Chol HaMoed

The Interim Days

Sukkot is a 7 day holiday. The first day (first two days outside of Israel) are Yamim Tovim – days which are kept like Sabbath (cooking and carrying, however, are permitted). The remaining days in between are known as Chol Hamoed – weekday of the festival. During Chol Hamoed, it is customary to continue the holiday spirit and avoid unnecessary work. Many people try to refrain from mundane chores such as laundry. Some people do not go to work and avoid shopping except for that which is essential for the holiday. The requirements to dwell in the sukkah and the mitzvah of the four species continue throughout Chol Hamoed. In synagogue, the Torah is read and Hallel (festive Psalms) and Mussaf (the additional service) are recited. In the synagogue, the Hoshana Service is performed after the Mussaf service on each day of Sukkot (including the first Yom Tov days).

Simchat Beit Hashoevah

Sukkot is considered the holiday on which G-d determines the water allotment for the year to come (where there will be rain and where there will be drought, etc.). During the time of the Temple, the week of Sukkot was highlighted by the water libation ceremony, in which water was poured over the altar after the morning sacrifice. The ceremony actually lasted all night and was known as the Simchat Beit Hashoevah, the Celebration of the House of the Drawing of Water.

a) After the Yom Tov, the Temple was set up for the Simchat Beit Hashoevah. Three balconies were created in the women’s section and the men would stand in a courtyard below, allowing more people to attend. Golden lamps were placed in the courtyard that gave off enough light to illuminate the entire city itself.
b) In the courtyard, men would dance and the Levites would play instruments and sing praises to G-d.

c) The kohanim, the priests, would then go to the spring of Gichon and draw the water to be used.

It is customary today, during the week of Sukkot, to attend or host a Simchat Beit Hashoevah celebration, generally held in the sukkah. While one does not mimic the actual water-libation ceremony, the joy of the holiday is the focus of these celebrations.