1) AGADAH: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, THE IDEOLOGY OF "SIMCHAH" AND "SASON"
QUESTION: The Gemara records an intriguing exchange between two heretics named "Simchah" and "Sason." Each heretic tried to prove that he was greater than the other.
What does the Gemara intend to teach with this exchange?
ANSWER: The SHEM MI'SHMUEL (Sukos 5672) explains that heretics, who do not acknowledge that Olam ha'Ba exists, believe that the purpose of life is to achieve joy and happiness. The two heretics mentioned in the Gemara disputed which type of joy is greater -- the type known as "Simchah," which refers to a continual, constantly-increasing feeling of happiness, or "Sason," which refers to sudden, spontaneous joy, the type one feels when stimulated by a surprise. (The VILNA GA'ON says that "Simchah" is an inner joy, while "Sason" is an outward expression of joy. See YA'IR OR, "Gil.") Each heretic tried to prove that the other form of joy is dispensable.
When Sason debated with Rebbi Avahu, he said that in the World to Come, Rebbi Avahu will fill up water for him, as it says, "u'She'avtem Mayim b'Sason," which the heretic interpreted to mean, "You will fill up water for Sason." The heretic asserted that even in the World to Come man has no more noble purpose than the attainment of joy.
Rebbi Avahu responded that the attainment of happiness is not the ultimate purpose in life. Rather, joy is a means to an end; it is a vehicle to help a person serve Hash-m. "U'She'avtem Mayim b'Sason" means that Sason, joy, will help a person draw Torah (which is compared to water) and attain Ru'ach ha'Kodesh (see Tosfos 50b, DH Chad). Joy enables a person to fulfill the ultimate purpose of life -- to serve Hash-m and achieve closeness to Him through learning Torah and doing Mitzvos.
2) "NISUCH HA'MAYIM" WITH WATER LEFT UNCOVERED
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that if the water that was set aside before Shabbos for use for the Nisuch ha'Mayim on Shabbos was left uncovered, it may not be used on the Mizbe'ach. Instead, water from the Kiyor is used.
Why may uncovered water ("Mayim Megulin") not be used on the Mizbe'ach? RASHI explains that it may not be used because of the concern that a snake drank from it and decreased the amount of water that was in the vessel (and replaced it with venom). A minimum amount of water is required for Nisuch ha'Mayim, and thus a container of water that was left uncovered may not be used, because it might lack the minimum amount. (Rashi apparently follows the opinion later (50a) that there is an exact amount of water that must be used for Nisuch ha'Mayim, not more and not less. For that reason, it will not help to simply set aside a larger vessel of water before Shabbos to compensate in case it becomes uncovered and the water diminished.)
Although the Gemara (50a) concludes that there is another reason for why uncovered water may not be used (because it is not respectful to use such water on the Mizbe'ach), Rashi here explains the Gemara's initial understanding of the Mishnah (in the Havah Amina), when the Gemara does not yet know of the reason that such water is disrespectful (Tosfos, DH sheha'Yayin).
Why does Rashi explain that the Gemara's initial assumption is that uncovered water may not be used because it might lack the proper Shi'ur? This explanation is limited to one opinion later (that the water used for Nisuch ha'Mayim has an exact Shi'ur, as mentioned above). Rashi should mention a much more basic reason for why the water may not be used, according to the Gemara's initial understanding. The Gemara in Menachos (6a) derives from the verse, "mi'Mashkeh Yisrael" (Yechezkel 45:16), that any item which is not edible for man may not be used for the Mizbe'ach. Why does Rashi not give this reason to explain why uncovered water is invalid for use on the Mizbe'ach? (The Yerushalmi indeed gives this reason.) (MAHARSHAM, ARUCH LA'NER)
(a) The HAGAHOS MAHARSHAM (the son-in-law of the Maharsham) answers that the Mishnah in Avos (5:5) says that one of the miracles that occurred in the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash was that no snake or scorpion ever inflicted damage in Yerushalayim. The TOSFOS YOM TOV there infers that even if a snake did bite someone, its venom did no harm. Part of that miracle was that even if a snake left its venom in a vessel of water in Yerushalayim, no one was harmed by it. Accordingly, there should be nothing wrong with using water that was left uncovered for Nisuch ha'Mayim, because such water is drinkable in Yerushalayim! There must be some other reason for why uncovered water is invalid. Therefore, Rashi says that it is because the exact amount might have become diminished.
This answer is problematic, however, because the principle of "Ein Somchin Al ha'Nes" teaches that one may not rely on a miracle (even in the Beis ha'Mikdash, c.f. Pesachim 64b). Uncovered water in Yerushalayim still should be forbidden to drink, because one may not rely on a miracle, and thus it should also be invalid for use upon the Mizbe'ach (see BIRKEI YOSEF OC 116).
