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).
This service commemorates part of the Temple Sukkot celebrations. Each morning of the holiday, after the water libation (described below), the priests would bring out a bundle of aravot (willow branches). The tall branches were placed upright against the altar. The shofar was then blown and special prayers, called hoshanot, were recited.
Today, after the daily mussaf service during sukkot, the Hoshana Service is commemorated. i) The ark is opened and one Torah scroll is brought to the bimah, where it is held until the end of the Hoshana. (This is not done on Shabbat.) ii) Holding the lulav set, the congregants circle the bimah once and responsively recite special prayers. (This is not done on Shabbat.)
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.