Beating the Aravot
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Beating the Aravot
- It is our custom on Hoshana Rabba morning after mussaf to beat five aravot on the floor five times. 
- We hold like the opinion in the gemara that the beating of the aravot is a minhag neviim, and therefore there is no bracha recited on it.  Additionally, in the shem yichud the text should read minhag neviim and not yesod neviim.
- One should shake the aravot before beating them.
Which Aravot are fit?
- The Aravot used for beating the Aravot must be fit for shaking the four minim. 
- The aravot should initially be nice in order to fulfill hiddur mitzvah. However, as long as they have a single leaf on them they are fit.
- The custom is to tie the aravot together for the procedure of beating the aravot.
- If necessary, it is permissible to use the two aravot that were tied to your lulav once you have fulfilled that mitzva, for the beating and removed the aravot from the tie. 
- If necessary, one can pass his aravot that he used to beat on the ground to a friend to fulfill his obligation as well as long as most of the leaves are still on the branch. 
- The minimum length for an aravah branch for beating is 3 tefachim, like it is for the aravah for the mitzva with lulav. 
- Most poskim believe that there is no reason to beat the aravot until all of the leaves fall off.
- The aravot should be beaten on the ground and not a paved area.
- Some say that Women are exempt from beating the Aravot.  Some say that women should also beat the aravot.
Reasons for the Custom
- Some view the beating of the Aravot as a ritual of atonement, and interpret Hoshana Rabba as a day of final judgment and forgiveness. Beating the branches symbolizes, and mystically brings about a sweetening of the Divine attribute of justice. Since the aravot symbolize the mouth by beating the aravot we are praying that the mouth of the prosecuting angels are closed.
- A recent view believes that the beating of the Aravot is a re-enactment of a prophecy delivered and acted out by the prophet Chagai on the 21st of Tishrei (i.e. on Hoshana Rabba) in which Chagai assured Jews that God would ultimately overturn the nations of the world and redeem Israel and the Temple.
- Beating the Aravot by Rabbi Asher Meir
- Chazon Ovadia Sukkot pg. 440, Yalkut Yosef Moadim pg. 183, Shaar Hakavanot 105a. Chayei Adam 153:3 writes that although there's really no fixed number of aravot necessary the proper custom is to use five.
- This argument about whether its a minhag neviim or yesod neviim appears in Gemara Sukkah 44a-b. Rashi there explains the practical difference between these opinion is whether or not we say a bracha. The Rambam (Sukkah 7:22) writes that since we hold that beating the aravot is only a minhag we do not recite a bracha. Shulchan Aruch OC 664:2 agrees.
- Chazon Ovadia Sukkot p. 440
- Rama 664:4, Chayei Adam 153:3
- Rama 664:4, Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 443)
- Shulchan Aruch and Rama OC 664:4. Mishna Brurah 664:17 explains that the aravot should initially have 3 or 5 groups of leaves.
- Birkei Yosef 664:4, Mishna Brurah 664:17. Chayei Adam 153:3 adds that it is nice to tie them together with a piece of the lulav.
- Mishna Brurah 664:21 as well as Chazon Ovadia Succot pg. 442 say that although Shulchan Aruch 664:6 holds like the gemara sukkah 44b that you cannot be yotzei with the aravot with the lulav, that's only talking about when the aravot are still tied to the lulav. Nitai Gavriel 77:10 agrees. In addition, this is not a problem of maalin bakodesh viein moridin (we go up in holiness and don't go down) because the Mordechai says that's only referring to items that are holy and not items that are just used for a mitzva. Yalkut Yosef Moadim pg. 183, Sh"t Yechave Daat 3:48, Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah 259 and Shach 259:11 hold like this.
- Sh"t Yechave Daat 3:48
- Shulchan Aruch 664:4, Nitai Gavriel Sukkot 77:4, Chazon Ovadia Sukkot pg. 443
- Ben Ish Chai (Vezot Habracha no. 7), Chayei Adam 153:3
- Ben Ish Chai (Vezot Habracha no. 7)
- Chazon Ovadyah (Sukkot pg 443), Chacham Benzion Mussafi. See also Sh"t Rav Pealim 1:Kuntres Sod Yesharim:12
- Nitai Gavriel Sukkot 77:15
- Zohar Parshat Tzav (end of 31b)
- Chazon Ovadia Sukkot p. 441 based on the Zohar
- See Chagai 2:1-9 and see article by Steven Weiner entitled "What Did the Willows Ever Do to Deserve Such a Beating? An Original Explanation for a Perplexing Custom" found here: http://seforim.blogspot.com/2015/09/what-did-willows-ever-do-to-deserve.html