Celebrating the Torah Sheba’al Peh (Oral Torah)

October 16, 2019 at 10:12 PM ,

“….He who has not witnessed the rejoicing at the water drawing, has witnessed NO real rejoicing in his entire life……” (Mishna, Sukkah 5:1)

״אמרו, כל מי שלא ראה שמחת בית השואבה, לא ראה שמחה מימיו. – משנה, סוכה ה,א

rejoicing at the water drawing
The Talmud (Sukkah 48b) quotes the prophetic words of Yeshayahu (12:3),  ושאבתם מים בששון ממעיני הישועה – And you will draw water with happiness from the springs of salvation,” in support of the festive celebration which accompanied the water-drawing for Nisuch Hamayim, the special pouring of water on the Mizbeiach during Sukkos. This source notwithstanding, why would this call for such an extraordinary celebration, to which even the Biblically-ordained rejoicing on Yom Tov cannot compare?

Nisuch hamayim is a practice that is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah but is a halachah l’Moshe mi-Sinai– a law which Moshe received at Sinai when the Torah was given. Nisuch Hamayim was therefore contested by thetzidukim, “literalists” who did not believe in or accept the authenticity and authority of the Torah sheba’al Peh, the Oral Traditon. In fact, the Talmud (Sukkah 48b) tells of atziduki who poured the water on his feet instead of properly doing the nisuch hamayim, and the people pelted him with their esrogim.

This was precisely the reason why the sages instituted that the even the drawing of the water, a mere preparation for the actual practice of pouring the water, should be done with such fanfare: in order to publically refute those who denied the Oral Tradition. (Similarly, Menachos 65a describes the hype with which the barley was harvested for the Omer, in order to refute the claims of the Baisosim, who disagreed with the sages regarding the correct day to bring the Omer sacrifice.) By creating such excitement around this practice, the traditions and belief in the Torah sheba’al Peh would become ingrained in the hearts of the entire community, who came to watch and rejoice as “the greatest of Israel’s wise men: the Rashei Yeshivos, the members of the Sanhedrin, the pious, the elders, and the men of stature would dance, clap, sing, and rejoice in the Mikdash on the days of Sukkos (Rambam, Hil. Lulav8:14).”


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—Toras Menachem vol. 7, pp. 43-45






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