Hakafot processions with the lulav and etrog on Sukkot. Most of the Hoshanot are presumed to have been written by Rabbi Eleazar HaKalir. A single procession takes place on the first six days of Sukkot (actually on five of the six days, as one of the days will invariably be Shabbat). There is an elongated Hoshanot service for Hoshana Rabba, which includes the ceremony of the beating of the arava. A unique set of Hoshana piyyutim are recited on the Shabbat of Sukkot, whether it is on Yom Tov or Ḥol HaMoed.

The processions are first mentioned in the Mishnah Sukkah 4:5, which discusses the ceremony of the arava in the Beit Hamikdash on each day of Sukkot. The Mishnah states that the Kohanim would encircle the Mizbeaḥ once on each of the first six days of Sukkot, and seven times on the seventh day. The Mishnah seems to imply that the Kohanim circled the Mizbeaḥ carrying the arava, but there is a dispute in the Gemara as to whether the processions were with the arava or the lulav. In any case, the ceremony evolved into the Hoshana service, in which the congregants circle the bima of the synagogue carrying the lulav and etrog.

The Aron Kodesh is opened during the entire Hoshana service. On the first six days of Sukkot, one Torah is taken out and held at the bima as the congregants circle around. On Hoshana Rabba, three Torahs are taken out and held at the bima. On Shabbat, the Aron Kodesh is opened, but no Torah is removed, and no procession takes place as the Hoshanot are recited. Some customs, in particular Nusaḥ Ari (Ḥabad), do not recite Hoshanot on Shabbat.

There are two different customs as to when the Hoshana service takes place. In Nusaḥ Ashkenaz in the Diaspora, it takes place after Musaf. In Nusaḥ Sephard, as well as in many Nusaḥ Ashkenaz customs in Israel, it takes place immediately after Hallel. This differing customs are based upon a difference of opinion as to when the procession took place in the Beit Hamikdash – after the regular morning offering, or after the Musaf offering.

The word hoshana is a contraction of hoshia [save], and na [can mean either please or now] – i.e. a plea to Gd for salvation. It is based on the pasuk from Hallel: אָנָּא השׁם הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא [Please Gd, save now], which is what the aforementioned Mishnah notes as what was recited during the processions in the Beit Hamikdash. In the Mishnah, Rabbi Yehuda provides an alternate formula of אֲנִי וָהוֹ הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא (Ani Vaho save us now, or according to some versions: Ani Vahu save us now). The cryptic term Ani Vaho is based on two of the three-letter triplets (the first and 37th) of the 72-triplet name of Gd [65]. Based on the Ani Vahu pronunciation, some interpret it to mean “I and Him” (i.e. Gd and us). Furthermore, the term Ani is close to Ana, and Vaho consists of some of the letters of the Tetragrammaton – thus it could also be a euphemism for Ana Hashem. In any case, both the term hoshana, and the phrase אֲנִי וָהוֹ הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא are intrinsic to the Hoshana service [66].

The term hoshana is repeated many times during the Hoshana service. On each of the first six days, it would be repeated 62 times (following the custom of repeating the word at the beginning and end of each stich of the main piyyut). On Hoshana Rabba, the term is said at least 362 times. If this were a child asking something of a parent, the Yiddish term “nudnik” (roughly: pest) would be appropriate for this type of repetition. However, at this point in the Holy Day season, we now feel at home with Gd, and feel that we can approach Him as a young child approaches a parent, even if we may sound a bit like a nudnik. We approached Gd in formal, poetic language on the Yamim Noraim, whereas on Sukkot we come before Gd as children with a simple, repeated request: Please save us!


