Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Yoma 19 a, b

New information about the Temple suggests more chambers, some in the north and some in the south. There are chambers for storing salt, for storing incense (and practicing how to offer incense), for cleaning animal innards that have waste in them and cannot be sacrificed, for salting the food that will be stored for the High Priests.  Many other possible chambers are brought to our attention.  There may have been a chamber for priests who were disqualified due to blemishes or lineage.  Interestingly, we learn that these priests, once determined as disqualified by the Sanhedrin, would dress fully in black instead of white.  Certainly a visible mark of shame.

We learn about the seven Gates of the Temple.  Each is named and its position is described in detail.  Amud (a) tells us about the schedule of the High Priest.  Actually, we learn about a number of possible schedules.  The Sages note the special treatment afforded to the High Priest.  They wonder about having him walk far distances from one chamber to another; could this have been done to facilitate his humility?  Or perhaps our Sages did not in fact understand the layout of the Temple or the schedule of the High Priest.

Amud (b) begins by explaining that the High Priest is an Agent of G-d, and not of the Jewish people.  The oath taken with the Elders is proof that the High Priest learned according to the will of G-d and not according to his own interpretations.  The crying that follows this oats is interpreted again: this time, it is suggested that all cry because the High Priest is not trusted.

From this we move into more usual methods of instilling fear: if you practice incorrectly, you will be punished.  First is the story of a Sadducee who was named High Priest.  He was eager to prove that his interpretation of the text regarding the 'cloud over the ark' (in this case believed to be related to the offering of incense).  Days later, he was found dead in a pile of garbage with worms coming from his nose, the hoof-mark of an angel on his back, and the sound of him being slapped by an angel sounding through the air.

Another story tells us that Rav gestured the answer to a question while speaking the Shema.  This is not punishable - so why was he not punished?  The Gemara suggests that Rav was reciting the second paragraph of the Shema, during which it is permitted to be less than perfectly focused if one has good reason.  The rabbis then debate: is it truly necessary to be silent during this prayer?  How does this compare with our conduct during the Amidah?  And what kinds of speech are we referring to - idle gossip?

We end our daf with a new Mishnah focused on how to keep the High Priest awake the night before Yom Kippur. We are told that the attendants would snap their fingers (tzarada - using the thumb and 'it's rival', the middle finger rather than the first finger and the thumb, which are like bride and groom), speak to the Priest, have him stand on the cool floor, and have him perform a difficult bow.

The speaking was in fact singing, we learn, and not using instruments.  When the noise of citizens' Torah study is suggested as a possible stimulant, the rabbis take great offence.  These people are up all night not to study but to sin!  In fact, they are the reason that Moshiach has not come - on Yom Kippur in Neharde'a, the men and women and sinning all night!

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