One of the most joyful occasions in ancient Israel was the Simchat Beit Hashoevah, the celebration of the water-drawing on Sukkot.
We are told that one who has never seen the Simchat Beit Hashoevah in the Beit HaMikdash has never in his life seen joy.
In what manner was the drawing done? The Kohanim used to fill a golden flagon holding three logs of water drawn from the Shiloach. When they reached the Water Gate they blew a tekiah-teruah-tekiah with a shofar. At the right of the Mizbayach were two silver bowls. They each had a hole like a spout – one wide, the other narrow – so that both bowls emptied themselves together (the wider one was for wine, since wine flows out more slowly). The bowl to the west was for water and the one to the east was for wine.
At the close of the first day of chag, they went down to the Ezrat Nashim where there were golden candlesticks each with a golden bowl at the top. The candlesticks were 50 cubits high. Four ladders led up to each candlestick, and four youths from a family of Kohanim went up, holding in their hands 24-log jars of oil, which they poured into the bowls.
They made wicks out of the worn-out garments of the Kohanim and with them they lit the candlesticks. There was not a courtyard in Yerushalayim that did not reflect the light of the Beit Hashoevah.
With Burning Torches
Men of piety and good deeds used to dance with burning torches in their hands, singing songs and praises. And countless Leviim played harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets, and other musical instruments on the 15 steps leading from the Ezrat Nashim. Two Kohanim stood at the Upper Gate, which separates the Ezrat Yisrael from the Ezrat Nashim, with two trumpets in their hands. At dusk they blew a tekiah-teruah-tekiah. When they reached the 10th step they again blew a tekiah-teruah-tekiah. When they reached the ezrah they again blew a tekiah-teruah-tekiah. They went on until they reached the gate that leads out to the east. When they reached that gate, they turned their faces towards the west (facing the Sanctuary)… Rabi Yehudah said, “They used to repeat the words, ‘We belong to G-d, and our eyes are turned to G-d.’”
Jugglers In The Temple
It has been said that Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel used to juggle eight lit torches, throw them into the air, catch one and throw one and they did not touch one another. When he would prostrate himself he used to dig his two thumbs in the ground, bend down (while still doing a head-stand), kiss the ground and draw himself up again, a feat that no other man could do.
Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rebbe with eight knives. Shmuel would do the same before King Shapur with eight glasses of wine, without spilling any of their contents. Abaye would juggle before Rabbah with eight eggs (some say it was four eggs).
Rabi ben Hanania said, “During Simchat Beit Hashoevah our eyes saw no sleep. How was this? The first hour was occupied with the korban tamid of Shacharis; from there we proceeded to prayers and from there to the additional sacrifice. Then to the Beit Midrash, then the eating and drinking, then the afternoon prayer, then the korban tamid of the Arbaim, the evening sacrifice, and after that came the rejoicing at the place of the Simchat Beit Hashoevah all night.”Rabbi Sholom Klass