The basic Hoshana service on the six days of Sukkot consists of the following structure:

  • The opening four Hoshana declarations:  For Your Sake, our Gd; for Your Sake our Creator; for Your sake, our Redeemer; for Your sake, You who seek us. The word hoshana is repeated before and after each declaration. This opening section is equivalent on all days of Sukkot, including Shabbat and Hoshana Rabba.
  • A Hoshana piyyut, unique for each day. These piyyutim contain 22 stiches, arranged according to the aleph beit. According to a common custom, each stich begins and ends with the word hoshana. In accordance with other customs, the word hoshana is said at the beginning or the end of each stich, but not at both. Another custom omits the word other than at the opening of the piyyut, and in the final few stiches of the piyyut. In accordance with most customs, the ordering of the Hoshana piyyutim varies in accordance with the day of the week that Sukkot falls.
  • A piyyut common to all weekdays of Sukkot, called Kehoshanta Eilim. This piyyut is surrounded at the beginning and end by the declaration Ani Vaho Hoshia Na. Each verse begins with Kehoshanta [as you saved in the past], and ends with Ken Hoshana  [so please save] – other than the final two verses with end with Vehoshia Na [and You shall save]. There is a different version of this piyyut for Shabbat, called Kehoshanta Adam.
  • The closing pesukim, consisting of Psalms 28:9, and I Kings 8 59-60. The pasuk from Psalms is the well-known Hoshia et Amecha song. The two verses from Kings are from the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Beit Hamikdash. This closing section is equivalent on all days of Sukkot.


The ordering of the six unique piyyutim is based on several factors. There are four possible configurations, as the first day of Sukkot (as with any Yom Tov) can fall on four of the seven days of the week. Sukkot can begin on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. To complicate matters, there is one configuration, when Sukkot falls on a Monday, where one of the six piyyutim will differ from those recited on the other three configurations. Nusaḥ Ari [Ḥabad] does not vary the piyyutim based on the day of the week that Sukkot falls, but rather follows a set pattern. The piyyut skipped on Shabbat (Ḥabad does not recite Hoshanot on Shabbat) is made up the next day by reciting the skipped piyyut along with the piyyut of the day.

It may be simpler to examine the ordering of the Hoshanot piyyutim based on the day of Sukkot rather than the day of the week. For five of the six days of Sukkot, there is a “home piyyut”  that is recited on three of the four configurations. The fourth day of Sukkot is a makeup day, with four different piyyutim based on various deferrals. The Hoshanot for the six days are as follows:

1. First day: The Hoshaha for the first day is Lemaan Amitach. This Hoshana asks Gd to save us based on His attributes: for Your truth, for Your covenant, for Your greatness and glory, etc. If the first day is Shabbat, Lemaan Amitach is deferred to the second day, and the Shabbat Hoshana is recited instead.

2. Second day: The Hoshana for the second day is Even Shtiya. This Hoshana consists of 22 synonyms for the Beit Hamikdash, many based on references from the Tanach. The second day will never fall on Shabbat. However, when it falls on Sunday, Even Shtiya is deferred to the fourth day (not the third day as might be expected), and Lemaan Amitach is recited instead.

3. Third day: The Hoshana for the third day is Eeroch Shui [I will arrange my prayer]. This Hoshana contains references to Yom Kippur – for the letter gimel, it says: I exposed my sins on the fast day, and for daled: I beseeched You to save me on that day. Eeroch Shui is one of the two Hoshana piyyutim that is not included on Hoshana Rabba. It is appropriate for the third day of Sukkot, as that is the same day of the week which was Yom Kippur on the previous week. Also, it is the closest non-Yom Tov day to Yom Kippur (based on the Diaspora – for in Israel the second day is not Yom Tov). We want to recite this Hoshana as close as possible to Yom Kippur, but not on Yom Tov, as it contains explicit pleas for Gd’s mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, it is not pushed aside due to the deferral of Even Shtiya on the second day. However, if the third day is Shabbat, it is deferred to the fourth day, and the Shabbat Hoshana is recited instead.

