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|Thursday, December 5th, 2013|
Yoma 26 – The last two lotteries of the day
The third lot was for burning the incense, and only the Kohanim who never burned incense before were allowed to take part it in. Why? – Because it makes one rich. And how do we know that? – Because the Torah said, “they shall bring incense in Your presence,” and right after that, “bless, O God, his resources.” Finally, the fourth and last lot was to select who will take the limbs of the sacrifice from the ramp and bring them the to the Altar.
Depending and on the festivity and additional rituals of the occasion, the daily sacrificed could be offered with anywhere from nine to twelve Kohanim, but not less or more than that. The sacrifice itself was divided into nine pieces, and each was carried by another Kohen. On the Shabbat within the festival of Sukkot, there were the following additions: a flask of water to be poured on the Altar -- a special for Sukkot, the two blocks of wood, and the new Bread of Vision.
Art: Still Life Of Apples And A Glass Of Water by Philippe Rousseau
|Wednesday, December 4th, 2013|
Yoma 25 – What garments to wear for the lottery?
In total, there were four lotteries every day, to dole out the Temple services. Why were lots used for that? – What kind of question is this, for we already said it was to avoid discord!? – Actually, the meaning of the question is why to assemble four times, when one lot for all services could be sufficient? - It is good to stir up the Courtyard, for the greater the number of people serving God – the better.
Did they use their regular garments or holy garments for the lots? Some say that they used the regular garments, because otherwise the ruffians among the priests could seize services by force, had they been already attired for it. Others say however that if they drew lots in regular garments, they might rush and do the services in them, which would be wrong.
And what was awarded in the second drawing? - Slaughtering the daily offering, throwing its blood on the Altar, cleaning the Inner Altar, cleaning the Menorah, and bringing the limbs of the daily offering onto the ramp of the Altar. Then we have the argument about the order in which the limbs were carried.
Art: A woman cleaning pots at a casement by (after) Gerrit Dou
|Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013|
Yoma 24 – Removal of the ashes
The first service of the day, the one auctioned in the lottery
, was the removal of the ashes. What garments did it have to be performed in? That answer depends on the argument whether it was a real service or just a preparation, with the conclusion that it was a real service, and thus the regular four items of the Kohen's attire were required.
How much of the ashes had to be put down on the ground next to the Altar. Should we learn from the separation of tithes and say it is one-tenth, or from the separation of the booty of Midian and say it was one in five hundred? The conclusion is that we should learn from the separation of the flour offering, and it was a handful.
At times, besides the symbolic removal of the ashes, there was a real cleaning. What garments should this be performed in (they are called “other garments” in the Torah) – better or worse quality? Using the principle that “when a servant mixes wine for his master, he should not use the same garments as when he is preparing a dish for his master,” we conclude that the removal of the ashes was done in better quality garments.
In general, if a non-Kohen performs a Temple service, he is liable to death at the hand of Heaven. However, only a complete, final service carries that responsibility. For example, is a non-Kohen liable for arranging the lamps of the Menora? - No, because there are also wicks. Is he liable or the wicks? - No, because there is also putting them in the lamps? Is he liable for that then? - No, because there is also putting oil. And he is not liable for it either, because there is also kindling. Then surely he must be liable for kindling!? - No, he just holds a flame to the wick, and the wick ignites by itself.
Art: Study Of Garments by Ghirlandaio Domenico
|Sunday, December 1st, 2013|
Yoma 23 - David and Shaul
On the previous page
we mentioned that one should not count the Jews. Two people who did count were King Shaul and King David, and Talmud continues with them. King Shaul was without a blemish, and that exactly was his blemish. One needs to have a “basket of creepy-crawlies” behind his back, so that if he becomes haughty, they can tell him, “Looks where you come from!” So even though Shaul did less wrong acts, David, when he erred, cried and asked for forgiveness, and this counts more.
Also, Shaul renounced his honor and did not take revenge on Amalek, as a king should. Incidentally, any Sage who is not vengeful and does not keep a grudge like a snake - is not a true Sage. Now this last statement is problematic, because the Torah said not to take revenge!? - It only meant in monetary matters. But still we learned that one should be forgiving!? - Yes, if the offender comes to apologize, but otherwise the Sage should keep the offense in mind.
