Adapted by Rabbi Yossi Marcus[1]

The Tzemach Tzedek related:

“In 1808 we heard from Grandfather the discourse U’shiavtem Mayim (And You Shall Draw Water)—the first of that title in Likutei Torah—for the sixth time. It was like the Gemara says (Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 5:1), “from there they drew [Divine inspiration].”

“Jonah received prophetic vision during the celebration of the water-drawing; we received revelation without end. The end will be when Mashiach comes, for the end is rooted in the beginning.”

Hayom Yom, 16 Tishrei

And you shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation.

Isaiah 12:3

Throughout the year, the service in the Holy Temple was to offer animal sacrifices on the altar. A heavenly fire in the shape of a crouching lion would descend and consume the offerings.

During the holiday of Sukkot, in addition to sacrifices, the service in the Temple was to pour water upon the altar. This service would be performed each of the seven days of Sukkot.

“But on the eighth day,” says the Torah, “there shall be a stop for you”—a halt to the above services.

Today, we have neither a Temple nor an altar. Each one of us must therefore determine how all of the above is reflected in our hearts, in our service of G-d. In each generation we are obligated to find within our hearts the parallel of the fire that consumed the sacrifices—the oxen, rams and sheep, etc—as well as the pouring of the water during Sukkot and the halt to all of these experiences on Shemini Atzeret.


The prayers were instituted corresponding to the daily offerings.

Berachot 26b

Prayer is the worship of the heart.

Taanit 2a

The heart is compared to an altar.

Akeida,Tzav; Torat HaOlah 1:24

Just as they would offer the oxen, rams, sheep etc. on the outer altar, so must every individual awaken his instinctive love for G-d in his heart until it is aflame and revealed within the heart. This fire of love parallels the heavenly fire that descended in the shape of a lion to burn the sacrifices.

This is the love that rages within the heart of man when he remembers G-d and does not wish to be separate from Him, chas v’shalom.

This G-dly fire burns and destroys all the fires that are not directed toward G-d, the “foreign” fires. It eliminates all other and directs man’s thirst to G-d alone.

Our sages therefore say that it is forbidden to eat before the Morning Prayer (Berachot 10b). This is because before eating a food, such as bread, man should be on a higher level than that which he wishes to consume. Only then is it appropriate for him to rule over the food and eat it.

Before prayer, however, he has not yet burned away his physical cravings with the heavenly fire. He is still shackled to the worries of earning a living. So he is tied below and is therefore lower than the bread he wishes to eat. It is not appropriate for him to rule over the bread and consume it.

Rather, through prayer he must destroy the worries of earning a living. He need not burn the task of earning a living itself—since it is a necessity. Indeed the Torah praises one who enjoys the fruits of his hands labor. But the worry and anxiety that the person feels stems from the element of fire within his animal soul—a foreign fire that must be consumed with a heavenly fire through prayer.

Water / Sukkot

There is, however, a higher and greater level: the water that they poured on the altar on Sukkot.

Water quenches the thirst caused by the element of fire. Water in the human realm is the experience of inherent nullification to G-d. When a person experiences such transparency, the natural fire of his G-dly soul is cooled and doused.

Consider, for example, the love of a son to his father. If the son wishes to come close to his father but is still a bit distant, the love is revealed outside the heart and he cries out: “Father, Father!”

But if he is already near his father, his heart is filled with love but it cannot be seen outside the heart. It is therefore called “water,” since it cools the fire and prevents it from flowing to the outside.

This experience is reflected in the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei, which is recited in an undertone, quietly. By contrast, during the recitation of the Pesukei D’zimra, the worshipper awakens the fiery love for G-d that consumes all foreign fires. During Pesukei D’zimra, the worshipper is as if still far from the King, whereas during Shemoneh Esrei he is as if standing directly in front of the King, saying: “Blessed are You….”

Absorption / Shemini Atzeret

We see, however, that immediately after Shemoneh Esrei he returns to his previous self. In order to firmly implant the experience of prayer within his soul, he must follow it up with study of Torah and its laws, which deal with physical matters such as planting etc.

In the study of Torah, man reaches the ultimate bond and union with G-d, when he nullifies himself and become completely subsumed by G-d, to be a home for His Oneness—when he frees himself of all desires and thoughts.

This level of Torah study is equal to the level of Shemoneh Esrei. In this way the impression of Shemoneh Esrei can remain with him throughout his day of Torah study.

This experience parallels Shemini Atzeret—atzeret meaning to absorb, i.e., it absorbs the experience of “water” (Sukkot) so that it does not disappear….     


[1] From a discourse of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, "the Tzemach Tzedek."



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