4. Fourth day: This is the day with no unique Hoshana. Rather, it serves as the makeup day. If Sunday, Eeroch Shui, deferred from the previous day, is recited. If Tuesday, Even Shtiya, deferred from the second day, is recited. If Friday, Kel Lamoshaot, moved forward from the following day, is recited. It gets a unique Hoshana piyyut only if on Thursday: Om Ani Ḥoma. That is because the sixth day will fall on Shabbat, and the Hoshana for the sixth day, which includes a request for rain, drops completely, as it is considered inappropriate to request rain much before the latter part of Sukkot. Om Ani Ḥoma contains descriptions of the Jewish nation: the nation that declares “I am a wall” (based on Song of Songs 8:10), brilliant like the sun, exiled and displaced…  The stich for the letter shin contains the word hoshana. In that stich, the word hoshana is part of the piyyut itself: “those that call out hoshana”, and is not the hoshana word that surrounds each stich. Therefore, that stich should be recited as “Hoshana shoagim hoshana, hoshana,” and not “Hoshana shoagim hoshana” as some recite in error. In accordance with a minority of customs, Om Ani Ḥoma is also the Hoshana  for the fourth day when it falls on Friday, and Kel Lamoshaot drops completely.

5. Fifth day: The Hoshana for the fifth day is Kel Lamoshaot. This is the second of the two Hoshanot that is not recited on Hoshana Rabba. It asks Gd to bring about salvation because of the merits of the Jewish people. It is appropriate as a prelude for the Hoshana of the sixth day, Adon Hamoshia. Kel Lamoshaot means “Gd, bring about salvation”, and Adon Hamoshia means “The Lrd who saves.”  If the fifth day is Shabbat, Kel Lamoshaot is moved up to the fourth day, and the Hoshanot for Shabbat are recited. As noted above, according to some customs, Kel Lamoshaot drops completely if the fifth day is Shabbat.

6. Sixth day: The Hoshana for the sixth day is Adon Hamoshia. Gd is described as the Lrd who saves, there is no saviour aside from Him, He is mighty and certainly able to save. Starting from the letter tet, it begins to ask for an abundant food supply. Starting from nun, it asks for the clouds to come that will bring rain, so that the vegetation will grow. This is a prelude to the prayer for rain that will be recited two days later, on Shemini Atzeret. Given that rain on Sukkot is considered an inauspicious sign, it is not appropriate to mention rain too early in Sukkot. Therefore, if the sixth day occurs on Shabbat, this Hoshana drops completely – albeit it is included on Hoshana Rabba in any case.


Shabbat can be either on the first, third, fifth, or six day of Sukkot. On Shabbat, the regular Hoshana for that day is moved aside, as noted above, and replaced with the Hoshana for Shabbat, Om Netzura. Om Netzura describes the nation protected like the apple of the eye, who study Torah, learn the laws of Shabbat, elucidate the laws of carrying on Shabbat, set the Shabbat boundary at 2,000 cubits, … brings Shabbat in early,… eat three meals on Shabbat, … kindle the Shabbat candles, recite Kiddush, etc. It ends with the hope that Gd will grant us the day that is completely Shabbat (i.e. the World To Come). The Kehoshanta Eilim piyyut, recited each weekday of Sukkot, is replaced with Kehoshanta Adam on Shabbat. Kehoshanta Adam further elucidates the special attributes of Shabbat: for which a double portion of manna fell in the desert, which was commanded at Mara as well as in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, where the lulav was taken all seven days in the Beit Hamikdash, where the beating of the arava overrode Shabbat, etc. The final two verses are equivalent with those of Kehoshanta Eilim. Kehoshanta Adam bears the signature of Rabbi Menaḥem ben Rabbi Machir – thus it is the only known Hoshana piyyut known to not be composed by Rabbi Eleazar HaKalir. As noted above, Nusaḥ Ari [Ḥabad] omits Hoshanot on Shabbat.

The Hoshana service on Hoshana Rabba is lengthy and complex. A Hoshana piyyut is recited for each of the seven Hakafot. The first four of these Hoshanot are equivalent with some of those recited on the first six days, whereas the latter three are unique to Hoshana Rabba. Each Hoshana is followed by a pasuk (or pasuk fragment) referring either directly or indirectly to one of the seven Kabbalistic sefirot [emanations] [67]. Kehoshanta Eilim is then recited, as on the first six days. Following Kehoshanta Eilim, a series of special prayers are recited. At one point during these prayers, the lulav and etrog are put down, and the arava bundle is taken in the hand. At the conclusion of the special prayers, the arava bundle is beaten.


