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And You Shall Rejoice

And You Shall Rejoice

Simchat Bet Ha-Sho'evah

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When the Holy Temple stood, the celebration of the simchat bet ha-sho'evah was marked by great public festivity and rejoicing. But now, the Holy Temple is destroyed because of our sins, and we have neither the altar nor the sacrifices, neither the wine libations nor the water libations. Nevertheless, we still rejoice greatly on the Festival of Sukkot! The sacrifices may have ceased, but the mitzvot of the Festival will never cease to be pertinent, and the Torah ordains: And you shall rejoice on your Festival.

In many communities it is therefore customary to hold festive gatherings in synagogues and battei midrash during the nights of the Festival to rejoice together through music, song, and praise in remembrance of the simchat bet ha-sho'evah.

It is also customary to recite the fifteen "songs of ascent," psalms that begin with the words Shir ha-Ma'alot (Psalms 120-134), which correspond to the fifteen steps in the Bet hamikdash that separated the men's courtyard and the women's courtyard. During the simchat bet ha-sho'evah in the Bet ha-Mikdash, the Leviyim would stand on these steps, singing and playing their instruments.

Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, OBM, was one of Israel's most acclaimed religious authors, whose books on the Jewish way of life and the Chassidic movement have become renowned. Text translated from the Hebrew by Nachman Bulman and Dovid Landseman.
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