Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ob"m left this world a month after Succot, 20 years ago in 5755. Here is a vintage clip of him during the last Hoshana Raba service of his life. Enjoy it, and may we all be signed and sealed for a wonderful New Year 5775. Chag Sameach!
Here's how the ancient "Water-Drawing Ceremony", Simchat Bet Hashoeva, was celebrated during the time of our Holy Temple, may it be rebuilt soon, amen:
A golden container was filled with water drawn from the pools at Siloam in Jerusalem. When the water carriers reached the Water Gate, they blew three notes on the shofar.
On the right side of the ramp leading to the altar, there were two silver bowls, each with a hole shaped like a narrow spout, one wider than the other. One bowl stood to the east and the other to the west. The shapes of the bowls allowed them to be emptied simultaneously. (The wider spouted bowl held wine, which flows more slowly than water.)
As the evenings of the festival approached, the people made their way down to the Court of the Women. 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 kohanim mounted the ladders, holding in their hands large jars of oil which they poured into the golden bowls. Wicks to light the oil were made from worn-out clothing of the kohanim, and when the candlesticks were lit, the light glowed through out the entire city of Jerusalem.
The greatest Sages and tzadikim would participate joyfully in the celebration, performing the most extraordinary feats. Some of them would bear burning torches in their hands while singing Psalms and other praises of G-d. The Levites would play many various musical instruments, including harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets as they stood on the fifteen steps which led down from the Court of Women in the Holy Temple.
Two kohanim were stationed 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 as they ascended the steps, they blew two additional rounds of tekiah's. 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 Sages relate that when the great Sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rejoiced at the water festival, he would juggle with eight lighted torches, tossing them into the air, catching one and then throwing another, so that they never touched each other. He would also prostrate himself on the ground, bend down, doing a head-stand, kiss the ground and draw himself up again, a feat which no one else could do.
The Talmud relates many of these displays of prowess which the Sages performed at the Simchat Beit Hashoeva. They record that Reb Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi with eight knives. Shmuel would do the same with eight glasses of wine, without spilling any of their contents. Rabbi Abaye would juggle before Rabbi Rabba with eight (or some say, four) eggs.
It is written in the name of Rabbi ben Chanania, "When we used to rejoice at the place of the water-drawing, our eyes saw no sleep." It is explained that the entire day was occupied with holy activities, so that the participants in the simcha were busy from day to night.
In the morning the sacrifice was brought, followed by prayers, and then an additional sacrifice. Then they would study Torah and eat breakfast. Afternoon prayer was following by the evening sacrifice and then the water-drawing festivities commenced.
The celebration of the Simchat Beit Hashoeva continued throughout the entire night, lighting up the city so brilliantly that there was no courtyard in Jerusalem which didn't reflect the light of the great candlesticks which illumined the Festival of the Water-Drawing.
Every night during Chol Hamoed Succot, there're singing and dancing everywhere. This holy custom dates back to the Holy Temple, when Simchat bet Hashoeva, the "Drawing of the Water" celebration would take place nightly during Sukkot. The Sages noted that "Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy." They have left us wonderful descriptions of the scenes that inspire us with longing to witness it once again.
Here's what Simchat Bet Hashoeva looks like today in Israel, in the court of the Lelover Chassidim in Bet Shemesh. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Shabbat and Chol Hamoed!
Today, the 18th of Tishrei 5775, is the 204th yahrtzeit of our holy, esteemed and beloved Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, may his holy neshama intervene in our behalf, amen!
Please light a candle in loving memory of Rebbe Nachman the son of Faigie and Simcha. In his memory, ask Hashem for a favor you need, especially in the area of spiritual growth.
Breslev Israel and the Beams wish everyone a healthy, happy and joyous Succoth holiday! Here's a taste of Succoth in the Chut Shel Chesed Succa in Jerusalem, during the recitation of Hallel. May you be blessed with limitless joy!
Rabbi Yoel ben Shmuel Sirkis (1561-1640), aka the "Bach", named after his landmark commentary on the Arba Turim, was one of the greatest rabbis and scholars of all time. He was also my 11th generation great grandfather on my mother's side, which makes me a distant cousin of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory, who was a great-grandson of the Bach.
In the following memorable clip, here's Rabbi Shlomo telling a classic story about the Bach, which I enjoy telling to my guests and grandchildren in our Succa. It's really moving, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Moadim L'Simcha!
In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…
But like Rebbe Nachman tells us, there's no despair in the world. Today's Beams might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:
The perenniel post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succa. As the Beams is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.
Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.
Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.
Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his teeth in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.
Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-aglore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-cloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods.
So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.
True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. Here at the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but boil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the beef and veal. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantelope cubes, or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us.
The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.
A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? Breslev Israel and the Beams wish you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen.