In the time when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was a ceremony called the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah. The central aspect of the event is, as the name implies, the drawing of water and pouring it as a libation onto the Alter. The event would continue with dancing for the greatest members of Yisrael, and musical festivities. The entire event is described in the fifth chapter of Mesechet Sukkah.

Many communities today hold what they call a Simchas Beis Hashoeivah as well. However, aside for singing and dancing (almost universal among every Jewish get-together), it seems to share nothing inherently in common with the event held in the Temple. In general, the notion of creating a mock- Temple event seems a little peculiar.

Is there a source for the contemporary practice of a "Simchas Beis Hashoeivah" celebration? What is the earliest mention of such an event, post the destruction of the Temple?

  • Do you mean any Sukkot celebration, or just one that calls itself a simhat bit hashoevah?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 19, 2016 at 17:46
  • I mean those that call themselves a Simchas Beis HaShoeivah.
    – Chaim
    Oct 19, 2016 at 17:54
  • Interestingly, Rambam writes in Sefer Hamitsvot that the simht beit hashoeva was performed in the mikdash specifically. R. Qafih explains that his insistence is do to his view that partying should be curbed on Yom Tov lest improper activities occur. IIRC R. Qafih writes that it is therefore very wrong to cal modern day Succot parties Simhot beit hashoeva.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 23, 2016 at 0:46
  • That is an interesting contribution indeed. I imagine that if the custom had existed earlier, we would find more verbalized complaints against the custom, as we find at the inception of Simhat Torah.
    – Chaim
    Oct 23, 2016 at 0:52
  • since you are interested, bli neder I will provide exact quotes when I can.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 23, 2016 at 1:03

1 Answer 1


According to R. Yehudah Zoldan, the earliest mention of a "Simchas Beis HaShoeivah" modeling after the event in the Beis HaMikdash is by Rav Chaim Abulafia in 1726, where he writes [3]:

תיקנתי להם שבלילות השמחת-מצוה של סוכות שיעשו שמחת בית השואבה זכר למקדש, וידליקו נרות רבות בבית הכנסת, וינגנו כמו שתי שעות פזמונים. וזקנים ואנשי מעשה כאשר היו עושין במקדש, כמ"ש: "ציון היא דורש אין לה" – מכלל דבעי דרישה. ומובטח להם שבכל שנה יהיו שמחין, כמו שכתבו הראשונים. וזה כמה שנים שעשו ככה, וכן יהיה תמיד, ומי גר אתך בעניותך – עליך יפול בעשירות. ויזכו לשמוח בתוך בית מקדשנו בבנינו, אכי"ר.

I decreed for them that on the nights of the joyous mitzvah of Succos that they should make a Simchas Bais Hashoevah as a זכר למקדש (rememberance of the bais hamikdas), and they should light many candles in the shul, and sing songs for hours. And the elders and people of accomplishment [did so] as they did in the Bais HaMikdash. As it is written "ציון היא דורש אין לה" which implies that it (Tzion) requires searching out. And it is guaranteed to them simcha every year, as the early decisors wrote. And it has been a number of years that they acted in this manner, and so it will be continually. Just as He dwelt wit you in your poverty, so too will it occur to you in your wealth. And they will merit to rejoice in our Bais HaMikdash.

Shortly thereafter, it seems the custom spread quite quickly across the globe. For a full treatment and exploration of the development of the custom, you can read this thorough article.

[3]: חנן אלוקים, איזמיר תצ"ו (ד"צ ירושלים תשנ"ג), תקנות איזמיר, אות כה, עמ' 297

  • how do you know that this is the earliest mention?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 21, 2016 at 13:52
  • R. Yehudah Zoldan performed thorough research on the subject (link provided), and this was the earliest reference he could find.
    – Chaim
    Oct 21, 2016 at 15:16
  • Awesome. I will edit in this crucial piece of info into the answer.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 23, 2016 at 0:42

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