Today is day 21 of the holy month of Tishrei. We are finally coming to the peak, after the cycle of all the festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and now, Sukkot. After Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, then Sukkot. Today is the seventh and final day of Sukkot, the 21st of Tishrei, which is Hoshana Rabba – the Great Salvation.
Why day 21? If we did not gain forgiveness and atonement on Rosh Hashana or on Yom Kippur, we still can get it on Hoshana Rabba. One of G-d’s names is Eh-e-yeh (Aleph, Hey, Yud, Hey) which is the numerical value (Gematria) 21. This name of G-d signifies Teshuva – repentence, as if to say that “I will be” someone else. I will now work harder to fulfill the will of Hashem; I will now remove my self-centered, egotistical interest to nullify my will to do the will of Hashem.
Although regret of the past is a primary facet of Teshuva – Repentance, the single most important aspect of Teshuva is the commitment for the future to be different; that “I will be” someone else from now on. We have been climbing. After a month of Elul, Rosh Hashana, 10 days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, we enter the Festival of Sukkot, from repentance out of fear to the repentance out of love. We shake the four species, the Lulav, representing the major limbs of our body, as if to call out completely to Hashem. We sit in the Sukkah to enter Hashem’s House of Divine protection and closeness. Now, today, we can really become what we truly want to be, someone really different, the person that I really want to become.
The parable is told of a prince who was sent away from the palace of his father, the king and became attached to lowly and decedent people for some time. The king sent one of his ministers to find his son to see what he needed or wished. The prince told the minister that he indeed did wish something of the king. His boots had torn and he requested a new pair of boots from the king. Upon hearing this, the minister cried bitterly, seeing how disconnected the prince had become from his father, no longer wishing to return to the royal palace.
Of course, we want to ask Hashem for “life (health), children, and livelihood” but the prayers of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur ask instead for Hashem to be recognized as the One and Only King and Power of the Universe. How are we fooling ourselves to ask for the grand plan of creation to be fulfilled, for the final redemption, for G-d to finally reveal Himself speedily in our day, when we normally we want “health, children and money”?
The answer lies in the order of our special prayer on Hashana Rabba. First we say, “Please bring salvation now.” Then we ask, “Please G-d, please. Save now and bring salvation now.” Then we add, “Please G-d, please. Save now and bring salvation now, for You are our Father.” Like the prince, who was distanced from his father, the king, and become impoverished. When he finally wished to return to his father, the king, he was so embarrassed wearing his tattered clothing, that at first, he could only ask for a simple gift like any other poor man. He then requested another gift, remembering that he is not just a regular popper. Then he asks again, as a relative of the king. Finally, he cries out to return to his father and to the royal palace as he is really the king’s beloved lost son.
This day is called Hoshana Rabba, a day of Great Salvation. This is not the time to ask for new boots or a raise in salary or even for some better health. This is time to ASK BIG! If we ask for what really counts, that G-d be accepted as King, that His Name be recognized as Great and Holy, and that we be able to serve Him with a perfect heart, then G-d will take car of all the minor needs and problems, no problem at all. This is the day to ask for Great Salvation.
Of course G-d knows what is best for us, but He still wants us to ask. We need to seize this holy day of love and closeness to our Father in Heaven and cry out. If we ask Him for help to become the person we really want to be, He will help us. If we pray for assistance to be able to dedicate ourselves to love Him and serve Him with all our heart and all our life and all our possessions, He will assist us. If we ask that we be righteous so that we be sealed in the Book of Life, He will aid us to be righteous and seal us for Life. Good Yom Tov.
Rabbi Yaakov Rosenstein
Director of Judaism1on1.com