The seven Hoshanot recited during the Hakafot are as follows:

1. Lemaan Amitach: (see the first day). The first half of Psalm 89:3 is then recited, referring to the sefira of ḥesed [kindness or mercy].

2. Even Shtiya: (see the second day). Psalm 89:14 is then recited, referring to the sefira of gevura [might or power].

3. Om Ani Ḥoma: (see the fourth day). Micah 7:20 is then recited, mentioning Jacob, who exemplifies the sefira of tiferet [splendour].

4. Adon Hamoshia: (see the sixth day). The last three words of Psalm 16:11 are then recited, referring to the sefira of netzaḥ [eternity].

5. Adam Ubeheima: This Hoshana asks that man and beast, humans made of flesh, soul, spirit, sinews, nerves, and skin be saved. It notes that man is similar to beast, yet of unique stature. It then goes on to pray for ample rainfall to ensure the food supply. Psalm 8:2 is then recited, referring to the sefira of hod [splendour].

6. Adama Meerer: This Hoshana asks that the food supply be protected from natural mishaps. The land should be saved from curse, animals from aborting, etc. Four types of locusts that can destroy the crops are mentioned. Psalm 148:17, familiar from the thrice daily Ashrei prayer, is then recited. That pasuk contains a reference to a Tzadik [a righteous person], and hints to another pasuk which states that a Tzadik is the foundation of the world (Proverbs 10:25), which refers to the sefira of yesod [foundation].

7. Lemaan Eitan: The seventh Hoshana asks for salvation in the merit of Biblical figures or concepts, all referring to fire. Each stich ends with the word aish [fire]. Abraham was thrown into the flames of fire, Isaac was bound on wood and fire, Jacob wrestled with an angel of fire, the tribes were guided by a cloud of fire, Moses ascended on high as an angel of fire, etc. II Chronicles 29:11 is then recited, which refers to the sefira of malchut [kingship], as well as mentioning several of the other sefirot. This is followed by two other pesukim, including the first pasuk of Shema. Kehoshanta Eilim is then recited, as it is at the conclusion of the Hakafa on the first six days.


Following the seven Hakafot, the additional prayers for Hoshana Rabba are as follows:


  • Titneinu Leshem Uletehila: We ask for a restoration of the glory of our people, and a return to the Beit Hamikdash.
  • Ana Ezon: The refrain is Ana Hoshia Na [Please save us now]. This prayer asks that our prayers be heard, that our enemies sink to the ground, that the rains come, and that the Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt.
  • Kel Na: The refrain is: Please Gd, please, Hoshana and save us now. This prayer asks for the destruction of our enemies, for the salvation of Zion, and for a blessed year as we pray on the Day of Hoshana.
  • Lemaan Tamim: The refrain is the same as that of Kel Na, with the addition of אָבִינוּ אָתָּה [for You are our Father]. The 22 verses of this long piyyut, built upon an alphabetic acrostic (hence the 22 verses), ask for salvation on behalf of various Biblical personalities, with references to water for each personality. The latter part of each verse also mentions that salvation should come for the sake of the Jewish people, with  the first four references coming from the Om Ani oma Hoshana. The Biblical figures include Noaḥ, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Gideon, Gideon’s army, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Ḥezekiah, Daniel Ḥananiah, Mishael and Azaria, and Ezra. The last two verses refer to the current congregation who are praying today, and to the people of Israel.


According to most customs, the lulav and etrog are put down at this point, and the arava is taken into the hand. Some customs keep the lulav and etrog, and only pick up the arava just prior to the beating. The prayers then continue with three more piyyutim:

