The fifteen steps were according to the number of the Songs of Degrees in the Psalms. It is related that whosoever has not seen the joy at the annual ceremony of the water-drawing, has not seen rejoicing in his life. At the conclusion of the first part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Priests and Levites descended into the women's ante-court, where they made great preparations (such as erecting temporary double galleries, the uppermost for women, and those under for men). There were golden candelabra
there, each having four golden bowls on the top, four ladders reaching to them, and four of the young priests with cruses of oil ready to supply them, each cruse holding one hundred and twenty logs of oil. The lamp-wicks were made of the worn-out drawers and girdles of the priests. There was not a court in all Jerusalem that was not lit up by the illumination of the "water-drawing." Holy men, and men of dignity, with flaming torches in their hands, danced before the people, rehearsing songs and singing praises. The Levites, with harps, lutes, cymbals, trumpets, and innumerable musical instruments, were stationed on the fifteen steps which led from the ante-court of Israel to the women's court; the Levites stood upon the steps and played and sang. Two priests stood at the upper gate which led from the ante-court for Israel to that for the women, each provided with a trumpet, and as soon as the cock crew they blew one simple blast, then a compound or fragmentary one, and then a modulated or shouting blast. This was the preconcerted signal for the drawing of the water. As soon as they reached the tenth step, they blew again three blasts as before. When they came to the antecourt for women, they blew another three blasts, and after that they continued blowing till they came to the east gate. When they arrived at the east gate, they turned their faces westward (i. e., toward the Temple), and said, "Our fathers, who were in this place, turned their backs toward the Temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the Fast, for they worshiped the sun in the East; but we turn our eyes to God!" Rabbi Yehudah says, "These words were repeated, echoing, 'We are for God, and unto God are our eyes directed!'"
Succah, fol. 51, col. 1, 2.
Rabbon Shimon ben Gamliel has said there were no such gala-days for Israel as the fifteenth of Ab and the Day of Atonement, when the young maidens of Jerusalem used to resort to the vineyard all robed in white garments, that were required to be borrowed, lest those should feel humiliated who had none of their own. There they danced gleefully, calling to the lookers-on and saying, 'Young men, have a care; the choice you now make may have consequences."
Taanith ,fol. 26, col. 2.
Rabbi Elazar the Great said, "From the fifteenth of Ab the influence of the sun declines, and from that day they leave off cutting wood for the altar fire, because it could not be properly dried (and green wood might harbor vermin, which would make it unfit for use)."
Taanith, fol. 31, col. 1.
He who eats turnips to beef, and sleeps out in the open air during the night of the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the months of summer (that is, when the moon is full), will most likely bring on an ague fever.
Gittin, fol. 70, col. 1.
A lad should, at the age of fifteen, begin to apply him self to the Gemara.
Avoth, chap. 5.
'So I bought her to me for fifteen" (Hosea iii. 2), that is, on the fifteenth day of Nisan, when Israel was redeemed from the bondage of Egypt. "Silver;" this refers to the righteous. "An homer and a half-homer;" these equal forty-five measures, and are the forty-five righteous men for whose sake the world is preserved. I don't know whether there are thirty here (that is, in Babylon), and fifteen in the land of Israel, or vice versâ; as it is said (Zech. xi. 13), "I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." It stands to reason that there are thirty in the land of Israel, and, therefore, fifteen here. Abaii says that the greater part are to be found under the gable end of the synagogue. Rav Yehudah says the reference is to the thirty righteous men always found among the nations of the world for whose sake they are preserved (but see No. 103 infra). Ulla says it refers to the thirty precepts received by the nations of the world, of which, however, they keep three only; i. e., they do not enter into formal marriage-contracts with men; they do not expose for sale the bodies of such animals as have died from natural causes; and they have regard for the law.
Chullin, fol. 92, col. 1.