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The Sukkot water libations quench the thirst caused by judgment.

Festive Elements

Festive Elements

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Festive Elements
The Sukkot water libations quench the thirst caused by judgment.

In 1808 we heard from Grandfather [Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the First Lubavitcher Rebbe] the discourse "And You Shall Draw Water [in Hebrew, "U'shiavtem Mayim"] the first of that title in Likutei Torah - for the sixth time. It was like the Gemara says, "from there they drew [Divine inspiration]." (Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 5:1)

Jonah received prophetic vision during the celebration of the water-drawing; we received revelation without end. The end will be when Mashiach comes, for the end is rooted in the beginning." (Hayom Yom, 16 Tishrei)

And you shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation.(Isaiah 12:3)

Throughout the year, the service in the Holy Temple was to offer animal sacrifices on the altar. A heavenly fire in the shape of a crouching lion would descend and consume the offerings. During the holiday of Sukkot, in addition to sacrifices, the service in the Temple was to pour water upon the altar. This service would be performed each of the seven days of Sukkot. "But on the eighth day," says the Torah, "there shall be a stop/atzeret for you" - a halt to the above services.

Today, we have neither a Temple nor an altar. Each one of us must therefore determine how all of the above is reflected in our hearts, in our service of G‑d. In each generation we are obligated to find within our hearts the parallel of the fire that consumed the sacrifices - the oxen, rams and sheep, etc. - as well as the pouring of the water during Sukkot and the halt to all of these experiences on Shemini Atzeret.

Fire:

The prayers were instituted corresponding to the daily offerings. (Berachot 26b)

Prayer is the worship of the heart. (Taanit 2a)

The heart is compared to an altar.(Torat HaOlah, Tzav; 1:24)

Every individual awaken his instinctive love for G‑d in his heart until it is aflame…

Just as they would offer the oxen, rams, sheep etc. on the outer altar, so must every individual awaken his instinctive love for G‑d in his heart until it is aflame and revealed within the heart. This fire of love parallels the heavenly fire that descended in the shape of a lion to burn the sacrifices.

This is the love that rages within the heart of man when he remembers G‑d and does not wish to be separate from Him, G‑d forbid. This G‑dly fire burns and destroys all the fires that are not directed toward G‑d, the "foreign" fires. It eliminates all others and directs man's thirst to G‑d alone.

Our Sages therefore say that it is forbidden to eat before the Morning Prayer. (Berachot 10b) This is because before eating a food, such as bread, man should be on a higher level than that which he wishes to consume. Only then is it appropriate for him to rule over the food and eat it.

Before prayer, however, he has not yet burned away his physical cravings with the heavenly fire. He is still shackled to the worries of earning a living. So he is tied below and is therefore lower than the bread he wishes to eat. It is not appropriate for him to rule over the bread and consume it. Rather, through prayer he must destroy the worries of earning a living. He need not burn the task of earning a living itself - since it is a necessity. Indeed the Torah praises one who enjoys the fruits of his hands labor. But the worry and anxiety that the person feels stems from the element of fire within his animal soul - a foreign fire that must be consumed with a heavenly fire through prayer.

Water:

There is, however, a higher and greater level: the water that was poured on the Temple altar on Sukkot. Water quenches the thirst caused by the element of fire. Water in the human realm is the experience of inherent nullification to G‑d. When a person experiences such transparency, the natural fire of his G‑dly soul is cooled and doused.

His heart is filled with love but it cannot be seen outside the heart…

Consider, for example, the love of a son to his father. If the son wishes to come close to his father but is still a bit distant, the love is revealed outside the heart and he cries out: "Father, Father!" But if he is already near his father, his heart is filled with love but it cannot be seen outside the heart. It is therefore called "water", since it cools the fire and prevents it from flowing to the outside.

This experience is reflected in the prayer of the Standing/Amida Prayer, which is recited in an undertone, quietly. By contrast, during the recitation of the "Verses of Song/Pesukei D'zimra", the worshipper awakens the fiery love for G‑d that consumes all foreign fires. During Pesukei D'zimra, the worshipper is as if still far from the King, whereas during the Standing Prayer he is as if standing directly in front of the King, saying: "Blessed are You…."

Absorption

We see, however, that immediately after the Standing Prayer, one returns to his previous self. In order to firmly implant the experience of prayer within his soul, he must follow it up with study of Torah and its laws, which deal with physical matters.

In the study of Torah, man reaches the ultimate bond and union with G‑d, when he nullifies himself and become completely consumed by G‑d, to be a home for His Oneness - when he frees himself of all desires and thoughts.

This level of Torah study is equal to the level of the Standing Prayer. In this way the impression of the Standing Prayer can remain with him throughout his day of Torah study. This experience parallels Shmini Atzeret; the word "atzeret" means to absorb, i.e., it absorbs the experience of "water" (on Sukkot) so that it does not disappear….

Rabbi Yosef Marcus is director of the Chabad center in S. Mateo, California, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is a translator of Judaic texts and a contributor to several websites including: Chabad.org, Askmoses.com and Kabbalaonline.com. He can be reached via his website www.chabadnp.com
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812), known as "the Alter Rebbe," was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, and the founder of the Chabad Chassidism. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
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