Rabbi Moshe Ehrenreich
Av Beit Din in Eretz Hemdah-Gazit


The mishna (Sukkah 51a) states, “Mi sheloh ra’ah Simchat Beit Hashoevah loh ra’ah simcha miyamav” (he who did not see the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life). And afterwards the mishna describes the nightlong simcha that began at nightfall and continued until the morning daily sacrifice accompanied by the nisuch hamayim, the water libation. This rejoicing occurred every night of Chol Hamoed, the days in between the first and eighth day of Sukkot.

The gemara (Sukkah 50b) brings down a discussion of Ammoraim about what to call this special simcha. One opinion says it should be called “shoevah” (drawing) because of the joy of drawing the water. Rashi (Sukkah 50b) elaborates that this simcha is specifically because of nisuch hamayim. The second name given is “chashuva” (important). Rashi (ibid.) explains that this name is also related to nisuch hamayim. The shitin, the channel reaching down from the altar to the depths of the earth, where the libations were poured, was so important that it was created during the six days of creation. According to this opinion, every day year-round there was joy and singing during the time of the morning wine libations, but on Sukkot there was an extra mitzva of nisuch hamayim, which added another level of joy.

The Rambam (Hilchot Lulav 8: 5,12), however, holds that on Sukkot, as compared to other festivals, there is an extra level of joy in the mikdash, independent of nisuch hamayim, as it says “you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d” (Vayikra 23:40). The Rambam then continues to describe the simcha based on the mishna cited above. However, this connection needs to be understood better. The obligation of simcha on Sukkot appears a different mishnah (48a). There it states that the simcha should be eight days. During the time of the Beit Hamikdash, it was accompanied by the eating of the peace offerings of joy (shalmei simcha). In contrast, Simchat Beit Hashoeva was for five or six days, and it could not be done on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

We see from the words of the Rambam that the Simchat Beit Hashoeva is not connected to nisuch hamayim. Rather, there are two different obligations of rejoicing during the festival of Sukkot. Firstly, there is the general mitzva of rejoicing on the holiday (Devarim 16:14-15). All segments of society were involved, and it was fulfilled mainly by eating the shalmei simcha, which could be done anywhere in Yerushalayim. The second type of simcha (from Vayikra 23:40) was only in the Temple through song and praises, and only great sages and the righteous were active participants in the dancing, singing and merriment (Rambam ibid.: 14).

From here we see a more spiritually lofty and public level of simcha on Sukkot. It is no wonder that the Yerushalmi explains that the word “shoeva” refers to the drawing of ruach hakodesh (Divine spirit) that was made possible through the simcha, which enables the Divine Presence to dwell among us. Let us pray that the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt, and we will merit to fulfill the extra level of joy of the Simchat Beit Hashoeva.

P’ninat Mishpat – Minors, Etrogim, and Kinyanim

This year may present us with a more lenient application of the rules of kinyanim (acts of acquisition) than usually exists in regard to the need to buy a separate set of arba’at haminim (=lulav) for children under bar mitzva.

The gemara (Sukka 46b) says that one shouldn’t give (with a kinyan) his lulav to a minor on the first Yom Tov, because a minor can receive an object but cannot give it to others. On the first Yom Tov, one must fully own the lulav when performing the mitzva (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 649:2). If a father gives his lulav to his son, no adult will be able to use it to fulfill the mitzva, because a minor is incapable of fully transferring ownership to another. The Shulchan Aruch (658:6) does bring a dissenting opinion (Ran) that a child at the stage of p’utot (who understands buying and selling- usually at age six) is able to halachically give the lulav back (see Shulchan Aruch, CM 235:1). Many poskim counter that the minor can acquire the lulav on the level of Torah law (when it is given to him by an adult) but can return it only rabbinically. Therefore, adults will subsequently not have the Torah-level ownership they require. The Ran can argue that a minor can acquire an object only rabbinically, and he can return it on the same level (see Biur Halacha, ad loc.). Others explain that the machloket depends on the classic question whether kinyanim of rabbinic origin work in regard to halachot from the Torah (Melamed L’hoil I,120). The Shulchan Aruch’s first, stringent opinion is considered the more authoritative one.

When Sukkot starts on Shabbat [like this year], we start taking the lulav on the second day. In Eretz Yisrael, we do not need
ownership of the lulav on the second day (Shulchan Aruch 658:1). Therefore, a father can lend his set to his children. Even in a regular year, he can give it as a present to his child on the first day after all adults have fulfilled the mitzva. In chutz la’aretz, ownership is needed on the second day, which is treated like the first (Mishna Berura 658:23). Thus, the only agreed upon way to share in chutz la’aretz [even this year] is to give the lulav to the child after the adults are done on the second day.

We wrote that this year might be more lenient than other years. We actually hope and pray that these words will be read in a rebuilt Yerushalayim in the shadow of the Beit Hamikdash. The pasuk (Vayikra 23: 40) says that at the mikdash we use the lulav (on a Torah level) for seven days. The question then arises whether the law that one needs to own his lulav applies all of the seven days. Tosafot (Sukka 29b) says that all of the requirements of lulav apply whenever the mitzva is from the Torah. Only in regard to the rabbinic applications do we distinguish between different requirements for the lulav. However, the Ritva (ad loc.) points out that the word “lachem” (yours) is written in regard to the first day, and he claims that the requirement of ownership does not apply to lulav on the other days, even in the Beit Hamikdash.