Sunday, 22 December 2013

Yoma 45 a, b

The rabbis clarify statements made in a previous Mishna.  Each of their conversations teaches us that the rituals of Yom Kippur are somehow different from those on all other days.  For example, the incense is now extra-fine, and the priests enter and exit the Sanctuary ramp in the middle (rather than using the east and west sides of the ramp).  Although each of the rituals discussed has its own interesting components (and reasoning for those components), the larger discussion seems to focus on the differences between Yom Kippur and other days.  Again, as I have noted many times, we are learning about the importance of creating and maintaining strict distinctions between this and that; between what is one thing and what is another.

Amud (b) pulls our attention toward specific rituals, all regarding burning.  The Gemara asks 'what ifs', including when partially burned materials fall to the ground, and when the menorah is not perpetually lit, as the candles cease burning (or if only one candle is still lit).  In their rulings, the rabbis seem to be very aware of the practical issues facing the priests.  They seem to understand that things go wrong - candles burn out; burned offerings fall beneath the Altar.  The rabbis want us to believe in G-d's ability to perform miracles, but they teach us to rely on ourselves.

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