[b-hebrew] "Hosanna in the highest" in Hebrew?

Noam Eitan noameitan at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 16 20:18:51 EST 2003

The common expression "Hosanna in the highest" seems to translate to 
"Please save in the highest" which doesn't make sense. What's the original 
Hebrew and where does it come from?
Hosanna (Hoshana) is indeed save-please, or bring us salvation, please, or Please, G-d, bring us salvation. Na is the particle of entreaty, either translated as "please", or left untranslated.  
It seems strange unless you are familiar with pharisaic literature. I don't want to step into a problematic territory, but this is not the only place in the NT where acquaintance with Jewish customs of the time, documented in later pharisaic literature, raises questions about the identity and familiarity of the Gospels' writers with Jewish life and of Hebrew. To wit, in this case: 
On each day of the Sukkot festival, after the recitation of hallel or after musaf - each congregation according to its custom - a Torah scroll is removed from the ark and brought to the bimah (where the Torah is read). The chazan and congregation say the first four Hoshanot responsively. They then circle the bimah holding the lulav and esrog and recite the longer Hoshana prayer for the respective day of the Festival, as they appear in the Siddur.

These prayers for redemption are referred to as Hoshanot because each stanza of the prayer is accompanied by the word hoshana - a combination form of the words hosha and na (bring us salvation, please).

On the first six days of the Festival, the bimah is circled once. On Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of the Festival, seven circles are made. This custom commemorates the service in the Bet ha-Mikdash (The Temple) during which the kohanim would circle the altar once daily and seven times on Hoshana Rabbah.

Hoshana Rabbah is the last day for fulfillment of the mitzvos of the four species and dwelling in the sukkah (although there are many in the Diaspora who dwell in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret as well). The day is referred to as Hoshana Rabbah (literally, the great Hoshana) because more Hoshana prayers are recited on this day than on the other days.

This day was also known as "the day of the beating of the aravah." The Mishnah (Sukkah 4:2) records: How was the mitzvah of aravah fulfilled? There was a place below Jerusalem called Motza. They would go down there and pick branches of willows and would then come and place them alongside the altar with the heads (of the willow branches) bent over the altar. They then sounded the shofar: a tekiah, a teruah, and a tekiah. Each day they would circle the altar once and say, "Ana Hashem Hoshiah Na (Please, G-d, bring us salvation), Ana Hashem Hatzlichah Na (Please, G-d, bring us success)'... On that day (i.e., Hoshana Rabbah) they circled the ahar seven times. When they had finished they would say, "Beauty is yours, O altar, beauty is yours." As was done during the week was done on Shabbat (i.e., i f Hoshana Rabbah fell on a Shabbat) except (that if it was Shabbat) they would gather them (the aravos) on the eve (of Shabbat) and place them in golden basins so that they would not become

In other words, the NT describes a custom, but the author got the festivals mixed (Pesach instead of Sukkot). Why do you think they run around yelling "Hosanna"? The context and meaning are lost in the NT text IMVHO.)





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