Today is Hoshana Rabbah, the day right before the end of Sukkot, where we have a chance to implore G-d one more time for forgiveness, sort of like an addendum to Yom Kippur, just in case. Since Hoshanah Rabbah is during Sukkot, we use our lulav and etrog (the four species) to emphasize our prayers; it’s basically saying, “Hey, G-d, here we have this mitzvah You gave us and we’re doing it, so please keep this in mind as You pass judgement.”
Praying during the Hoshana Rabba service.
The special grip you develop to hold prayer book, lulav and etrog at the same time.
My lulav and etrog.
What I love about Sukkot is that it is so not a holiday you can hide: The sukkah goes outside, where everyone can see; the lulav and etrog are large and bright and colorful and makes anyone who sees wonder, what are the Jews doing with those plants?! It is an external holiday, meant to symbolize our effect upon the world, our connection with the world and the nations.
At least up until Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, the eighth and ninth days of the holiday, which are once again internal. Those start tonight, so I am now off to get ready and to party, because, in a week where our main commandment is to be happy, the these two holidays are about the most joyous that you can get.