Just got back from Hoshana Rabah services, and I’m thinking of my mom. Tibby never missed Hoshana Rabah. It was the only day of the year she attended morning minyan. The only day of the year when you can hit in shul.
Mom liked to hit.
Back in the ’40’s and ’50’s, people hit. It was part of the culture. If you were bad, you got hit. Mostly, you got hit with an open palm. Sometimes on special occasions, you got hit with a hanger.
I always preferred wood to wire.
On very special occasions, you got hit during a vocal incantation.
At the end of the Hoshanah Rabah service, after the seven Hoshanot, you take hold of the twigs of a willow, and during the recitation of “Kol Mevaser, Mevaser Ve-omer” (“A voice heralds, heralds, and proclaims”), you pound that willow against a bench, until the leaves fall off. In many prayer books, you are instructed to beat the willow five times. That’s for sissies. Real MEN (like Tibby) whacked that thing until all the leaves were gone to show you’ve really let go of your sins. She would crack that sucker like a whip in a four four rhythm: KOL meVAser meVAser veOmer, over and over until she was in a frenzy. Then she would sniff, blow her nose, and a look of total contentment would appear on her face. During the year in shul, hitting would be replaced by crying. Mom always brought multiple handkerchiefs to shul. Cry, sniff, content…
Back at home though, when you would hear those words rhythmically coming from her mouth, you better run like sixty…