Water-Drawing Ceremony

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The ceremony that took place in the Temple during the seven days of the festival of Tabernacles. The usual libation on the altar was of wine but after the Tamid, the perpetual offering, had been offered in the morning of each of these seven days there was a libation of water, the festival of Tabernacles being the season when prayers for rain were offered. The whole ceremony was rejected by the Sadducees as having no basis in the Bible. But the Pharisees declared it to be a ‘law given to Moses at Sinai’ and they set the greatest store by it. A verse quoted in this connection was: ‘Joyfully shall you draw water from the fountains of triumph’ (Isaiah 12: 3). The Mishnah (Sukkah 5: 1–5) describes the great celebration that took place in honour of the water-drawing from the night after the first day of Tabernacles and on the subsequent nights of the festival. The Mishnah states: ‘He that has never seen the joy of the Bet Ha-Shoevah [“the joy of the House of the Drawing”] has never in his life seen joy.’

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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