  • Taane Emunim: This piyyut is introduced with the final calls of Hoshana, asking for Gd’s help, forgiveness, and blessings of success. The piyyut contains a double refrain: וְהוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא [please help], and וְהַצְלִיחָה נָּא וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ קֵל מָעֻזֵּנוּ [and bring success, and save us, our Gd of strength]. It asks that the faithful pure ones (i.e. the Jewish people) be answered in the merit of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the leaders of the tribes, Moses, Aaron, David, and the Beit Hamikdash. Each verse contains numerous references to water.
  • Az Keeinei Avadim: This piyyut is a general plea for Gd’s mercy and bounty. We entreat Gd as a servant before his master. It mentions that we carry vegetation around as we supplicate for an adequate water supply. The refrain is וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ [and save us, Gd of our salvation]. The first verse askes for Gd’s mercy and forgiveness, and the final verse asks that the gates of heaven with Gd’s goodly treasures be opened, and that Gd save us and not enter into dispute with us. Both the first and last verse of this piyyut have been imported into the Seliḥot of Neila on Yom Kippur.
  • Kol Mevaser: The final piyyut of Hoshana Rabba contains a direct plea for the redemption, the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead. The prayers for rain, with the rejuvenation of the vegetation, turn our thoughts to the ultimate resurrection of the dead [68]. Much of the piyyut is written in the present tense, as if the salvation is unfolding before our very eyes. There is no more graphically descriptive plea for the advent of the Messianic era in our entire liturgy than this piyyut. Each short verse begins with קוֹל [a voice], and ends with  מְבַשֵּׂר וְאוֹמֵר [brings the news and says]. The piyyut opens with the declaration  קוֹל מְבַשֵּׂר מְבַשֵּׂר וְאוֹמֵר [the voice of the herald brings the news and says], and concludes with a threefold loud repetition of that declaration, as we anticipate the news of the upcoming redemption. The term mevaser [the herald or bearer of news] comes from Isaiah 41:27 (Refer to endnote 16 in the section on the Kerovot for Shabbat Shekalim).


At this point, the concluding pesukim of the Hoshanot service are recited, as they are on all other days. Then the Torah scrolls are returned to the Aron Kodesh, and the arava is beaten. The beating of the arava takes place either before the full Kaddish, following the full Kaddish, or in the middle of the full Kaddish, depending on custom. This is followed by a Yehi Ratzon supplication, asking that our prayers, Hakafot, and beating of the arava be accepted, that the iron partition separating us from Gd be removed, that Gd heed our prayers, seal us for a good life, and open the sources of bounty in the Heavens to bless us with rain.

The melody of Hoshanot is simple, repetitive, and somewhat plaintive, as can be expected in a repeated cry for salvation. Many prayer leaders embellish the Hoshanot, especially on Yom Tov, with more melodious renditions of the word Hoshana between each stich. [69]



According to mystical tradition, seven guests join us each day in the sukkah. These guests are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. Each day, one of the guests takes the lead place. Of course, one is supposed to also have real, live guests in the sukkah, especially those who are lonely, or in need of a meal. In fact, there is a Midrash that states that the mystical guests become upset and leave if they do not find real guests in the sukkah. This Midrash does not have to be taken literally, and everyone’s circumstances are different. Sukkah size, family dynamics and other factors may render it infeasible to have guests at all meals, or even at any meals. (I am writing this in 2020, where the COVID-19 epidemic has rendered having guests in the sukkah infeasible and inadvisable – may this plague be over by next year.) Nevertheless, the concept of guests, both mystical and real, is an important part of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Sukkah.

Ushpizin [guests] is an Aramaic formula recited each day of Sukkot to welcome the mystical guests. Each day, we state: I will invite the sublime guests to my sukkah: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. Then we address the specific guest for the day, asking that he be pleased to dwell with us along with the other six guests. Some recite Ushpizin at each meal eaten in the sukkah, while others only recite it once a day.

There are two different customs regarding the ordering of the seven guests. The chronological list is as noted above. However, many customs list the guests in the order of the Kabbalistic sefirot reflected by each personality. The sefira ordering is: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Thus, the guests for the fourth, fifth, and sixth days of the holiday are interchanged by the sefira custom.

Ushpizin, and indeed the fulfilment of the mitzvah of Sukkah, is preceded by a long introductory set of prayers called Ulu Ushpizin [Enter the guests]. This set of prayers includes the Hareini Muchan formula of intention, which quotes the pesukim of the Torah that deal with the mitzvah of Sukkah (Leviticus 23:42-43). This is followed by a Yehi Ratzon petition asking that Gd spread his sukkah of peace over us, grant us abundance in life, and forgive our sins in the merit of leaving our homes to fulfil the mitzvah. We ask that that mitzvah of Sukkah be accepted, and that we merit long life in the service of Gd. These introductory prayers are similar, albeit somewhat longer, than similar statements of intention before fulfilling various other mitzvot, including tallis, tefillin, counting the omer, and lulav. Not everyone recites these types of statements of intention.

