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The Celebration Of The Water Drawing

The Celebration Of The Water Drawing

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What was the manner of the Water-Libation?

They used to fill a golden flagon holding three logs with water drawn from the Siloam. When they reached the Water Gate they blew on the shofar a tekiah - teruah - tekiah.

On the right of the Altar ramp were two silver bowls. They each had a hole like a narrow snout --one wide, the other narrow-- so that both bowls emptied themselves together (the wider one was for wine, since wine flows out more slowly). The bowl to the west was for water and the one to the east was for wine.

He that never has seen the simchat beit hashoevah (the joy of the Water-Drawing) has never in his life seen joy.

At the close of the first festival day they went down to the Court of the Women, and made great preparations there.

There were golden candlesticks there with four golden bowls on the top of them. The candlesticks were fifty cubits high. Four ladders led up to each candlestick, and four youths from the priestly stock went up holding in their hands jars of oil, of twenty-four logs' capacity, which they poured into the bowls.

They made wicks out of worn-out garments of the priests, and with them they set the candlesticks alight, and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of the bet hashoevah.

Men of piety and good deeds used to dance before them with burning torches in their hands, singing songs and praises. And countless Levites played on harps, lyres cymbals and trumpets and other instruments of music, on the fifteen steps leading from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women. Two priests stood at the Upper Gate which leads down from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women, with two trumpets in their hands.

At cock-crow they blew a tekiah - teruah - tekiah. When they reached the tenth step, they again blew a tekiah - teruah - tekiah. When they reached the Court they again blew a tekiah - teruah - tekiah. They went on until they reached the gate that leads out to the east. When they reached that gate, they turned their faces toward the west (facing the Sanctuary).

Rabbi Judah said, "They used to repeat the words, “ We belong to G‑d, and our eyes are turned towards G‑d.”

It was related of Old Hillel that when he was rejoicing with the joy of the Water-Drawing, he used to say, “ …Where I love to be, thither my legs carry me.” And the Holy One, blessed is He, says, "If you come to My house, I will come to your house, and if you do not come to My house, neither will I come to yours.”

It was related of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel that when he was rejoicing with the joy of the Water-Drawing he would take eight burning torches in one hand and toss them upwards; he tossed one and caught one, and never did one touch the other.... (T.B. Sukkah 53).

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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