Before there was a lottery and people were still running up the ramp to claim the Temple services, once a priest, seeing the other one in front of him, thrust a knife and mortally wounded the him. They eulogized him right there, and then the father of the boy came and said that the death of his son should be the atonement, and also that his son was still alive, and so they should take the knife out of him and avoid ritual contamination.
The Talmud notices that ritual purity was more important to them than bloodshed, and asks what happened: did the purity become more important or did the bloodshed become cheaper in their eyes, and concludes that it was the latter.
Art: The Wounded Trumpeter by Horace Vernet
Yoma 22 - Priestly lottery
The very first service of the day in the Temple was the separation of a small portion of ashes from the Altar and putting it down on the ground. Initially any Kohen who wanted to do it could do it. When many Kohanim vied for the privilege, they would run up the Altar’s ramp, and the first to reach the Altar would win. However, there started to be fights, and once one pushed the other who then broke his leg. The Sages therefore instituted a lottery, which was conducted in the following manner.
All Kohanim would assemble in a circle. One would take off his hat - he was the one from whom the count started. The Temple administrator told them to stick out one of two fingers; he would call out a large number and start counting from the first Kohen in a circle. The one on him the count ended was the winner.
Why there was no lottery at first? Because the Sages expected that not too many people would rise early enough for this service. They reasoned that it is easier to stay late than to wake up early. Then they established running competition and later a lottery. However, then the people stopped coming, saying, “Who knows if I will win the lottery!” So the Sages increased the reward, and the winner would get not only the removal of the ashes but also two more subsequent mitzvot.
And why did they count fingers and not people? Because one should not count the Jews.
Art: An old man with a raised finger by Jacob Jordaens
|Saturday, November 30th, 2013|
Yoma 21 – Miracles
Since the previous page
mentioned Festivals, the Talmud continues with the details. When the Jews would come to the Temple on pilgrimage, they were crowded together, so that each person stood straight as a beam, and at times his feet were occasionally lilted off the ground. However, when they had to prostrate themselves and confess their mistakes, miraculously the space between them increased, and there were four steps between each other – and this was one of the ten miracles that regularly occurred in the Temple.
The Talmud continues to discuss the other miracles with their particulars, excluding some and adding others to the list. For example, the Bread of Vision remained piping hot after it was left on the Temple table for a week: since the verse literally said, “to put bread, warm, on the day it (the old one) is taken off
,” we move the comma and understand that it was “warm on the day it was taken off.”
Another miracle was that king Solomon planted all types of fine fruit trees made of gold, and they produced fruit at the right times. This is mentioned in the phrase “May its fruit rustle like that of the Lebanon
,” and “Lebanon” always means the Temple. When the wind blew on them, the fruit would fall off, the priests gathered them and made their living from the profits. When the soldiers entered to destroy the Temple, the trees withered, but in the future God will restore them, since it says, “It will blossom abundantly... the glory of Lebanon will be given to it
Art: Fruit Tree in Blossom By Carl Fredrik Hill
|Friday, November 29th, 2013|
Yoma 20 – Chasing away sleep
If, during the night of Yom Kippur, the High Priest started to doze of, the young priest would snap fingers loudly in front of him and say, “Our Master High Priest, please stand up and do an exercise on the floor,” and thus they kept him awake all night. The prominent people of Jerusalem also would not sleep, and would make their voices heard, to support the High Priest.
Abba Shaul said, “They adopted this practice also in the provinces, except that they used the time for frivolities.” Elijah the Prophet met Rav Yehudah and told him, “You ask why the Messiah is not hear yet? Why, it is Yom Kippur, yet how many virgins lost their virginity this night in Nehardea!” Rav Yehudah asked, “And what does God say about it?” Elijah answered, “Sin waits at the door (that is, I, God, created the desire for illicit relations.” Rav Yehudah asked again, “And what does the Accuser say? (He now has a winning argument.)” Elijah told him, “Accuser has no say on Yom Kippur.” The Gematria of Accuser (Satan) is 364, and on Yom Kippur, which is the 365-day year, he has no power.”
