This baraita agrees with R. Nahman that Shemini Atzeret is a separate festival. It lists six ways in which this halakhah is manifested. Some of these we have seen before, so I’ll explain only the two that are new.
Drawing (piyyus): This means they had a separate lottery among the priests as to who gets to offer which sacrifice. Shemini Atzeret is not part of the lottery that occurred for Sukkot.
The nature of the festival: According to Rashi this means that we do not sit in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.
The other issues have all been explained before.
This week’s daf opens with a new mishnah.
On all eight days of Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret the full Hallel is recited. This is different from Pesah on which a full Hallel is recited on the first day only. “Rejoicing” has a general meaning in that one is supposed to be happy on the festival, as it says in Leviticus 23:40, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Despite the fact that the Torah specifies “seven days” the rabbis expanded this to include Shmini Atzeret. “Rejoicing” also has a more specific ritual sense—during the festival one should bring sacrifices and eat them because eating meat, a much rarer luxury in mishnaic times than it is now, was considered one of the consummate signs of rejoicing.
The question the Talmud asks is how we know we have to celebrate on the eve of Shemini Atzeret and then the rest of the day for Shemini Atzeret. After all the verse says that we must rejoice on Sukkot and as we have seen Shemini Atzeret is not Sukkot. According to Rashi, this midrash is based on the fact that the Torah twice says that we should rejoice on Sukkot, once in Vayikra and once in Devarim. Why the second time? The extra mention includes the night of Shemini Atzeret, and since we must rejoice at night, the whole next day is included as well. Thus we must rejoice on Shemini Atzeret.
The second stage of the baraita shows why we rejoice at night on Shemini Atzeret. As we learned in the mishnah, this “rejoicing” is expressed in the Temple by sacrificing extra well-being offerings. So they would sacrifice them on the seventh day of Sukkot in order to eat them that night, which was the beginning of the festival. This is preferable to sacrificing the day before Sukkot and then eating on the first night of Sukkot, because then the sacrifice would be offered on a day that is not even holy, the day before Sukkot.
Thus, this baraita proves that we slaughter well-being sacrifices on the last day of Sukkot in order to rejoice on Shemini Atzeret. The rejoicing is eight days, as the Mishnah.
Today’s sugya begins with a new mishnah concerning eating in the sukkah on the last day of Sukkot.
The mishnah teaches that one should eat his last meal in the sukkah for lunch on the seventh day of Sukkot and then start to bring his nice things, his dishes, his bed, his couch etc., into the house as a sign of respect for Shmini Atzeret. However, he should not undo his sukkah because he might still need to eat in there if he wants to eat again before the day is over. Taking the sukkah down before Sukkot is completely over might also be perceived as a sign of disrespect for Sukkot. It might make it look like he couldn’t wait to take down his sukkah.
The Talmud asks what he should do if he has no place to put the vessels that he was using in the Sukkah. In essence the Talmud is asking what he should do to signify that he has finished his observance of the ritual of the sukkah if he is not for some reason able to remove the vessels that he was using in the sukkah.
R. Hiyya b. Ashi says that he should open a hole in the roof of the sukkah four handbreadths wide. A hole of this size would disqualify the sukkah. This would signify that he is finished sitting in the sukkah. R. Ashi says that he should light a lamp in there, for such a lamp is not appropriate for a small sukkah.
The Talmud then notes that these two positions do not contradict each other. In Eretz Yisrael, where R. Hiyya b. Ashi lives, they could completely disqualify the sukkah because they didn’t sit there on the night between the seventh and eighth. Sukkot was over by then. In contrast, in Babylonia where they didn’t know if the eighth day was really the eighth or was actually the seventh, they would dwell in the sukkah that night. Therefore, they could not disqualify it. The lamp was sufficient to signify that at least the certain part of Sukkot had been completed. It does not disqualify the sukkah.
Bringing in a lamp to signify that the sukkah will no longer be used is appropriate only for a small sukkah. It does not mean anything for a large sukkah, because one is allowed to bring a lamp into a large sukkah. So what should one do to signify that he is no longer using a large sukkah?
The answer is to bring in eating utensils. We have learned elsewhere that one does not bring these into the sukkah because they are dirty. So if he brings them in, he will be signifying that his dwelling in the sukkah is basically over.
