Gershon Hepner

Hoshanah Rabbah, Sukkos and Shemini Atseres

Seventh inning, sukkah lubber,

happens on Hoshanah Rabbah.

Hit the esrog for a homer,

singing qol m’bha’seyr o’mer,

whacking weeping willow twigs

on the ground, preparing to

return to shelter in your digs

next day, (most hasidim do),

not most misnagdim’ s policy

on Shemini, if they’re golusy,

one Vilna’s Gaon strictly kept.

Even when it snowed, he slept

inside a sukkah, which opposes

hasidism, the Rov’s son supposes,

made more mitsta’er by bad hosids

than bad weather, Prof. Soloveitchik posits.


Professor Haym Soloveitchik explained that the reason hasidim do not sit in the sukkah is because they have transformed Hoshanah Rabbah into a second Yom Kippur.   After greeting one another with the Aramaic words פתקא טבא, pitqa tava, or the Yiddish ones, a guten kvitel, meaning “a good note,” it is impossible for them, to go back into the sukkah as if they’re doubtful whether Shemini Atseres might in golus still be Sukkos. They feel free of the obligation. I would argue that they are paradoxically mitsta’er, troubled, by no doubt.  Rabbi Danel Roselaar from England explained this in a devar Torah he gave at Yeshiva University, suggesting that the Vilna Gaon’s rationale for sleeping in the sukkah on Shemini Atseret might also be sociological, reflecting his opposition to the decision of hasidim to abandon the sukkah totally on this day.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at