What was the big deal about the simchas beis hashoeva on Sukkos? Why was it so important?
The simchas beis hashoeva, among other things, was a demonstration for the Torah sheba’al peh. Because in the days of the second Beis Hamikdash there was a group of politicians who were amei ha’aretz, Tzedukim, and they didn’t have any yeshivos. The Tzedukim didn’t go to yeshivos; they were plain amei ha’aretz. But they were politicians with power.
Now they had reasons why they didn’t want all the takanos chachamim. And they were afraid of the chachomim because the chachomim were careful to uphold all these takanos and they would speak up against the Tzedukim.
I’ll give an example. There was once a kohen gadol who was from the Chashmonaim, and one time he was making a banquet, a victory banquet, so one man there spoke up, maybe he made a mistake, but he spoke up and said “Leave the tzitz hazahav to a true descendant of Aharon!” Which means to say that you are not a real descendant of Aharon. Because there was a report that the mother of this kohen gadol had been a captive, a shevuyah, in Modi’in and a shevuyah among goyim is pasul to kehunah.
Now the din of a shevuyah being pasul l’kehunah is a takanas chachamim. It’s not mideoreisa. Mideoreisa ukmah a’chazakah. According to Torah law we ‘put her on her chazakah’ and she’s still kosher. But the chachamim said a shevuyah is pasul to a kohen because maybe she was molested by a goy. And because of this laaz that maybe this man’s mother was a shevuyah he became angry and he tried to oppose the chachamim because they were the ones who upheld takanas chachamim.
Because of that, they sometimes also disobeyed the chachamim who told them things of Torah sheba’al peh that are not in the chumash. Even some things of Torah sheba’al peh they also didn’t accept.
Now nisuch hamayim, the pouring of water on the mizbeach, is one of the things you have to do on Sukkos. And that mitzvah, that procedure, is not written in the Torah. It’s Torah sheba’al peh. And there was a case where one Tzeduki, when he went up to the mizbeach and he took the water that had been prepared for the nisuch hamayim and instead of pouring it on the mizbeach he poured it on his feet to show that he disdained the mitzvah. And the people pelted him with their esrogim. The hamon am, the regular people, were supporters of the Sages so they threw their esrogim at him and hit him for showing disdain at the mitzvah. And he called his soldiers to attack the people. Many people were killed at that time.
So in order to demonstrate that nisuch hamayim is deoreisa and it’s very important, they made a very big simchas beis hashoeva. And even the greatest tana’aim came and danced and sang before the people. The greatest tana’aim came and danced and sang before the people in order to make a demonstration that nisuch hamayim is deoreisa. That was the simchas beis hashoeva, to celebrate Torah sheba’al peh. That’s one of the reasons why simchas beis hashoeva is so important.
TAPE # E-160 (October 8, 1998)