Life sustaining water, eau d'vivre, bottled at the source from the most
pristine and exotic locations line the shelves in every supermarket, each
bottled in an eye-catching and enticing container. Apparently, even with the
plethora of soft drinks and beverages that are on hand, crystal clear, pure
water is the most sought after drink after all. Intuitively, we understand
that the more natural it is, the more we can enjoy and appreciate its
In this week's Torah portion we find a reference to a Temple ritual, the
Simchas Beis Hashoeva, that was performed with this most elemental
substance; pure water. It was perhaps the most pivotal and prominent
celebration in the Beis Hamikdash. Each Sukkos, a water libation was poured
onto the altar amidst a euphoric outburst of festivities and celebrations
that lasted throughout the Chag.
The Talmud tells us that it is impossible to describe the outpouring of joy
that accompanied this simple act of pouring water on the Mizbayach. "Whoever
has not witnessed the joy apparent at Simchas Beis HaShueavah has never seen
true joy in their life," the Talmud states.
Why the unbridled joy that accompanied this ritual? And why doesn't the
Torah spell out the details of this climactic event? Why is it is merely
alluded to in the Torah with the letters of the Hebrew word "mayim" (meaning
water) interspaced between the verses that detail the sacrificial offerings
brought on the festival of Sukkos. Why is this ritual so shrouded in secrecy?
The Talmud reveals that the this special celebration was ordained from the
very origin of creation. The Torah tells us that when Hashem created the
world, His unity and presence were complete in the world; the shechinah
hovered over the waters. Of course, the only thing that Hashem had created
outside himself was the reflection of His presence, as is the natural
property of water. The Torah teaches that with Hashem's creation of planet
Earth, spiritual and metaphysical forces were given physical expression
through what we know as the natural order.
At this time, the Sages tell us, the lower waters cried before Hashem, "We
wish to be close to You and One with You. Why can we not be united with our
original source in the Heavens (Shamayim, comprised of Aish, fire, and
HaShem pacified the lower waters by reassuring them that they will be
unified with their celestial source in a most auspicious manner. On each
Sukkos, the Jewish people will observe the ritual of pouring water over the
altar, symbolizing the unification of the lower waters with their Heavenly
source. This rather enigmatic statement of the Sages requires explanation.
How did the waters become reunited with their Source by being poured on the
altar? And why was this ritual accompanied with such an outburst of
The Hebrew for water, Mayim, gives us insight into water's very essence. It
is a palindrome that can be read identically from beginning to end, and from
end to beginning. The letter "Mem" always represents a material reality,
something that Hashem created outside of Himself. Thus, its numerical value
is forty, an expansion of the number four, which reflects the properties
from which all matter is composed.
There are four polarities and directions to the world, which is comprised of
four essential properties. The embryo is formed into a cohesive state within
the first forty days, and the number forty and four hundred figures
prominently in many of the laws, rituals, ideas and fact surrounding the
material world. For example, the Torah tells us that the waters of the
mighty flood rained down for forty days in Noah's time. Moreover, Esav,
representing the material world, fought Yaakov who represents the spiritual
world, with four hundred men.
The material world is a reflection of the upper world when it is bound and
connected with the "yud," the presence of the Divine. Then the water has
realized its Divine mission of creation, sustaining and giving life to the
lower world with the objective that it bonds with the Upper World, revealing
Creator and Creation and truly connecting this world to its Source.
It was this recognition that the Jewish people attained on the festival of
Sukkos after gaining atonement for their sins on Yom Kippur and reconnecting
with their Divine Source. By pouring the water on the altar they
demonstrated that they too, like water, were completely viscous in Hashem's
presence, and displayed their readiness to conform to whatever life
conditions Hashem would subject them to. This was the highest and most
joyous moment of the year for it crystallized the purpose of Creation.
It is perhaps for this reason that the exalted ritual and celebration of
Simchas Beis Hashoeva is merely alluded to in the Torah. It cannot be
explicit for it embodies a profound mindset that we must arrive at on our
own. If we are simply following the instruction manual in the Torah, we will
be missing the point. We have attain this lofty level of awareness from our
own inner recognition and our yearning to come close to Him.
There can be no greater joy and happiness than that we are secure in
fulfilling our Divine mission and mandate, elevating ourselves and the world
to the higher spheres and the Heavenly Throne. There can be no greater joy
than that experienced when the Jewish people melt into the presence of
Hashem and are one with our Divine source.