Monday, 18 November 2013

Yoma 10 a, b

We begin with some geography.   Our Sages attempt to understand how we know that the Persians came from Yephet and where ancient cities and towns are located.  Of the many interesting references shared, one stands out: "... Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak" (Numbers 13:22) refers to the fact that the sun is a necklace, ie. they are tall (shema'anikin).  The rabbis enjoy finding meaning in each name based on the physical characteristics of that place (or its people).

What follows is a political discussion about Persia.  Will it succumb to the Romans?  The rabbis cite numerous proof texts to illustrate their opinions.  Today people refuse to take the words of our leaders seriously simply because a Torah text (or anything else, for that matter) seems to point to the stated opinions.  I'm not sure whether or not that is a good thing anymore.

Returning to the Parhedrin chamber, the rabbis take on the question of mezuzah: where were mezuzot placed in the Temple?  Was the Temple considered to be a residence in all seasons; was it inhabited for long periods of time?  Part of the reason for looking into the question of mezuzot was to determine whether we should look to rabbinic or Torah law to determine the obligation of tithes, which was one of the rabbis' previous discussions.

Rabbi Yehuda reasons that the Temple needs no mezuzah as it is publicly owned.  The Parhedrin, on the other hand, certainly requires a mezuzah for at least the time that the High Priest resides there during the week before Yom Kippur.  Perhaps, the rabbis wonder, we can look to the practices on Sukkot.  The rabbis might assess whether or not it is an obligation to affix a mezuzah on a sukkah even though that structure is temporary.  Rabbi Yehuda clarifies: there is no obligation of mezuzah on a sukkah as mezuzot are affixed on permanent, well-built residences.   

The sukkah is temporary and thus no mezuzah is required.  Similarly, the High Priest lives in the Panhedrin involuntarily, which means that the Parhedrin is not a true residence.  Further detail is added:  because one's family can stay in a sukkah, it is considered a voluntary residence.  The Panhedrin is in fact like a jail cell, as it is a substandard residence with no option of leaving or visiting with family.

The notion of separation from one's family and community can serve many purposes.  It distinguishes the High Priests from all others, thus creating that same distinction around the Yom Kippur offering. It forces the High Priest to meditate on his life, his relationship with G-d, his feelings about himself and his responsibility toward his community.  It would also represent an assurance of ritual purity; there would be no opportunity to acquire those 'cooties' that seemed to help people understand their limitations and their obligations.   

No comments:

Post a Comment