(b) The Hagahos Maharsham suggests another answer. The requirement that an item be fit for human consumption in order to be fit for the Mizbe'ach does not apply to an item that was once permitted and later became prohibited (as TOSFOS says in Chulin 140a, DH l'Mi'utei; see, however, TOSFOS in Menachos 6a, DH Kasav, who rejects this principle). Therefore, the fact that the water -- which was once fit for use -- became prohibited as a result of being uncovered does not prohibit it from use on the Mizbe'ach. Rather, it may not be used because of the concern that it lacks the proper amount, as Rashi writes.
(c) The CHESHEK SHLOMO and the Hagahos Maharsham suggest further that the requirement that an item be fit for human consumption in order to be fit for the Mizbe'ach applies only to something that is inherently forbidden for a Jew to eat. Water from which a snake drank is not inherently forbidden. It is forbidden only because of the snake's venom that might be in it; the water itself is not forbidden. Indeed, for this reason the Gemara in Pesachim (48a) permits one to offer an edible item which is Muktzah (and forbidden to eat on Shabbos mid'Oraisa, according to Rabah) upon the Mizbe'ach on Shabbos. In that case, it is the day (Shabbos) that prohibits the item; there is no inherent Isur in the item itself.
(d) RAV YOSEF SHALOM ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in He'oros b'Maseches Sukah) points out that the RAMBAM (Hilchos Isurei Mizbe'ach 5:8) writes that Tevel, Orlah, and Kil'ayim may not be offered on the Mizbe'ach as Minchah or Nesachim offerings, because "Hash-m despises a Mitzvah ha'Ba'ah b'Aveirah." Why does the Rambam not mention the reason of the Gemara -- that Tevel, Orlah, and Kil'ayim are unfit for human consumption? Apparently, the Rambam's intent is to explain why items which are unfit for human consumption may not be offered upon the Mizbe'ach. Any item whose consumption is forbidden by the Torah is considered despised by Hash-m and therefore is unfit for the Mizbe'ach.
Uncovered water, or snake venom, is not prohibited because Hash-m despises and rejects it. Rather, it is prohibited to eat simply because of the potential danger that it poses. (Indeed, uncovered water is prohibited only mid'Rabanan. See Tosfos to Avodah Zarah 35a, DH Chada, and elsewhere.) Therefore, it may be used upon the Mizbe'ach.
(See end of Insights to Sukah 50:1 for why Rashi does not accept the explanation of the Yerushalmi cited in the question above.)
3) THE TYPE OF WATER USED FOR THE "NISUCH HA'MAYIM"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah describes the procedure of the Nisuch ha'Mayim performed on Sukos. The Gemara asks, "What is the source for this?"
To what detail of the Mishnah does the Gemara refer when it asks for the source?
(a) RASHI explains that the Gemara seeks the source for the blowing of the Shofar in joy at the time of the Nisuch ha'Mayim. The Gemara answers that the source is the verse, "u'She'avtem Mayim b'Sason" -- "You shall draw water in joy."
(b) TOSFOS explains that the Gemara seeks the source for the law that the water used for the Nisuch ha'Mayim must be water drawn from natural springs (such as the Shilo'ach spring). The Gemara answers that the source is the verse, "u'She'avtem Mayim b'Sason mi'Ma'ayanei ha'Yeshu'ah" -- "You shall draw water in joy from the wellsprings of salvation." This is also the opinion of the RASHBAM in Bava Basra (79a, DH Mayim), as REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in Gilyon ha'Shas here, 48a) points out.
Rashi, who does not explain the Gemara this way, rejects the assumption that the water used for the Nisuch ha'Mayim must be spring water. Rashi on the Mishnah (DH Hayu Memalei) states this explicitly when he explains that Nisuch ha'Mayim may be done with water from the Kiyor, even though the water in the Kiyor is not spring water. The Gemara in Zevachim (22b) teaches that any water may be placed in the Kiyor and not necessarily spring water.
The SHITAH MEKUBETZES in Bava Basra (79a) questions how Tosfos understands the Mishnah here which clearly states that one may use water from the Kiyor for the Nisuch ha'Mayim. Why may water from the Kiyor be used for Nisuch ha'Mayim if spring water must be used?
1. The RITVA (49b) answers that the Kiyor was kept overnight in the "Yam Shel Shlomo," the large pool that Shlomo ha'Melech built. The pool was filled with water that came via aqueducts from the spring of Ein Eitam (Yerushalmi Yoma 3:8).
The Ritva apparently maintains that even though any water may be placed in the Kiyor, the practice was to fill it with the spring water of the Yam Shel Shlomo. Hence, spring water indeed was used for the Nisuch ha'Mayim, even when the water was taken from the Kiyor.
2. RAV YOSEF SHALOM ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in He'oros b'Maseches Sukah) says that Tosfos maintains that the Mishnah follows the view of Rebbi Yishmael in Zevachim (22b), who argues with the Chachamim and says that the water of the Kiyor must come from a spring.
3. Alternatively, he suggests that on Sukos they went out of their way to fill the Kiyor with spring water in case the need arose to use the water of the Kiyor for the Nisuch ha'Mayim.