Today’s section is a mishnah. My commentary is taken from Mishnah Yomit.
Another one of the unique ceremonies performed at the Temple on Sukkot was the water libation. During the year libations, that is pouring liquid onto the altar, were always performed with wine. The water libation is unique and was vehemently opposed by the Sadducees, as we shall see at the end of the Mishnah.
The water libation functioned as a supplication to God to bring rain in the upcoming season. As I have emphasized in other places, the rainy season in Israel is from Sukkot to Pesah. If enough rain does not fall in this period people’s lives would have been in serious danger. In the Temple they would pour water onto the altar to ask God to bring rain from the heavens to fill the cisterns and underground aquifers below.
The water libation ritual would begin with a procession from the Shiloah, the stream that empties out at the base of the Temple Mount. As we shall see when we learn the fifth chapter, this procession would begin in the morning after Simchat Bet Hashoevah (to be explained below). The people would make their way up to the Temple and enter through a designated gate called “the water gate.” [Made much more famous about 2,000 years later!] Just as we saw with the aravah ritual, here too they blew three shofar blasts. Again, this seems to have been a way of highlighting the event and emphasizing its importance in light of the fact that others disagreed with its fulfillment. They would then pour the water into a special bowl that had a hole in it. The water would go down to a cistern underneath the altar called “shitin”, where according to legend it would cause the waters of the deep to rise and nourish the earth. The wine libation was done simultaneously.
Rabbi Judah disagrees with the first opinion in the mishnah concerning two matters: 1) the libation was done with a log and not with three logs. Secondly, he holds that the water libation was for all eight days and not just on the seven days of Sukkot.
In the final story a priest, identified in the Talmud as a Sadducee, pours the water onto the floor of the Temple rather than pouring it onto the altar. In response, the people pelt him with their etrogs. There are several fascinating aspects to this story. First of all, although the Sadducean priest disagreed with the water libation, he was still working in the Temple and he ended up with the water flask in his hand. If the Sadducees controlled the Temple why did he have the water flask such that he had to cast it down? Why would they have bothered bringing the water up from the Shiloah in the first place? And if the Pharisees controlled the Temple, why would they have let a Sadducean priest perform a ritual that they surely knew he disagreed with? Another interesting point is that the people’s sentiments clearly lie with the rabbis/Pharisees.
I should not that there is a very similar story in Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, Chapter 13:
“As to Alexander, his own people were seditious against him; for at a festival which was then celebrated, when he stood upon the altar, and was going to sacrifice, the nation rose upon him, and pelted him with citrons [which they then had in their hands, because] the law of the Jews required that at the feast of tabernacles every one should have branches of the palm tree and citron tree; which thing we have elsewhere related.”
This event occurred during the Hasmonean reign, meaning sometime in the early 1st century B.C.E. Alexander Yannai was king and high priest and was known to have had Sadducean leanings. However, there is nothing in Josephus about a water libation. The people pelt him with etrogs (citrons) because they oppose him as king and high priest. It is hard to know if the story in the Mishnah is related to this story from Josephus, either historically or literarily, but one thing we can know for sure—if you’re a Sadducee in the Temple on Sukkot, you’d better watch your head!
After the description of how the water libation was performed, the mishnah emphasizes that it was performed on Shabbat just as it was performed during the week. I believe that this is frequently one of the ways in which the rabbis emphasized the importance of controversial rituals. It is as if to say that the water libation is so crucial that it is even done on Shabbat.
However, they had to make sure that the water was not carried through the public domain on Shabbat. In order to do this they would bring the water up on Friday before Shabbat and leave it in the chamber until the next morning. However, this posed another problem. Water or any other liquid left overnight in a sanctified vessel becomes unfit for use in the Temple. Therefore they would use a golden barrel that had not been consecrated.
If the water was poured away (perhaps by the Sadducean priest we met yesterday) then it obviously can’t be used. Similarly, if it was left uncovered it also can’t be used. Liquids left uncovered overnight are forbidden for anyone to drink for fear that a snake put venom in them. Since exposed liquids can’t be drunk by people, it is also forbidden to use them on the altar. If the water that they had brought up the day before could not be used, then they would just use water from the laver that was in the Temple.