An interesting question arises on the Friday night of Sukkot: Do we welcome the angels first with Shalom Aleichem, or do we welcome the supernal guests first with Ushpizin? The appropriate answer comes from the famous directive in Talmud Pesachim 114:a תדיר ושאינו תדיר תדיר קודם [Sefaria: When a frequent practice and an infrequent practice coincide, the frequent practice takes precedence over the infrequent practice]. Thus, Shalom Aleichem and Eishet Chayil should first be recited, followed by Ushpizin.

When we leave the sukkah for the last time, in the afternoon of Hoshana Rabba in Israel, or on the day of Shemini Atzeret in the Diaspora, a parting Yehi Ratzon formula is recited: May it be Gd’s will that just as we have fulfilled and dwelled in this sukkah, may we merit to dwell in the sukkah made of the skin of the leviathan next year. This refers to the tradition that, at the End of Days, Gd will prepare a banquet for the righteous, consisting of the flesh of the leviathan and behemoth. This meal will be eaten under a canopy constructed out of the skin of the leviathan. Most people view this tradition as mystical, not meant to be taken literally as a physical meal. The Akdamut piyyut of Shavuot also mentions this feast of the leviathan and behemoth.

As we do at the conclusion of the Seder, as well as at the conclusion of Neila on Yom Kippur, we then declare “Next year in Jerusalem.” Some add a concluding prayer, Ribona Dealma, that asks that Gd protect us, and that the merit of the mitzvot of the Arba Minim and Sukkah stand in our good stead as we return to our houses. We ask for a calm, peaceful life in the service of Gd for us and our families.



One of the main customs of Simḥat Torah is the Hakafot ceremony. All of the Torah scrolls are removed from the Aron Kodesh, and carried around the bima, or the entire synagogue, in seven festive processions. The Hakafot take place at both Maariv and Shaḥarit on Simḥat Torah, or on the joint day of Shemini Atzeret / Simḥat Torah in Israel. In some customs in the Diaspora, especially in Nusaḥ Sephard or actual Sephard, Hakafot take place on the night of Shemini Atzeret as well. In Israel, Hakafot may also take place on the night following Shemini Atzeret / Simḥat Torah (these are known as Hakafot Shniyot). Although that night is no longer Yom Tov, the Hakafot on Motzaei Yom Tov show solidarity with the Jewish communities of the Diaspora. Furthermore, they can be accompanied by musical instruments.

The custom of Hakafot on Simḥat Torah developed rather late, seemingly during the Middle Ages, around the 15th century. It is clearly an offshoot of the Hoshana Hakafot of the seven days of Sukkot, with the lulav and etrog being replaced by the Torah. It is a way of embellishing the Torah reading of the day, which marks the conclusion and restarting of the annual Torah reading cycle. It also asserts the primacy of the Torah, which is a greater concept than any specific mitzvah of the Torah, such as the lulav, with which we circled on the previous days. According to most, but not all, customs, there is a Torah reading following the Hakafot at Maariv, making Simḥat Torah the only time of the year with a Maariv Torah reading. There is no Torah reading with the Hakafot on the night of Shemini Atzeret in the Diaspora, or the Motzaei Yom Tov Hakafot in Israel.

The usual recitations that accompany the removal of the Torah from the Aron Kodesh are altered. Rather than the usual Ein Kamocha, a series of pesukim starting with Ata Hareita is recited responsively.

