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I recall hearing from Rabbi Hershel Shachter that for Hoshanos, you're really supposed to go around the bima (and seven times on Hoshana Rabba); he said if you were davening at home, you should in fact walk around the table in the room.

What about the "hakafos" in Simchas Torah (okay there are still a few minyans out there that do hakafos like on hoshanos -- just march around the room once and move on) -- they take the Torahs around seven times, but usually I've seen most of the people just stay around the dance space. Are they supposed to follow the Torahs around 7 times too?

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I have heard from reliable halachic sources that the concept of circling the Bimah is a minhag hatzibbur and not necessary when saying the hoshanos in private. I would love some sort of link to Rav Shachter's shiur or a write-up of it. –  Yahu Sep 21 '10 at 1:57
    
Or maybe it was just vis-a-vis hoshana rabba? I'll see if I can find the mp3 blineder. –  Shalom Sep 21 '10 at 2:17
    
Just a note, if you are counting and keeping track of hakofos, it seems that many places circle the bima many more than seven times. Let's say they circle it one or two hundred or more times, that seems like they are making one hundred or two hundred or more hakofos to me. And only seven are needed. Something to think about and keep in mind. –  Mordechai Sep 29 '10 at 1:54
    
In many shuls (I don't know if it's a universal custom) they announce "ad kan hakafah X." Perhaps this is done precisely in order to stress that the extra circuits are not important in themselves, but are all part of the one hakafah. –  Alex Sep 29 '10 at 19:25
    
Alex, they usually do that after multiple circuits, but attempt to count them as just one. Doesn't add up. –  Mordechai Oct 13 '10 at 16:17
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http://thefoundationstone.org/en/holidays/succot/1538-hallelsuccotmodesmovement.html

The Hakafot of Simchat Torah are an expression of an enclosed world that is protected by the Torah.

The Maharal explains that when you go into your Succah you are leaving one level of existence for another. Once a person has succeeded in leaving his physical world and experiencing even just for a few moments, living in a spiritual world, he will never live in this world the way he did before. He has risen to a new level. We are changed when we are able to step into a different level of existence.

This circle is not formed by us, but around us in order to enclose and protect us. The circle of the Succah creates a special space for us. The circles of Simchat Torah create a separate world for us in which we can experience an entirely different perspective on life. We can take that experience with us even when we no longer are within the circle. The circle is a cocoon.

The Midrash teaches that when the verse says, “ His left hand is underneath my head, and his right hand hugs me,” it is alluding to the Succah and Simchat Torah. The left hand is referring to the Succah and the right hand that hugs is Simchat Torah. The circles of Simchat Torah are hugs from God that provide is with a special place.

The first day of Succot is to help us pinpoint what has changed. Simchat Torah is when we remind ourselves to stop over the course of the coming year and remember that we experienced a different level of life, and to reflect on how are we different because of that experience.

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In certain communities (like the Addas Yeshurun in Johannesburg; a Yekkishe minyan) only the Chazzan and those honored to carry the Sifrei Torah walk around the Bima on Simchas Torah.

The only others moving around are the kids who are collecting candy in bags or buckets.

The rest of the community remains in their seats; singing and handing out candy to the kids.

While the singing for each Hakofo may continue, the Chazzan usually stops after each round and waits; thereby completing ONLY 7 rounds.

(Based on my memories from growing up.)

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