Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nisuch Ha'mayim -- elevating the "lower waters"

A covenant exists from the time of the six days of creation promising that the “lower waters” would be brought to the mizbeiach [altar] through their salt and through the nisuch hamayim on Sukkos. (Rashi Vayikra 2:13)

The Torah tells us that during the six days of creation G-d separated between the upper and lower waters to make space for land. But the lower waters were dissatisfied. Why should they be separated from Heaven? Why should they suffer the fate of being the “lower waters”?

G-d responded to the water by promising that the salt taken from the sea would be offered with each korban, and during the Sukkos holiday there would be a nisuch ha’mayim -- water would be poured on the mizbeiach.

But what small consolation is this? Is one week of nisuch hamayim enough to make up for lifetimes of being “lower”? Is a small percentage of salt enough?

The answer must be, explains the Sefas Emes, that the week of nisuch hamayim, the offering of salt, is itself not compensation for being lower, but rather is a siman, an indication, that the lower waters are indeed not lower at all. To make a place for our world the “lower waters” had to appear to move further from Heaven, G-dliness had to be concealed to make way for man, but the illusion of concealment did not change reality. The fact that the lower waters still have a place on the mizbeiach proves that G-dliness remains inherent and immanent even in the lower waters as well. Our task is to reveal it.


  1. Inherent and imminent, yes, but perhaps also potential, and requiring actuation. Like the tanchumin at a shalom zachar, that although the entitlement is taken away, achievement through effort is ultimately more meaningful.

  2. By the way, you know the Gaon's vort about Se'irim meaning Eisav and Se'irei Izim meaning Yishmael, (or maybe the other way around)and that parim offered on the Eisav's and Yishmael's respective days is thirty five each.

    You have any idea way one refers to Eisav and the other Yishmael? Knowing some logical connection would make it easier to remember.

  3. >>>achievement through effort is ultimately more meaningful.

    There is another Sefas Emes davka on Sukkos about removing the boshes of nahama d'kisufa. You made me sorry I didn't think of writing it up.

    Don't know the connection by se'irim.