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Hoshaana Rabba Mishmarah-Tikkun

Saturday, October 19, 9:00PM

Mishmarah Tikkun 2013 with Rabbi Soloveichik

Mishmarah Tikkun 2013 with Rabbi Soloveichik

Join us in this annual Shearith Israel tradition as we bid farewell to Succot and prepare for Simhat Torah in our stunning Elias Room succah. 

We will be reading through the texts traditionally prescribed for this occasion, consisting largely of the Book of Deuteronomy followed by the very beginning section of Genesis, as well as the Book of Psalms.


The Tikkun for Hoshaana Rabbah as we know it originated in Renaissance Kabbalsitic practice, a practice which extended lines of development and religious themes from earlier Judaism. Its origin also parallels the development of the observance of what became known as the holiday of Simhat Torah a day or two later. Traditionally, the Tikkun was observed as an all-night vigil, although our observance will be abbreviated. In essence, the Tikkun on Hoshaana Rabbah was seen as the seasonal counterpart to the Tikkun or Vigil on the Eve of Shabuot. Of course, some individuals had the tradition of observing a vigil and spending the night in prayer in the synagogue on the Eve of the Day of Atonement also. But for kabbalistic circles, Hoshaana Rabbah became the more important study-vigil. 

Hoshaana Rabbah itself was seen as an extension of Yom Kippur, a “last chance” for Divine clemency and blessing before Divine Judgment is definitively sealed. The Kabbalists in instituting our practice were extending the lines of symmetry and connecting the dots which they saw implicit in the tradition: After all, there were two Givings of the Decalogue Tablets at Mt. Sinai, one at Shabuot, at the end of Spring/Beginning of Summer, and one on Yom Kippur in the Fall. There are also two (slightly variant) texts of the Ten Commandments in the Torah: One is in Exodus, whereas the other is in Deuteronomy. The first is placed at the beginning of the story of 40 years of desert wandering, whereas the second is narrated by Moses in his recap of the Torah at the Plains of Moab at the end of the 40 years, as the Children of Israel are about to successfully enter and conquer the Land. Of course, Shabuot marks not only the Giving of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, but the Giving of the Entire Torah, as well. However, the Giving of the Tablets and the Law at Shabuot was unsuccessful. Thus the Kabbalists felt it necessary to mark the successful Giving of the Tablets and the Torah in the days following Yom Kippur. And hence we get the holiday of Simhat Torah, which marks the completion of the congregational Torah-Reading cycle with the finishing of Deuteronomy, as well as inaugurating the new cycle of Torah-reading for the new year. The concluding part of Succot and Shemini Atseret were thus developed into a second Torah-Giving festival, as a counterpode to Shabuot. And just as Shabuot is called the “Concluding Festival (Atseret)” for Pesah, requiring a vigil prior to the receiving of Revelation, Shemini Atseret also required a vigil prior to the receiving of Revelation. This vigil, however, was held on the preceding day, on the 7th Day of Succot, Hoshaana Rabbah. Having a vigil on a seventh day also follows a certain pattern (some also recommended a Tikkun on the 7th Day of Passover, and of course Shabuot itself is after a series of 7 X 7 days). And at this season of the Second Giving of the Torah, what was studied par excellence was the Book called Mishneh Torah or “Second Torah,” the basis for the Greek name “Deuteronomy.” Now, it is fairly easy to get through all of Deuteronomy in a single sitting (although in many years we actually only read what we do on Simhat Torah), unlike on Shabuot, when the sheer mass of material calls for skipping around. We conclude Deuteronomy just as we do on Simhat Torah, in the High Festive melismatic version, followed by the very beginning of Genesis, showing our eagerness to begin the Torah anew.

Based upon Kabbalah, both Shabuot and Hoshaana Rabbah/Simhat Torah took on aspects of spiritualized “wedding” festivities, with the Torah serving as the Ketubah on Shabuot and with Bridegrooms of the Law on Simhat Torah. Hence the term “Tikkun” was used, coming from the Aramaic term for an “adorning/dressing the bride” party at which household utensils, clothing and jewelry would be provided and “fixed” adjusted, or attached, either as adornments for the bride herself or for her trousseau. Historically, especially in Spanish & Portuguese congregations like Amsterdam and London, which are in high northern latitudes, Hoshaana Rabbah/Simhat Torah in the Fall became observed as the primary Festival of Receiving Torah, and the Tikkun of Hoshaana Rabbah during the long autumn night was observed more than the short and late-starting Tikkun on the Eve of Shabuot.

Just as the entire Book of Deuteronomy was read all the way through, the other traditional reading for Tikkun Hoshaana Rabbah was to complete the entire Book of Psalms. Psalms (Tehillim) was traditionally attributed or connected to King David, who represents the concluding Divine Aspect (Malkhut/Shekhinah “Dominion/Presence”) and is the “Ushpiz” or Succah Guest on the concluding 7th Day of Succot. Also, if the First Giving of the Torah failed through the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Second Giving of the Torah succeeds because of Teshubah, Penitence, and the Psalms of David is the Biblical Book of Penitence par excellence.



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