Normally, they would start the Temple service by taking away ashes from the Altar at the call of the rooster. On Yom Kippur, when more had to be done, they started at midnight. Incidentally, on the festivals there was even more to do, what with all the pilgrims, and then they started the service after the first third of the night had passed.
Art: The Rooster By Edwin John Alexander
|Wednesday, November 27th, 2013|
Yoma 19 - The oath of the High Priest
Just before the Yom Kippur, the Sages of the Sanhedrin would turn the High Priest over to the Sages of the priests, and those would administer an oath, “Our Master High Priest, we adjure you, by the Name of He is makes His Presence dwell in this Temple, that you will not change a thing from the proper service.” After that he would turn away and cry - because they suspected him of being a reformer. They would also turn away and cry, why? - because anyone who suspects a righteous one will be punished.
All the night of Yom Kippur he would not sleep. Rather, if he was a Sage, he gave a lecture, and if not, scholars lectured him. If not, he would read from the Scriptures, or they would read to him. What did they read? - even action-filled “Chronicles,” to keep his attention. Often he did not even know Hebrew, and they read the book of Daniel, which was in the vernacular (Aramaic).
Art: La Leçon de Lecture (The Reading Lesson) by Léon-Augustin L'hermitte
Yoma 18 – Wife for a day
In the seven days before Yom Kippur the Sages would read the Torah portion of Yom Kippur in front of the High Priest. Then they would say, “Master High Priest, please read it back to us, for perhaps you forgot or never learned." How could be it that he never learned? – In the times of the Second Temple the position was bought for money. On the last day they would show him all the animals to be used for sacrifices, except for the goat brought as a sin offering for all Jews – lest he becomes despondent thinking of it.
On the last day they also did not give him much food, for food leads to sleep, and too much of it might cause him to becomes ritually impure through seminal emission. They also did not feed such foods as etrog, eggs, fat mean and wine – for the same reason.
In general, a guest on should take precautions not to soil the linen that he sleeps on, or the host's garments, if we wears them – lest they see it and think lower of him. The Sages were very careful to maintain this sort of purity, and for this they would announce, “Who will be a wife for a day for me?” when they were visiting a remote location.
This, however, leads to a number of questions. How could they marry wives in many places – what if their children, not knowing each other, will intermarry? – Those Sages were famous, and their progeny would know where they came from. Another problem: a prospective wife needs to go to a mikveh, how can they choose anybody on the spot? – The answer is that they would send a messenger to announce their intent, a week in advance. Alternatively, we can say that they only went into seclusion with the woman of their choice, but did not have relations, thus obviating all of the above questions. But that is so, how did it help? – One who potentially has a wife (“a bread in his basket”) cannot be compared to one who does not.
Art: A Footman Sleeping by Charles Bargue
Yoma 17 – The right-of-way for the High Priest
On all the days of the year other than Yom Kippur the High Priest does not do the regular daily Temple duties – unless he wants to. In that case, he has the right to say, “I will offer this burnt offering,” or “I will offer this flour offering,” or “I will eat this sin-offering,” and so on.
For more special offering he is entitled to a portion of it. For example, he can have one lamb of the two brought on Shavuot. The special “Bread of Vision,” which induced mystical visions, was distributed among the Kohanim on every Shabbat. Of these twelve breads he takes four or five. Now, this division is not logical. In the first case he was entitled to exactly half, and in the second – to less than half. Also, what does “four or five” mean?
However, in this rule we have a mixture of different opinions. First, there is one that says that the High Priest can have up to half of the total - based on the Torah's phrase, “To Aaron and his sons,” which is understood as “half to Aaron and half to his sons.” Another opinion is that he takes less than half – that is the “four or five” out of twelve. However, it could also be that all agree that he takes less than half; as far as one loaf on Shavuot – it would not be polite to break it. There is also an opinion that two of the twelve breads of vision are given as a reward for the closing of the gates, and the remaining ten are divided between the rest – this explains the “four” as less than half of ten.
Art: The Pet Lamb by J. Hardwicke Lewis
|Tuesday, November 26th, 2013|
Yoma 16 - Where exactly was the Altar placed?
