Parshas Vezos Habrocha.
The laws of Chol Hamoed, Hoshanah Rabah, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.
1. The intermediate days between the beginning and the end of the holidays of Sukkos and Pesach are called Chol Hamoed. On these days we are forbidden to do most types of labor-consuming work. Those employed by others should try to take a vacation during Chol Hamoed. Nevertheless, if missing work will result in great monetary losses, it is permitted to work. All of this provided that the person does not leave the work intentionally to be done on Chol Hamoed.
2. The laws of Chol Hamoed are quite complex, we will describe only some of them. One is forbidden to do laundry or take a haircut on Chol Hamoed. Writing is possible only under some circumstances, for example, what will otherwise be forgotten and will lead to financial losses. It is forbidden to give a car to be fixed, if it will only be needed after the holidays. If it is needed on Chol Hamoed itself, one needs to ask a Rabbi. Buying is permitted only for the sake of a holiday or at great discounts, if after the holidays such low prices will not exist. Marrying on Chol Hamoed is forbidden.
3. The last day of Chol Hamoed of Sukkos holiday is called Hoshanah
Rabah. This day is even more festive than the other
days of Chol Hamoed.
According to Kabbalah, the Divine Judgment after Yom
Kippur is still not completely sealed up to Hoshanah Rabah. Therefore, on this night many people do not sleep
and read the last book of Torah – Devarim – in the
synagogues. During the morning prayers of the holiday of Sukkos
we were walking with our four species around the Bimah.
On Hoshanah Rabah, we walk
around the Bimah seven times. There is another
special mitzvah of the day – we take willow branches and bit them against the
floor five times. The reason of this custom has Kabbalistic
explanations. According to the simple meaning, it is done in memory of the
willow branches which were used during the days of the holiday for the service
4. The last two days of the holiday are called Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah (the happiness of Torah). According to Torah law, it is not necessary to sit in a Sukkah during these days, but outside of the Land of Israel all holidays are celebrated for an extra day (see Parshas Bemidbar), and therefore the first day of Shemini Atzeres is also the second day of Hoshanah Rabah and we continue to sit in a tent. However, the blessing on sitting in the Sukkah is not recited.
5. On the last day of the holiday we finish reading the Torah. In the evening and in the morning we do Hakafos – go around the Bimah carrying all the Torah scrolls. On this day it is customary to give an Alliyah to everybody, so that every person can make a blessing over the Torah at least once a year. The last two Alliyahs are bought for a lot of money, they are called Choson Torah – the groom of Torah and Choson Breyshis. With this day, the holiday cycle and the Torah reading cycle are over, but this is not the end but just a new BEGINNING.