Rejoicing of the Water-Drawing House
כָּל מִי שֶׁלֹּא רָאָה שִׂמְחַת בֵּית הַשּׁוֹאֵבָה – לֹא רָאָה שִׂמְחָה מִיָּמָיו!
Whomever didn’t see Simchas Beis haShoeivah did not see simchah in all his days!
–Mishnah Sukkah 5:1
The talmud on this mishnah then continues describing at length the singing, dancing and juggling that lasted through the night as the water was brought from the Beis haShoeivah — the water-drawing house down at the Shiloach spring — up the mountain, through the Beis haMiqdash courtyard and poured as Nishuch haMayim, a water libation, into a funnel in the mizbeiach. In the first Beis haMiqdash, there was no funnel, so the water would run down the side and into the ground there. However, given that the second Temple’s mizbeiach was larger than the first, it is likely they were aiming for the water to reach the same spot of ground.
The following is from notes taken after yom tov of just one thought from a shiur given by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff in 2001. He constructed his talk from a number of shmuessin from Rav Hutner, along with some bits recorded by Rav Hutner in print in Pachad Yitzchok. (I started looking into Pachad Yitchaq myself over the bit of yom tov after the shiur as well, so some may not be what was originally said.)
In the more detailed description of the creation of Adam, Bereishis chapter 2, the formation of man is described as:
וְאֵ֖ד יַֽעֲלֶ֣ה מִן־ הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁקָ֖ה אֶֽת־ כָּל־ פְּנֵֽי־ הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃
A mist arose from the earth and moistened the entire surface of the land.
Where did this occur? Until seeing Rashi I had thought the “mist arose from the earth” was a feature of Gan Eden, that it didn’t require irrigation. However, Rashi (ad loc) writes that what is being described is something specific to the formation of man. In fact, we are not introduced to the gan, and humanity isn’t placed in it until pasuq 8!
The mist turned the dirt into mud, which HQBH then formed into the shape of man, as the Chumash continues (2:7):
וַיִּיצֶר֩ ה֨’ אֱלֹקִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃
Hashem E-lokim formed man, dust of the land; and He “blew” into his nose a living soul; and the man became a living soul.
–Ibid v. 7
The water isn’t about irrigation, it’s the first step in the description of the making of humanity!
Rashi cites two opinions as to where the “dust of the land” came from — either the entire world, or the location of the mizveiach. But Rav Hutner turns to the Rambam (Hil Beis haBechirah 2:2), who says there is a universal tradition that the location where the earth was formed to make Adam’s body is the location of the mizbeiach. (As well as the tradition teaching it was the place of the Aqeidah, of Noach’s qorban, of Qayin and Hevel’s qorbanos, and of Adam’s qorban at the time of creation.) And therefore, the Rambam concludes, our sages teach that “adam mimaqom kaparaso nivra — the human was created out of the place of his atonement.”
R’ Hutner uses this point to explain the significance of Nisuch haMayim. In Nisuch haMayim we are reproducing the creation of man, pouring water on the very same location!
The difference is, however, that in Nisuch haMayim it is man who is creating himself. Thereby making Nisuch haMayim a fitting conclusion to yemei hadin, where we just focused all of our energies on recreating ourselves. And this joy, the delight in our ability to constantly create ourselves anew into better people, is the simchah of Sukkos.
But what about “vayyipach be’apav nishmas chayim“? When do we do that step?
I can’t reproduce Rav Hutner’s poetic words about the power of music. About its ability to animate a person. How a 21st cent CE Jew in the US (at least this one) can respond to the music of an 18th cent German like Bach — it goes beyond space, and time. Of the 7 chochmos, musikah is the one placed right below Chochmah E-lokis (Theology).
Music, in its power to motivate, the nonphysical moving the physical, is the nearest we can do to adding a soul.
“Sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah” — although the neshamah was put into man last, it was created first (even before light). Therefore, before nisuch hamayim we have the music and dancing of Simchas Beis haSho’eivah.
I’ll leave off here. But you really need to see this inside. Simply amazing. Much of the long discussion in the gemara about Simchas Beis haSho’eivah is explained — the songs sung, the significance of juggling, and of juggling torches, and so on…
While we have not yet merited to witness Simchas Beis haSho’eivah and thereby know what simchah really is, this vort significantly gave me joy from the simchas Torah, the joy of Torah.