When a deputy Kohen would burn the Red Heifer, he had to do it on Olive Mount, right across the entrance to the Temple building. This is required by the Torah, and we understand from here that he had to actually see the entrance. This was only possible if the eastern wall of the Temple was somewhat lower than the other walls. The Talmud is interested in whose opinion this is, and it answers that it could only be Rabbi Elazar ben Yakov, since only according to him that wall’s foundation was high enough for the problem of visibility to arise.
But perhaps this is the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, since according to him also the geometry of the gates would allows this direct view? - No, it could not be him, because according to Rabbi Yehudah the Altar was exactly in the middle of the Courtyard, and would obstruct the view. Thus, by combining the limitations imposed by the rules of burning the Red Heifer and the position of the Altar, the Talmud finds who was the author of the rulings we are learning here in Yoma, and in the Tractate Midot, which concerns the exact sizes of everything in the Temple.
Art: Jerusalem From The Mount Of Olives by Frederic Edwin Church
|Sunday, November 24th, 2013|
Yoma 15 - Attention to detail
Earlier, in describing the order of the day of the High Priest in preparation for Yom Kippur, we mentioned that he would “burn the incense and prepare the Menorah.” We can assume that every day the service follows this order. If so, we have a problem: the order of the service in the Tractate “Tamid,” which is specifically dedicated to Temple procedure
, is listed differently: first the Menorah and then the incense.
Rabbi Yochanan explains that the two are written by different authors, and that Rabbi Shimon HaMitzpah is the author of Yoma. Every teacher of the earlier times (before 200 C.E) is entitled to his opinion on the basic facts, and if they differ - we have two aspects of truth, only we don’t know how to reconcile them.
But even within one Tractate, Yoma, we also have a contradiction! For we will later learn that the lots by which it was decided which Kohen gets which service, also go in the order of menorah - then incense. Abaye explains that too: the cleaning of the seven branches of the Menorah was done in two steps: first the five branches, and then the remaining two. The incense was brought in between these two steps. Thus we see that the order could indeed be described differently, and depending on which part of the services you are talking about, the cleaning of the Menorah could occur before the incense or after it. The key Torah phrase here is “when he prepares the lamps, he shall bring the incense
.” This phrase is explained differently by Abba Shaul and the Sages. The Talmud continues to point out and reconcile contradictions in the order of the service.
Art: Cleaning The Swords by Hermanus Koekkoek
|Saturday, November 23rd, 2013|
Yoma 14 – What does the High Priest do for seven days?
Normally the High Priest is not doing regular services. However, on Yom Kippur he will be performing them all by himself, so for the seven days of sequestration he practices these services daily: he throws the blood of the sacrifices, burns the incense, prepares the lamps, and offers the head and the hind leg of the daily offering.
Whoever wrote down this ruling, it was not Rabbi Akiva. Why not? Because it would contradict this other ruling: for all seven days they would sprinkle the High Priest with the ashes of the Red Heifer, to remove any possible impurity of the dead he might have contracted. According to Rabbi Akiva, this sprinkling has an amazing property: it purifies only the impure ones, but if someone is pure in the first place, then the ashes make him impure until the end of the day. Thus, according to Rabbi Akiva, the High Priest would be impure every day, and unable to perform any service.
From where does Rabbi Akiva derive this most strange fact? – From the words of the Torah, “And the pure will sprinkle upon the impure
.” The Torah could have said “upon him,” why did it have to again emphasize that he was impure? – To tell us that the impure becomes pure, but the pure becomes impure. The Sages say that it would be totally illogical, and as far as the words “on the impure” – they learn a different law from it. But how does Rabbi Akiva answer the logic argument? He says, “Even Solomon could not understand it, as he said, “I wanted to become wise, but it is beyond me
Art: The Judgement of Solomon by Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Yoma 13 – Another wife for the High Priest
Just as they prepare a substitute Kohen for the High Priest, so they prepare a substitute wife for him – in the event that his wife will die. Since the Torah said, “He will atone for himself and his house (euphemism for wife)” - he must have one – this is the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah. The Sages, however, say that if so, they would have to prepare another wife, and another wife, and so on, to no end – therefore, conclude the Sages, they don't prepare a second wife for him.
