What can a congregation or an individual chazzan do to make the Hoshanot work as well as possible, logistically?

I've been to many Sukkot services, especially on Hoshana Raba (HR), in which the physical process of people circumambulating the bima doesn't run as smoothly as I'd prefer. In some cases, the procession is over before some or even most people have made it all the way around (seven times on HR). In some cases, congestion causes people to spend a great deal of time standing still. In some cases, people trip over or squeeze past obstacles.

What strategies or tactics work best for making the Hoshanot run as smoothly as possible, with everyone getting around enough times by the end? I'm interested both in measures that a congregation can plan for ahead of time and that an individual chazzan or gabbai can do unilaterally in real-time.

Please indicate clearly in your answer what its basis is, whether practical experience (much preferred), hearsay, theoretical reasoning, or some published source, with as much relevant detail as you can include.

  • 1
    Traffic cops. Otherwise some people will cut in and out to make sure they get around, and others will take the path of least obvious resistance instead of maximizing use of available space, and things jam up (see also hakafos). If this had an answer we'd be able to eliminate regular traffic jams too. #humannature #fail
    – yitznewton
    Sep 30, 2013 at 14:11
  • @yitznewton, Have you had experience implementing or observing this method? Why not post an answer?
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 30, 2013 at 14:15
  • My comment was a bit fatalistic, so I didn't post as an answer. In my experience nothing ad hoc has worked, and in my informal estimation the only way it would work is with actual enforced patterns, something that I have never seen and that would probably meet with resistance in many places.
    – yitznewton
    Sep 30, 2013 at 23:16
  • I know of a public transit specialist who might be well suited to answer this question.
    – Fred
    Oct 1, 2013 at 2:04
  • @Fred Does he have gabbai experience, too? If so, he'd at least be very well-equipped to appreciate great answers.
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 1, 2013 at 3:06

1 Answer 1


From practical experience the #1 problem is a tight circle which is not large enough for all the congregants. My Shul used to have this problem and has stopped having this problem when they expanded the circle size according to the size of the crowd. Some Shuls may not have the liberty of expanding the circle size due to the set up, and some just may have way more people than the circle can handle. What I have seen done in a large Shul with over 1000 people, is having numerous circles rather than just one circle, thereby alleviating the crowd and making it possible for all to complete a full circle for each Hoshana.

  • 3
    Besides for increasing circle circumference, another great improvement is increasing the width of the "circle stroke". When our shul widened the walking lane (by clearing away tables and chairs that lay in the path) allowing people to walk two-abreast, the Hakafot were vastly improved. Many used lane 2 as a "passing lane" that engendered no ill-will by the slower congregants.
    – Barry
    Sep 30, 2013 at 15:49
  • @Barry, why don't you post an answer, or perhaps edit this one? That sounds like pretty relevant experience.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 30, 2013 at 18:14

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