August 26, 2021

Sukkah 50

The Mishna (Sukkah 5:1) and subsequent Gemara in today’s daf (Sukkah 50b) discuss the musical accompaniment of the Simchat Beit HaShoevah (literally, ‘the joy of the house of the water-drawing’, which refers – on a basic level – to the drawing of water ceremony from pool of Shiloach which was then used for water libations on the altar during the seven days of Sukkot).
However, Chazal (Bereishit Rabbah 70:8; Rut Rabbah 4:10; Yerushalmi Sukkah 5:1) added a further dimension to these festivities by noting that it was given the name ‘Simchat Beit HaShoevah’ because those who came to the Temple and celebrated with joy were capable of ‘drawing’ Ruach HaKodesh (divine inspiration). This is because the divine spirit rests on those who are in a joyous state.
Significantly, there is a deep connection between music, Nevuah (prophecy) and Ruach Hakodesh (divine inspiration), and there are numerous instances in the Tanach where a Navi (prophet) achieved a prophetic state through the accompaniment of music (see Shmuel 1 10:5, Melachim 2 3:15, Divrei HaYamim 1 25:1 etc.). Given this, it seems clear that the musical accompaniment of the Simchat Beit HaShoevah not only brought joy to all those present, but likely helped at least some of those present attain a state of Ruach HaKodesh.
Admittedly, there are those who assert that pure Ruach Hakodesh no longer exists today. Still, many still believe that a more diluted form of divine inspiration is achievable in our day, and while the opportunity to be gifted such inspiration is likely to depend on the personal and spiritual qualities of the particular individual, it seems reasonable to claim that music remains a powerful tool to help in the process of achieving such divine connection. As such, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches (Likutei Eitzot: Neginah 11) that:
‘music and musical instruments have great power to draw a person to God. Therefore it is beneficial for a person to regularly enliven themselves with music in order to gladden their soul and attach themselves more closely to God’.
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