The second wife, however, leads to a number of complications. First, he is not married to her. The Talmud suggests that he should marry her. But then he has two wives, and the Torah said to atone “for his house,” not “for his houses.” Then he should divorce her! - If so, he has no substitute wife! Rather, what we mean is that he should divorce her conditionally: if she does not die before the end of Yom Kippur, the divorce takes effect retroactively from the time it was given. Thus, if she does not die, it transpires that he only had one wife, and if his present wife dies, he has a substitute. But what if she does not die (the divorce takes effect), and his present wife does die, and he is left without any wife during Yom Kippur!
After considering a few more conditional divorces, the Talmud decides to make it dependent first on her action (if she goes into a synagogue, she is divorced), and then on his action. Finally: he divorces both wives conditionally: to one he says, “This is your divorce (Get) on the condition that your fellow wife does not die,” and to the other - “This is your Get on the condition that I enter a synagogue.” This covers all eventualities.
Art: Self-Portrait with His Wife, by Jan de Baen
|Thursday, November 21st, 2013|
Yoma 12 – Another High Priest
While the High Priest spent his seven days in solitude preparing for Yom Kippur, another Kohen was designated as a standby, for the contingency that the High Priest would become disqualified for services. This could be due to a seminal emission on the night of Yom Kippur, or to some other ritual impurity. In that case, the designated Kohen would become a High Priest and perform the service.
However, how is this possible? Normally, a Kohen becomes a High Priest by either being anointed with a special oil, or by donning the eight garments of the High Priest, with the appearance of gold, with the additional items such as a breastplate and tzitz. The third way to be consecrated for High Priest's work would be to perform a service specific to him. In sum, he should do something special that only a High Priest can do.
In the Second Temple there was not anointing oil. After the first morning sacrifice, the High Priest would take of his “golden” garments and dress in pure white linen, and become indistinguishable from a regular Kohen in the Temple. Thus, if a disqualification were to occur now, there seems to be no way to consecrate the standby Kohen. Rav Adda said, “His belt is different, since it is of pure white linen, while that of a regular Kohen is of colored wool together with linen.” This advice only works if the belt of a regular Kohen is indeed different, but there are varying opinions on that. Abaye suggested, “Let him dress up in golden garments and turn some parts of a burning sacrifice – which is also a special service!” Rav Pappa said, “Any service that he does makes him the High Priest, because only a High Priest can perform service on that day.” The last advice seemed like a loophole, but Rav Pappa found a precedent that served as a proof.
Laundress Carrying Linen by Edgar Degas
|Tuesday, November 19th, 2013|
Yoma 11 - Mezuzah for all
Since the Torah said, “Write the words about God on the doorposts of your house and on your gates
,” we understand that just as the gates of your house are included, so too the gates of your courtyards, provinces and cities. However, just as a house, it should be inhabited. For example, strictly speaking a synagogue requires a mezuzah only of the sexton lives there.
Would a storehouse require a mezuzah? Some say that they do not require a mezuzah, because it is not “your house” but an animal’s. Others say that it is “your house,” that is, a house belonging to you, and thus requiring a mezuzah. All agree that a bathhouse does not need one.
What about such a gate that is straight at the bottom but oval at the top? Rabbi Meir says that it still needs a mezuzah, while the Sages say that it does not. What is the point of contention between them? Rabbi Meir applies the principle of “we view it as if straightened out,” that is, if we were to remove the extra material at the arch and make the doorposts go straight, wouldn't it required a mezuzah? - so even now it does. But the Sages do not agree to the principle of “we view it as if straightened out.”
Art: Yellow Bath House And Sailboat, Bellport, Long Island by William Glackens
Yoma 10 – Mezuzah for the High Priest
God's presence was more palpable in the First Temple than in the Second one. One reason for it is that the Jews did not go up en mass to the Land of Israel – this is the opinion of Resh Lakish. However, Rabbi Yochanan disagrees and says that even if that had gone, it would not help – based on the phrase “God will beautify Greece, but His Presence will be with the sons of Shem
.” This means that although the Persians, who are considered the descendants of Greece, built a beautiful Temple, God's presence still dwelt only in the First Temple, which was built wholly by the Jews. The Talmud then discussed the fates of the states and nations based on their role in the building or destruction of the Temple.