The basic piyyut for the Hakafot is straightforward. The theme and style is very similar to Hoshanot. The piyyut opens with: אָנָּא השׁם הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא, אָנָּא השׁם הַצְּלִיחָה נָא, אָנָּא השׁם עֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ  [Please Gd save us, Please Gd grant us success; Please Gd answer us on the day we call]. The first two parts come from Psalms 118:25 (toward the end of Hallel), and the last part is a paraphrase of Psalms 20:10). Many customs repeat the opening verse as the opening refrain for each Hakafa. The rest of the verses of the piyyut replace אָנָּא השׁם with another term for Gd: the Gd of the spirits, He Who examines hearts, the Powerful Redeemer, etc. The piyyut is alphabetically arranged, with the final letter tav repeated three times to be able to complete the verse. Given that there are seven Hakafot and eight verses (over and above the opening) , the final Hakafa gets two verses. The tune of this piyyut is very distinctive and quite well-known [70].

The Hakafot are generally enhanced with elongated singing and dancing. Many congregations choose from a wide variety of popular songs [71]. There are a formal set of embellishments included in many Maḥzorim. Some congregations recite all or a subset of these embellishments. They are as follows:


1. A Leshem Yiḥud introductory invocation, asking Gd to accept our Hakafot, and that the Hakafot serve to remove the iron wall between us and Gd.

2. A set of pesukim or sections of Psalms, divided into seven parts, one for each Hakafa. This set is recited after the main verse of the piyyut. Each of the seven parts contains a selection from the following:

  • Psalms 18:8-11, relating to the importance of the study of Torah.
  • Psalms 29 (which is recited as part of Kabbalat Shabbat as well as the putting back of the Torah on Shabbat). It contains seven references to the voice of Gd.
  • Psalm 67, a seven-pasuk Psalm.
  • Ana Bakoach (recited in the introductory part of the daily Shaḥarit service as well as in Kabalat Shabbat). It contains seven lines.
  • The pesukim recited at the end of each of the seven Hakafot of Hoshana Rabba, referring to the seven sefirot.

 3. A unique piyyut (or two or three) for each Hakafa.

  1. Yedid Nefesh.
  2. The first half of Kel Mistater (a zemer for Shalosh Seudot, based on the ten kabbalistic sefirot.)
  3. The second half of Kel Mistater.
  4. Mipi Kel. This piyyut is unique to Simḥat Torah. Each verse contains for stiches, noting the glory of Gd, the attributes of the son of Amram (Moses), the greatness of the Torah, and the praises of Israel. The second piyyut is Vayeetayu, from the post-Kedusha piyyutim of the Yamim Noraim.
  5. Haaderet VaHaemuna. A piyyut from Yom Kippur Shaḥarit, but also included in the Shabbat and Yomtov Pesukei D’Zimra of Nusaḥ Sephard. The piyyut calls out the attributes of The One Who Lives Forever.
  6. Al Yisrael. From Yom Kippur Shaḥarit.
  7. Ein Kelokeinu. Well-known from the post-Musaf prayers of Shabbat and Yomtov. Recited as part of the daily Shaḥarit service in Nusaḥ Sephard. Yavo Adir: a piyyut expressing the hope of the coming of Elijah to announce the redemption, as well as the hope for the coming of the Messiah. The instructions are that this is to be recited only for the daytime Hakafot. Yetzaveh Tzur Ḥasdo: A zemer from the daytime Shabbat meal as well as Shalosh Seudot.

4. A concluding statement that the Divine Presence is in our midst, and that the merit of the person represented by the relevant sefira (the same Biblical figures as mentioned in Ushpizin: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, David) shall be with us. The seventh Hakafa mentions David, and then concludes with: Next Year in Jerusalem!

5. A Yehi Ratzon prayer mentioning the sefira for the specific Hakafa. The seventh Hakafa also has a much longer Ribono Shel Olam prayer, pleading for long life, success, and redemption in the merit of having fulfilled the custom of Hakafot.


