According to Rashi, R. Ena explains how we know that the drawing of water from the Shiloah is accompanied with a celebration. The prooftext cited from Isaiah also serves as a starting point for the following strange story.
According to some modern scholars, this seemingly silly story is an anti-Christian parody, related to John 7:35-37. In these verses, Jesus speaks to the crowd on the last day of the Festival of Sukkot saying that all who are thirsty should come and drink from him. According to the author of the Gospel, he was referring to a spiritual drinking, not a literal one. The story centers around two “minim,” the Hebrew word for heretic. The rabbis portray Jesus as if he is “Sason” (elsewhere understood as the Messiah, based on Psalms 45:8) and the angel/messenger named “Simcha” tells him that he is going to literally become a water skin. The first part of the story, where each claims to be greater than the other, is a further parody on Christian literature.
In this section the parody is further developed, this time in the (imagined) conversation between a min (heretic) and R. Abahu, a sage frequently portrayed as having contact with heretics. The “min” tries to claim that it is R. Abahu that will draw the water in the world to come. But his grammar mistake is corrected. The min (probably representative of Jesus) will be the simple water-skin through which the water is drawn.
Today’s section explains two more pieces of the mishnah.
This baraita notes that in most cases when the priests ascended the altar they would turn right after their ascent, make their way around, and descend on the left. The only exceptions were the water and wine libations and the bird offerings when the altar was full. The right side of the altar is where most of the sacrifices were offered and there would have been a lot of smoke. This would not have been good for the water or wine. Most bird-offerings were performed on the right side of the altar, but if there was not enough room they would offer the birds on the left side.
According to the mishnah, the bowls into which the water and wine were poured were made of plaster but they looked silver because of the wine that had been poured into them. The Talmud notes that this makes sense with regard to the bowl into which wine would have been poured. But the other bowl only had water—how would it have turned silver? The answer is that sometimes the priest would accidentally pour the wine into the one meant for water. This libation was still valid. That is how the bowl meant for water turned silver—it was an accident.
This section continues to interpret portions of the mishnah.
The mishnah says that the hole into which they poured the water was narrow, whereas the hole into which they poured the wine was wide. This, at first, seems to agree with R. Judah who holds that the water libation was only one log (a measure) of water, whereas the wine libation was three. Since the amounts were different, they made one narrow so that they would complete at the same time. But the rabbis who hold that both wine and water were three logs would seem to require snouts of the same size for them to both drain out simultaneously.
The Talmud says that the Mishnah can even follow the opinion of the rabbis who hold that both libations were of three logs. Wine is more viscous and therefore takes longer to go down. So they would put the wine in the bowl with the wide snout and the water in the bowl with the narrow snout so that they would drain out at the same time.
The Talmud goes on to cite a baraita in which R. Judah uses terms that are different from those in the Mishnah. Whereas the Mishnah uses “wide and narrow” R. Judah’s baraita uses “broad and short.” The different terms prove that the Mishnah does not follow R. Judah.
The Sadducees opposed the water libation for it was not found in the Torah. This was explained already in section three of this week’s daf.
In this baraita we also learn that on that same day that they pelted the Sadducees with etrogs, the altar was damaged, rendering it invalid for sacrifice. This seems representative of just how terrible a day it was. The priests temporarily fixed it up with a block of salt, but this was just for appearances sake. It did not actually render the altar valid. There are four or five parts of the altar that if missing, render the entire altar invalid. The ascent is the ramp on which the priests would go up. The horns were raised a cubit on each corner. The base was a cubit around the entire altar. The altar must have a square shape. The circuit is the walkway around the altar.