Did the chamber in which the High Priest lived for seven days before Yom Kippur have a mezuzah? Some say that a mezuzah was required there only for those seven days, but they still kept it throughout the year, lest they forget to put it on, or lest the people say that the High Priest is locked in a prison. Others say even those seven days are a disagreement: even though the High Priest did not choose to live there but was forced to, it is still considered a valid dwelling which needs a mezuzah – so say the Sages, while Rabbi Yehudah says that it was not considered a proper dwelling and the mezuzah was not required. All agree though that practically it still was there.
Art: In prison By Rembrandt Van Rijn
|Monday, November 18th, 2013|
Yoma 9 – High Priesthood for sale
At first, the chamber to which the High Priest was sequestered before Yom Kippur
was called “The chamber of nobles,” but later it became known as “The chamber of administrators”. This was because the High Priests of the first Temple were of greater stature.
In fact, during the 410 years of the First Temple, there were a total of eighteen High Priests, which makes for 22 years in service on the average. However, during the Second Temple, when they would buy High Priesthood with money, there were 300 of them during the 420 years of the Temple. If you subtract the forty years of service of Shimon the Righteous, eighty of Yochanan the Great, ten of Rabbi Ishmael and eleven of Elazar ben Charsom, you will see that the majority of the High Priests did not live out one year of their service.
During the First Temple, bloodshed, immorality and idol worship were abundant, and yet only the roof of the Temple was destroyed, and that only for seventy years. However, during the Second Temple, when ostensibly they were learning Torah and doing good deeds, the Temple was raised to the ground and is still not rebuilt. Why is that? – Because they slandered each other in secret and transgressed in secret. However, Resh Lakish presents another view: the later generations are greater, because with all the hardships they still learn Torah.
Art: Gossip at the stile By Valentin Walter Bromley
|Sunday, November 17th, 2013|
Yoma 8 - Tzitz
is the golden headplate worn by the High Priest. It fixes the defects of the sacrifices, so that even those sacrifices that were not normally acceptable, become so with the help of the Tzitz. This is expressed by the Torah as follows, “So that Aaron will bear the sin of the sacred offerings
However, which offerings could the Tzitz help? If the priest bringing it wanted to eat it in the wrong place, it “would not be acceptable
,” and if he even wanted to eat it in the wrong time, it “would not be considered
.” Thus, the only problem that the Tzitz could fix was the offering that became ritually impure.
Did the Tzitz have to be on the forehead of the High Priest to be effective? That depends on the understanding of the word “always (Aaron will wear it).” You can understand that whenever Aaron wears it, it is effective, but not otherwise. Or, you can say that “always” means “constantly when possible,” but even when it is not possible to wear it (such as during sleep), it still works. The Talmud tries to resolve its earlier question, whether the laws of purity are completely abrogated or if they only allow a few exceptions
, using the laws of Tzitz, but alas, Tzitz allows both interpretations. Incidentally, it is from Tzitz that we derive that one who wears tefillin
must be constantly mindful of them.
Art: Yemeni Jew, 1914 National Geographic Magazine.
Yoma 7 – Is everything permitted?
Previously we mentioned
that if all priests are ritually impure, they are allowed to bring sacrifices in the state of impurity. However, does this mean that everything is permitted and that the laws of purity are temporarily abrogated, or perhaps we only make an exception where we have to. For example, if in the group of the priest who are serving this week everyone is impure – on the first point of view, they would do the service, but on the second point of view – another group of the priest, from a different week, would be invited. Rav Nachman represents the first, more lenient point of view, and Rav Sheshet – the second, more stringent.
First the Talmud limits the disagreement: if there are foods that need to be eaten, such as two loaves on Shavuot, everybody agrees that we looks for ways to do it in purity. Also, when the sacrifice can be brought at any time, they wait until the priest become pure again. Thus, the disagreement only exists for holidays, such as Passover. Then, the Talmud finds an earlier disagreement, between Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Shimon, on the same question. This points to the fact that the argument cannot be resolved, rather, that its roots go back to much earlier times.
As a practical matter, Rambam rules that not everything is permitted: the rules of purity are not abrogated, but only an exception to them is taken in specific cases. Thus, when it is possible to find a way to maintain purity, this should be done.
Art: The Argument by William Henry Knight