Have you ever been to a great simchah -- a large wedding, a great festivity? In the Mishnah, the Rabbis said, "Anyone who has not seen the Simchah of the Beis Hashoeivah (the celebration of the water libations during the Sukkos holiday), has never seen a simchah in his lifetime." Since the Beis Hamikdosh (the Temple in Jerusalem) is in ruins, we have no such celebration in our times; in that case, we have never truly seen a simchah in our lifetimes!
It is difficult for us today to mourn properly during the Tisha B'av period (the time set aside for mourning over the destruction of the Temple), because we can't even imagine the glory of the Beis Hamikdosh, which we have never visualized. Similarly, we can't truly imagine the simchah of the Simchas Beis Hashoeivah. We have no idea of what simchah really means!
A number of early authorities held that the recital of the Hallel service on Yom Tov is of Torah origin (not merely of Rabbinic status). Where does the Torah ordain the recital of Hallel? We are commanded to rejoice on the festival. Simchah is associated with song...
Every sacrifice included libations -- the pouring of wine upon the altar. As the wine is poured, the Levites sing Hallel. The Talmud (Brochos 35a) quotes the verse: (Judges 9:13) "...Should I leave my wine, which cheers G-d and man...?" Granted that wine cheers man; how does it cheer G-d? From here it is deduced that the Levities only sing over the wine...
Apparently, the beautiful music of the Levite "cheers" G-d. The wine thus is seen to cheer Hashem, because at the pouring of the wine, the Levites commence their beautiful song.
Since the Torah commands us to rejoice over the festivals, we must engage in songs of praise as well, for they cause Hashem to "rejoice" as well. This is the Hallel.
King David stated: "I will lift up the cup of salvation , and I will call in the Name of Hashem." (Psalms 116:13) Rashi explains that the verse was referring to the sacrifice. The 'cup of salvation' was the wine of the altar, which David would bring for his thanksgiving offering; the 'calling in the Name of Hashem' referred to the songs of praise that would be recited at that time. Just as the Levites sang at the wine libation of the public sacrifice, David would sing praises at the pouring of the wine on the altar for his private thanksgiving offering.
"Song is the cleaving of the soul above..." (The commentary Aleph L'matah on Mateh Ephraim).
The greatest simchah of all, however, was at the Sukkos festival, where there were additional libations: Besides the usual pouring of wine, there were water libations.
The Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah states that at Sukkos time, there is a judgment over the water. The Lulav is described as a prayer for water, as well.
Water is compared to the Torah, which descends from a high place to a low place. Rabbi Akiva felt that the drops of water eventually boring through rock intimated that the Torah would eventually penetrate his heart. He used to say that a Jew without Torah is like a fish without water...
The Bnei Yisaschor explains that the great simchah of the Simchas Beis Hashoeivah was because the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) would descend upon the nevi'im (prophets) at this time especially...
The Mishnah describes the circumstance or rain during Sukkos as if the servant came to mix the master's cup of wine, but the master rejected the wine and threw the cup back in the servant's face. The Vilna Gaon explained the comparison. The Days of Awe are times of strict judgment. Sukkos, however, is a merciful time that softens the severity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
If it rains during the festival of Sukkos, it is an indication that Hashem does not want to soften the judgment. This is an unfortunate sign. It is similar to the servant who cannot mix the cup; wine is strong, the mixing of the cup indicates the diluting of its potency. The servant who cannot mix the cup runs the risk of facing a harsh year...
May we all partake of sweet singing this year!
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel
1 Babbin Ct. Spring Valley, NY
email@example.com Ph. 914-425-3565 Fax 914-425-4296
© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97