Sunday, 24 November 2013

Yoma 17 a, b

Today's daf is the shortest I've encountered so far, I believe.  Unfortunately, though it is short, it refers to another possible layout of the Temple - a complex topic made easier with diagrams and mathematical efforts.  I can follow the Gemara, but I know that the depth of this conversation is beyond my grasp at this point.

Yesterday we learned that the Chamber of the Lambs was located in the SE corner of the women's courtyard.  Today, Rav Adda son of Rav Yitzchak suggests that this chamber was removed.  Rashi suggests (as stated in Steinsaltz's notes) that in fact this chamber was long and narrow, located in the middle of the west wall of the Hall of the Hearth.

Different versions of the Hall of the Hearth are resolved by looking at descriptions in two tractates. In Masechet Tamid, the chambers are listed from the left, and in Masechet Middot, the chambers are listed from the right.   It would seem that each version offers a different puzzle to solve, as the shewbread would be found in the 'wrong' place according to each version.

In amud (b), we learn about one particular privilege offered to the High Priest.  He is allowed to choose whether he takes a sin-offering, a guilt-offering, a burnt-offering or a meal-offering first when all are presented to him.  He must declare his intention, (for example, "This burnt-offering I am sacrificing," or "this sin-offering I am eating" or "this guilt-offering I am eating") and then he is entitled to take any portion of that offering for himself.  Individual offerings allow the High Priest to take what he wants, while communal offerings go through communal channels.

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi believes that the High Priest also may take one of the two loaves offered on Shavuot and five of the twelve loaves of shewbread offered each week.  His opinion is based on Leviticus 24:9, where Aaron and his sons were entitled to the shewbread - this has been interpreted to mean that Aaron was entitled to half and his sons were entitled to the other half.  Extending this notion to the High Priest and the other priests, the rabbis generally agree that the High Priest was entitled to slightly less than half of the shewbread (as it would be improper for one person to have so many of the loaves of bread.

Our daf ends with Abaye's comment on the baraita referred to throughout this argument.  Could it be that the first and last comments are in accordance with some rabbis while the middle section accords with others?  Abaye suggest that the first and second comments are coherent.  A High Priest cannot be given a piece of a loaf; instead his should be given an entire loaf.  Thus he should be allowed these extra privileges.

Again I am reminded that that I am missing the baraitot upon which the Mishna and Gemara are based. It is difficult to follow the arguments of our Sages without those primary documents.  A good part of what I am learning is not the intended content of the dapim but is the structure and hermeneutical systems of thought that form the building blocks of our shared understandings.

Often the rabbis suggest proof texts that provide little rationale, in my mind, for the connections that they propose.  But when those texts are found in the Torah, Neviim or Ketuvim, I can source the texts myself and search for connections.  The baraitot, on the other hand, seem to be distinct from each other and difficult to track.  I wonder what languages were used to record the baraitot, and what came before those documents.

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