Prior to putting away the Torah (after Hagba/Gelila at night, and after Ashrei during the day), there is a series piyyutim recited by some congregations:

  • Asher Biglal Avot: This is only included during the day. It portrays the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Moses ascended the mountain, received the Torah, and then was sent back down to give the Torah to the people. The piyyut then moves ahead 40 years to when Moses was told to ascend a mountain once again for his death. He asked Joshua to guard his flock. He was shown all of Israel, and then died on the mountain. He died by the mouth of Gd. Moses died, and who shall not die?
  • Sisu Vesimchu: We rejoice on Simḥat Torah and give honor to the Torah. The Torah is better than any business, and more precious than fine gold and gems.
  • Ashreichem Yisrael: Israel is fortunate to be chosen by Gd and given the Torah. The angels gathered together and asked: who is it that has ascended to on high? It was Moses, who ascended to receive the Torah. The piyyut then lists all nine additional Midrashic names of Moses: Netanel, Shemaya, Avi Socho, Avi Zanoaḥ, Ḥever, Yekutiel, Tovia, Yered, Avigdor.
  • Agil Veesmaḥ: I shall rejoice on Simḥat Torah. Let the Messiah come on Simḥat Torah. The piyyut then states that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Elijah, Samuel, David, and Solomon all rejoiced on Simḥat Torah. The term Simḥat Torah could mean the literal name of the holiday – in accordance with the tradition that the patriarchs observed all the laws of the Torah and even the customs even before the Torah was given. On the other hand, it could mean “in the joy of the Torah” rather than the literal name of the holiday. The piyyut ends by stating that Torah is the tree of life, and wishes everyone life, for Gd is the source of life. This good wish forms the conclusion of all the special piyyutim of Simḥat Torah, and indeed of all the special liturgy of the Tishrei Yamim Tovim.


In the Beit Hamikdash, there were 13 Hakafot on Sukkot: one on each of the first six days, including Shabbat, and seven on Hoshana Rabba. Nowadays, we have 26 Hakafot on Sukkot and Simḥat Torah (not taking into account the Hakafot on Shemini Atzeret night in the Diaspora in accordance with some customs, or the post-Yom Tov Hakafot in Israel) – five on the first six days, seven on Hoshana Rabba, and fourteen on Simḥat Torah. The number of Hakafot in our time is exactly double of those in the Beit Hamikdash. Furthermore, the number 26 is the gematria of the four-letter Divine name – the Tetragrammaton. Is this a coincidence? – perhaps, but then again, perhaps not.





65. See

66. The term Hosanna also has its place in Christianity. In the common definition, it is defined as “a shout of praise, adoration; an acclamation” ( This usage is quite different than the Jewish definition, which is a plea for salvation or help. The Gospels state that the people greeted Jesus holding palm fronds and shouting Hosanna as he entered Jerusalem one week prior to the crucifixion at Pesaḥ time. Given the obvious contradiction, opinions exist that the entry of Jesus (the historical figure, not the Christian deity) to Jerusalem took place at Sukkot time, six months prior to the crucifixion. The reference to the term Hosanna and the greeting with palm fronds is cited as evidence. See  This theory is also offered in the book “Revolution in Judea” by Hyam Maccoby. Jesus is said to have entered Jerusalem at Sukkot time, fomented revolution for six months, gotten himself into trouble, and was therefore executed by the ruling authorities. Christian traditionalists would of course disagree with this timeframe. The appropriation of the Jewish term Hoshana into Christian usage, along with the change of meaning, is indeed most fascinating.

67. For a discussion of the sefirot [kabbalistic emanations], see

There are a total of ten sefirot, but seven of them are considered within the realm of the world – thus the frequent reference to seven sefirot. We see the theme of seven sefirot numerous times on Sukkot: with the Hoshanot on Hoshana Rabba, with the Ushpizin guests, and with the Hakafot of Simḥat Torah.

68. That is the reason that the mentioning of rain in the daily Amida during the winter season is included in the bracha of the resurrection of the dead (the second bracha of the Amida). The regrowth of the parched land after a rainfall is conceptually similar to the resurrection of the dead.

69. Hoshanot from virtual cantor (somewhat embellished)

Complete Hoshanot for Hoshana Rabba:  (The cantor follows the custom that does not repeat the word Hoshana at the end of each stich).

70. A recitation of the verses of Ata Hareita, and the nusach for the Hakafot:

71. Here is Aish Hatorah’s list of 32 popular songs for Simḥat Torah:


 © 2020 by Jerrold Landau