Responding to a kvetch on Avodah last year, that it’s foolish to believe that our holy tzadikim based the idea of hakafot on a misquoted text, I wrote:
In fact, Yaari says that the whole thing is based on this mistaken transcription.
He quotes from Shaar Hakavvanot (R' Chaim Vital; shaar 6) "...I saw my teacher [the Ari] z"l who was very careful in this to circle after the sifrei torah or before them or after them and to dance and to sing before them as much as he could on the night of motzai Yom Tov after Aravit."
The problem was that Shaar Hakavvanot was not printed until 1852, and then in
R' J. Zemach was not accurate in his transcription, and left out "motzai Yom Tov", transposing it to Simchat Torah night (Shmini Atzeret, since he was in Eretz Yisrael).
The author of Hemdas Yomim (part 3, Days of Sukkot, ch. 8) did not have a ms. of Shaar Hakavvanot, and relied on R' Jacob Tzemach.
R’ Vital did not bring any reasons for the 7 hakafot; later authors attributed meanings to it, e.g. the 7 midot (lower sefirot?) according to the Shelah hakodesh, etc.
Actually, I don't think this is necessarily the origin of chassidim outside of
In fact, the Chasidish minhag to make hakafot on the night of Shmini Atzeret was an innovation of the Hemdat Yamim (ibid., ch 7), to express unity with the Jews of EY who were making their hakafot that night. It was picked up by R' Alexander Ziskind of Horodno (Yesod veShoresh HaAvodah ). A misnaged (quoted in
The hakafot that we do during the day seem to be a much later invention. They sprang up independently in several places, in
So even if you don’t have easy access to Yaari, you can read this summary, with pointers to his sources. There was a mistake in transmission, which led to the universal Simchat Torah night hakafot, and there was a conscious choice made by the author of Hemdat Yamim, and ratified by early Chasidim, to do extra hakafot on the night of Shmini Atzeret.
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Other well-known halachot based on "mistakes": the kashrut of bee-honey (when the text meant date-honey in the Torah, and only switched in the period of the Early Prophets) and turkey (based on a mistake about Asian Indians vs. American Indians). When asked about turkey, isn't it based on a mistaken identity, the late Bobover Rebbe replied, "It's a good thing our ancestors weren't as frum as we are". So now we have a mesorah that turkey is kosher. And now we have hundreds of years of a minhag to do hakafot on leil Simchat Torah. It matters far less what the origin was, than that it has been ratified by pretty much all of Klal Yisrael.
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And now this old custom, of hakafot on the night after Simchat Torah (did the moderns in