Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sukka 51 a, b

Today we learn more about musical instruments/performance as part of the Temple service.  The rabbis want to know who performs this music.  Musicians were thought to have high status; so much so that their daughters could be married to Levites.  Thus could the musicians be slaves, Israelites or Levites?  Most rabbis agree that the essence of the song is found through the voice, and instruments are accompaniment.  They debate who might be elevated through this practice.

It is understood that offerings were accompanied by music.  An interesting thought; libations would be beautiful with music accompaniment.  Animal sacrifices, however, might not be so pleasant.  The rabbis debate about whether rejoicing overrides Shabbat; whether the song of the drawing of the water overrides the Festival of Sukkot.  The Gemara concurs with Rav Yosef: this 'extra rejoicing' in song does not override the Festival nor does it override Shabbat.   

The rabbis look at singing, playing flute, and playing trumpets.  We learn in a note that the flute was played during all Festival days - 12 days each year.  Even if those days were to fall on Shabbat, the flute would be played.  Finally, the rabbis find a number of examples of using the instrument of the voice together as one with other instruments.  

A new Mishna walks us through the Drawing of the Water.  We are given detailed descriptions of that day, including a list of instruments played: the lyre, the harp, the cymbals, the trumpet, and countless other instruments.  A note teaches us that dancing lasts into the night.  Sukkot is a time for rejoicing beyond that of any other Festival - the rabbis seem to understand that at its height, rejoicing involves music.

We learn about what was likely the Temple built by Herod, likely 60 years after the destruction of the second Temple.  It is this Temple that the rabbis describe as they walk us through the Drawing of the Water.  They describe the immense beauty and grandeur of this Temple.  though it held hundreds of thousands of people, the rabbis teach us that Jews would sit in groups based on profession.  A lone person would enter and find his friends, thus ensuing that he would be found a job in that field.  When people could not hear the prayer recited, an officer would wave a flag so that the people would know to say 'amen'.  A note reminds us that we do not say amen to a prayer when we have not heard the prayer - they resolve this dispute, of course.

Finally, we learn more about separated seating for women and men.  We learn that the women and men would laugh and cavort and mingle from their places in this Temple.  After attempting to rectify this situation, the rabbis separated the sexes completely by putting them on completely different floors.  Until today, when men and women are seated on different floors, the women are placed on the upper floors.

Today's daf is filled with interesting facts about music and about synagogue traditions.

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