Video & Photos: Thousands Celebrate at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva
The rabbis said: "Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva (Water Drawing Ceremony in the Temple, ed.) has never in his life seen true joy."
In the Jewish world today, nightly celebrations are held on Sukkot to recall and yearn for the return of that joy, with the one held at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva the main festivity for religious Zionists in Israel - who come by the thousands from far and wide to dance to the music of singer Akiva Margoliot and famous clarinetist Musa Berlin.and his band.
A large screen allows the thousands who cannot enter the yeshiva building due to the large crowd to feel that they are a part of the festivities and, notwithstanding the worries facing the state of Israel and the Jewish people, the happiness of faith in the Almighty fills the air.
In the days of the Holy Temple, the joyous Simchat Beit Hashoeva, or Water Drawing Celebration, was held every night on the Intermediate Days of the Sukkot Holiday and people came from far and wide to see it.
A golden container was filled with water drawn from the pools at Siloam outside the City of David, which can be visited today. When the water carriers reached the Water Gate, they blew three notes on the shofar.
As the hour of the festival came near, the people made their way to the Temple courtyard.. There were golden candlesticks, fifty cubits high, with four gold bowls atop them. Four ladders led to the top of each candlestick, and four young priests mounted the ladders, holding in their hands large jars of oil which they poured into the golden bowls. When the candlesticks were lit, the light glowed through out the entire city of Jerusalem. The celebration of the Simchat Beit Hashoeva continued throughout the entire night.
The greatest Sages would dance joyfully at the celebration, performing juggling acts, holding torches and more. The Levites would play musical instruments, including harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets as they stood on the fifteen steps which led down from the Holy Temple.
The Talmud tells that when the great Sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rejoiced at the water festival, he would juggle with eight lit torches, tossing them into the air, catching one and then throwing another, so that they never touched each other.
Two priests stood at the Upper Gate of the Temple, holding trumpets in their hands. As the roosters crowed the first light of dawn, they blasted their trumpets, and continued as they ascended the steps. They continued walking until they reached the gate which led to the east, whereupon they turned to face the west and uttered the words: "We belong to G-d and our eyes are turned to G-d."
The Merkaz HaRav yeshiva is considered the flagship yeshiva of religious Zionism, Founded by the late Chief Rabbi HaRav Avraham Kook, its students have gone on to found yeshivas - such as Beit El - and hold leadership positions, while its heads have been the leaders of relgious Zionism, including HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Chief Rabbi HaRav Avraham Elkana Shapira. The present Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Yaakov Shapira is being talked about for the post of Chief Rabbi to be decided in the coming year.