Saturday, 16 November 2013

Yoma 9 a, b

And we're off... daf 9 takes us on a journey off of the more direct path of Yom Kippur ritual and onto the path of tithing customs and laws, Tabernacle and Temple destruction, and the conduct of Jews toward Jews.  And so we begin.

We learn that people were separating terumah gedolah but were not consistent with the the tithes given to the Leviim.  In fact, bakers were beaten by city officials all year, part of an effort to 'encourage' low prices.  Because of this, they were not made to separate tithes and further reduce their meager profits.  Notable is the gendered language which does not translate into English: the bakers were women.  So women were beaten all year, forced to charge little for their essential services.  No comment is necessary (I hope).

The rabbis begin a new conversation regarding the First and Second Temples.  Based on their years standing (410 and 420 years, respectively) and the Priests serving there (debatably 18 in the First Temple and over 300 in the Second Temple), the rabbis attempt to interpret Prophets 10:27.  The rabbis tell us that the many Priests of the Second Temple era were not fearing G-d and they died before serving in the Temple for decades.

In another commentary on destroyed sanctuaries, the rabbis wonder about the Tabernacle in Shiloh.  It was built in the time of Samuel after first being established in Gilgal when the Jewish people entered ha'aretz.  Kind of amazing to follow this historical and genealogical line...  The rabbis suggest that this Tabernacle was destroyed because of forbidden sexual relations and because of the degredation of consecrated items. I Samuel 2:22 tells us "Now Eli was veryold and he heard what his sons were doingto all fo Israel, how they lay with the women who did service t the opening of the Tent of Meeting". 

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani quotes Rabbi Yochanan: anyone who believes this is mistaken.  We know this, he argues, because the women's bird-offerings (following childbirth) were delayed.  This suggests that Eli's sons only delayed the women's return to their husbands - of course, for the purpose of procreation - which was also a sin, but not as severe as improper sexual relations.  Regarding the second accusation, I Samuel 2:15-17 describes the ways that Eli's sons degraded consecrated items: they bullied people who were in the process of offering and they insisted on improper rituals. 

And why was the First Temple destroyed? The Tosefta suggest that idol worship ("The bed is too short for stretching", Isaiah 28:20, idols were taking up space in 'the bed'), forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed.

Here we find an informative section of the text regarding how women are seen as inappropriate in ancient times.   Forbidden sexual relations refers to Isaiah 3:16: "The Lord says because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet."  Breaking this down, we learn:
  • "haughty" refers to a tall woman walking next to a short woman to draw attention to the former
  • "outstretched neck" means that women would walk "with an upright stature", carrying themselves immodestly
  • "wanton eyes" refers to blue eye shadow, worn to draw men's attention to women's eyes
  • "walking and mincing" suggests a 'heel to toe' gate that draws onlookers
  • "tinkling with their feet" refers to myrrh and balsam placed in women's shoes which splashes out a perfume when stomped upon (of course, when they encounter a group of Jewish men in the marketplace) "... [to] instill the evil inclination into them like the venom of a viper"
From this I understand that women were not to draw attention to themselves through their posture, make-up, perfume, gait, or company.  To be modest is to cast one's eyes down, to stay with women of the same height, to slouch, and to be very careful to blend into the community.  On the flip side, this teaches me that women who stood out because they were tall and had short friends/relatives, who had good posture, who wore makeup or looked up to attract eye-contact, who attempted to draw the attention of Jewish men in the marketplace in any way - these women were considered to be one of the causes of the First Temple's destruction.  Amazing, the influence of women in ancient times.  And we thought that women had no power!

Finally we turn to the effects of bloodshed.  The rabbis believe that the hatred between Jews caused needless bloodshed, leading to the destruction of the Temple.  The rabbis argue whether or not the First and Second Temple both suffered from baseless hatred.  Rabbi Eliezer interprets Ezikiel 21:17 as teaching that "people who eat and drink with each other and then stab each other with verbal barbs" cause hatred and then bloodshed.  Perhaps, the Gemara suggests, only the "princes of Israel" were afflicted by this baseless hatred, rather than the larger Jewish community.

Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish point out that perhaps in the First Temple era, people's "sins were exposed"; their sins were out in the open, and thus the punishment was also exposed, leading a prophet to reassure them that they would rebuild the Temple in seventy years.  In kind, the destruction of the Second Temple with a 'hidden' consequence (ie. we don't know when the Temple will be rebuilt) was the punishment for the hidden, disguised sins of those in the Second Temple era.

About this Rabbi Yochanan tells us that the fingernails of the former are preferable to the belly of the latter (First Temple era people were superior).  Proof is easy to find; people of the First Temple era were given another Temple and they were not besieged by vindictive kingdoms.  Reish Lakish disagrees.  His argument is that our continued Torah study is proof of our superior status.  Another example of the rabbis drawing attention to the importance of their work, interpreting Torah.

The daf concludes with a story about Reish Lakish insulting the Babylonian who attempts to help him out of the Jordan River.  Reish Lakish seems to have more than a small chip on his shoulder about the dedication of Babylonians to Torah study and to Israel.  He also refused to speak with people of lesser status in the marketplace.  So interesting that someone could be so intelligent, talented in different areas, worldly, learned - and yet so closed-minded when it comes to certain arguments.  Is that particular to Reish Lakish and a few select others, or does this apply to all of us in some way or another?

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