Following the Path of the Water Libation

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism
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Abstract

Some of the precepts pertaining to the holiday of Sukkot involve water and the prayer for rain; of these, the most prominent is nissukh ha-mayim, the water libation. The water libation has an eschatological and cosmological character. According to R. Eliezer b. Jacob in the Mishnah, the water was brought to the altar through the Water Gate, because “the water that will flow from under the threshold of the House in the future [i.e., in the messianic age] trickles through it.” This alludes to Ezekiel’s vision of a thin stream of water that emerges from the Temple and grows until it becomes a flowing river whose waters have special properties of blessing and healing. The scholarly literature has addressed the eschatological interpretation of the water libation ritual in various contexts. Here I expand on this and show how the elements of the vision correspond closely to the elements of the ritual. The focus will be on the path by which the water was brought into the Temple and then to the altar, first in the ritual and then in the vision.

Following the Path of the Water Libation

in Review of Rabbinic Judaism

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References

39

EichrodtEzekiel pp. 584–585; Cooke Ezekiel pp. 516–518.

41

Y. Yom. 5:4 (42c); TanhumaQedoshim10; Midrash Tehillim 91 ed. Buber (New York 1968) p. 400. On the cosmological aspect of the stone see Naeh and Halbertal “Maayney Hayeshua” p. 184.

47

See Sperber“On Sealing the Abyss” pp. 168–173. He notes the widespread motif of sealing up the waters of the abyss by means of divine names or magic. The notion of a magic seal was very common in the ancient world and penetrated Judaism and Christianity in the second century C.E. Cf. ibid. p. 174.

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