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Water Libation Ceremony

Water Libation Ceremony

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Published by Finkle Art
Social History of the Shofar as found in the Talmud
Social History of the Shofar as found in the Talmud

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Finkle Art on Feb 12, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Water Libation Ceremony: Social History of the ShofarArthur L. Finkle
In reading the tractate Succah, both Palestinian and Babylonian, wecome across some fascinating social history regarding the role of theshofar in the ceremonies of the Holy Temple.We learn that part of the Succot ceremony is celebrated todayinsofar as dwelling in the sukah and handling the lavav (palmbranch), etrog (related to the lemon and indigenous to Israel),myrtle branch and water willow branch (Arava).Two important ceremonies, however, were not carried over from therites of the Holy Temple on Succot: the Aravot Ceremonyand theWater Libation Ceremony and.
Aravot Ceremony
TheAravot ceremony consisted of bringing in water willow brachesthat were stood up with the tops touching the alter. The Priestswould then encircle the altar reciting Psalms arguably with theeither the willow braches in hand or the luvav in hand.
Water Libation Ceremony
 The Water Libation Ceremony was performed each day of Succot.The rationale teaches the Jewish people to bring water before Himon Succot, petitioning for adequate rains, paramount to the successof an agricultural society. (Succah Bavli 37; and RH 16a). Anotherinterpretation from the Midrash is that the lower waters were sadwhen God separated the waters to upper and lower. Their distresswas noted by God that the lower waters would be elevated duringthis season. (RabbaynuBachya to Lev 1:13)The Water Libation ceremony was an elaborate ritual emitting great joy, in fulfilling of Is. 12:3: ³´You shall draw water with joy from thewellsprings of salvation.´
 The Water Libation ceremony, however, was a joyous celebrationduring the holiday of Succot. We find a minute description of thiswater libation ceremony in Talmud Yerulshalmi 30a, whereintwopriests stood by the Upper Gate that; led to the Israelites courtyard.When the crier called out, the Kohanin sounded a series of tekiah,teruah and tekiah. They sound the shofar series again ± only longer -according to Rashi as they went to the East. The procession went tothe gates, facing the Nicanor¶s Gate, bowing toward the sanctuaryOF God, faces to the East. They then turned to the West and said:our forefathers who were in this placebutasfor us out eyes aretoward God (*and Yuh ± close the ineffable name) was spoken tobetoken God.Thereafter, the trumpet sounders arrived at the tenthstep (theRabbi¶s come to no conclusion as whether this was the tenth stepfrom the bottom of the tenth step from the top ± there arefifteensteps in all). (Succah Yerush. 31a)The Jewish Encyclopedia cites the elegance of primacy of theelaborate Water Libation Ceremony:
To express their contempt of theSadducees on the one hand and tostrengthen their own position on theother, the Rabbis embellished thelibation of water with so much ceremony that it became a favorite and distinctiverite on these occasions. On the night of the first day of the Feast of Tabernaclesthe outer court of the Temple wasbrilliantly illuminated with four goldenlamps, each containing 120 logs of oil, inwhich were burning the old girdles and garments of the priests (Bavli. Shab.21a; Bavli. Yoma 23a). These lampswere placed on high pedestals whichwere reached by ladders; and special galleries were erected in the court for the accommodation of women, while themen below held torches in their hands,sang hymns, and danced. On the fifteensteps of the Gate of Nicanor stood theLevites, chanting the fifteen "songs of 
degrees" (Ps. 120-124.) to theaccompaniment of their instruments, of which the most important was the flute,although it was used neither on theSabbath nor on the first day of the feast (Suk. v. 1).The illumination, which was like a sea of fire, lit up every nook and corner of  Jerusalem, and was so bright that in any  part of the city a woman could pick wheat from the chaff. Whosoever did not see this celebration never saw a real one(Suk. 53a). Hillel the Elder encouraged general rejoicing and participated in thecelebration that all might follow hisexample, while R. Simeon b. Gamaliel  juggled with eight torches, throwingthem in the air and catching them again,thus showing his joy at the feast. R. Joshua b. Hananiah states that thefestival was celebrated throughout thenight with songs, music, shouting,clapping of hands, jumping, and dancing.
Role of the Trumpet (Shofar)
 Succah 31b (Palestinian) give a social history of the role of theshofar in the Holy Temple, with particular emphasis on Succot.
Indeed, the shofar was sounded in the Templeevery day from 21 to 48 times
:three times to accompanythe opening of the Temple Courtyard Gates; 9-blasts to accompanythe morning offering; another 9-blasts to accompany the afternoonsacrifice; 9 for the musaf offering.

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