Masechet Yoma 9a-15b

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15 Jun 2006

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. David Katzin in memory of Jack and Eva Katzin, z”l

Yoma 9

The Gemara on our daf discusses the destruction of two Temples, as well as the Mishkan that stood in Shilo for a period of time after the Jewish people entered the land of Israel.

Aside from the wars that brought about the physical destruction of the house of God in each of these cases, the Gemara quotes a well-known Tosefta that explains the underlying reasons for their destruction. According to the Tosefta, the first Temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins of avodah zara, shefichut damim and gilui arayot – idol worship, murder and sexual impropriety – that existed during that period. The second Temple, however, was destroyed during a period when the people were involved in Torah study and fulfillment of the commandments. In that case, the  Tosefta explains, the underlying cause for its destruction was the sinat chinam – the purposeless hatred – that existed between the people. The Tosefta concludes that we can derive from this that sinat chinam is considered to be as severe as the three cardinal sins of avodah zara, shefichut damim and gilui arayot.

With regard to the Mishkan in Shilo, Rabbi Yochanan ben Torta explains that there were two problems – gilui arayot and bizyon kodashim – sexual impropriety and a mocking of the sacrificial service. In this case the problems were not general societal ones, rather they were focused on the behavior of Chofni and Pinchas, the sons of Eli the High Priest at that time (see I Shmuel 12-26). These kohanim clearly did not see the korbanot as being a lofty religious ideal; rather they saw them as an opportunity to eat the meat of the sacrifices, as indicated in I Shmuel 15-16. With regard to sexual impropriety, a simple reading of I Shmuel 22 seems to indicate that they “lay with the women” who came to bring sacrifices. Nevertheless Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani quotes Rabbi Yochanan as rejecting the simple reading, arguing that their sin was in holding off the sacrifices of women who had given birth until the next day, forcing them to stay overnight in Shilo.

Although halacha permits a women to live with her husband following childbirth even if she has not yet brought her sacrifice, Rabbeinu Elyakim explains that being forced to stay over in Shilo away from her husband was considered the moral equivalent of sexual impropriety. According to the Meiri during Temple times the tradition was that wives did not sleep with their husbands until after the sacrifice was brought. Thus, sacrificing the korban the next day kept these women from returning to their husbands. The Ri”f explains that being forced to stay overnight in Shilo is the intent of the passage that describes Chofni and Pinchas as sleeping with the women, that is to say, in Shilo, together with them.

Yoma 10

Did the doorways in the Bet ha-Mikdash have mezuzot on their doorposts?

According to the baraita on our daf most of the offices in the Bet ha-Mikdash did not have mezuzot. The exception was the lishkat parhedrin, which, as we learned in the Mishnah (2a) at the beginning of the Masechet, served as the residence of the High Priest during the week of preparations prior to Yom ha-Kippurim, thus obligating it in the mitzvah of mezuzah. Rabbi Yehuda argues that there were many offices in the Temple that served as residences, and did not have mezuzot. He claims that the mezuzah on the door of the lishkat parhedrin was a special gezeirah – a special decree.

The Gemara asks why, according to Rabbi Yehuda, the offices in the Temple did not need mezuzot even if they served as residences. Rava suggests that Rabbi Yehuda demands that a house be built for use throughout the year in order for it to be obligated in a mezuzah. Since the Temple residences were not used on a regular basis, they would not be obligated.

The Gemara does not ask a similar question on the Tanna Kamma’s position that only the lishkat parhedrin was obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah. The Siach Yitzhak explains that the lishkat parhedrin was unique in that it was built to be the temporary home of the kohen gadol from the very beginning of its existence, obligating it in a mezuzah. The other offices, even if they were occasionally used for one of the kohanim to stay overnight, were not built with that purpose in mind, so it was obvious in such cases that there was no obligation of mezuzah.

The conclusion of the Gemara is that the difference between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda is based on a disagreement about dirah ba’al korchah – a house in which you live against your will. The Tanna Kamma believes that such a house is still obligated in mezuzah, while Rabbi Yehuda rules that such dwelling place is not obligated in mezuzah. Thus, the kohen gadol who lives in the lishkat parhedrin because of the mitzvah, and not by his own free will, would not be obligated in mezuzah according to Rabbi Yehuda – nor would other kohanim who live in the Temple offices. It is only to keep people from saying that the High Priest is kept in prison that a gezeirah was made to put a mezuzah on the door.

Yoma 11

The Gemara on our daf continues the discussion of the mitzvah of mezuzot, offering examples of doorways that might not be obligated in mezuzah for a variety of reasons.

One baraita that is quoted by the Gemara rules that a bet ha-knesset (a synagogue), as well as a house belonging to a woman or a house that is owned by two or more partners is obligated in mezuzah. In response to the question Peshita!? – isn’t this obvious!? The Gemara argues that we may have thought that the passage obligating beitekhah (“your house” in the singular, masculine – see Devarim 11:20) limits the mitzvah to a single, male owner. Since, however, the mitzvah of mezuzah offers the promise of a long life (Devarim 11:21), it is applied to everyone who deserves and desires such – including women.

Many commentaries ask why this particular passage is chosen for distinction. Given that most of the Torah is written in the masculine, yet is applied to all Jews, why should we make a particular point of emphasizing that this mitzvah may only have been applied to men? The Gevurot Ari points out that we are dealing with a unique case. The entire parsha was written in the plural, with the single exception of the passage about mezuzah, which is written in the masculine. Thus it is reasonable to consider the possibility that it refers specifically to men.

Another rule taught on this daf is the obligation to have mezuzot checked twice every seven years in a private home, and twice every 50 years in public places. Rashi explains the difference based on the principle that we try to keep from disturbing the public. The Sefer ha-Eshkol says that it is a practical issue. A mezuzah in a public place is seen by all, and if there was a problem with it, it would be noticed by someone who would bring it to the attention of the authorities. The Tosafot ha-Rosh argues that checking a public mezuzah carries with it an element of danger, an explanation that fits in with the continuation of the Gemara, which tells the story of someone who stopped to check a public mezuzah in Tzippori who was caught and fined by a Roman sentry.

Yoma 12

Upon entering the Land of Israel, each tribe received a portion appropriate to its needs. Which shevet (=tribe) received the city of Jerusalem?

A quick review of a map indicates that Jerusalem was split between the tribes of Yehuda (to the south) and Binyamin (to the north). Our Gemara argues that there is a disagreement between the tanna’im. The Tanna Kamma believes that Jerusalem was a separate entity, and that it was not divided between the shevatim; Rabbi Yehuda argues that Jerusalem was divided, and, in fact the border between Yehuda and Binyamin ran through the Temple itself, with the Temple Mount offices on Yehuda’s side and the sanctuary and Holy of Holies on Binyamin’s. A baraita that is brought describes how there was also a “panhandle” of sorts that encroached northward and included the area of the altar within the official boundaries of shevet Yehuda.

The Siach Yitzhak explains that all opinions agree that the area where the city of Jerusalem was built had originally been split between Yehuda and Binyamin. The disagreement in our Gemara is whether when the decision was made to make Jerusalem the spiritual center of the Jewish people the entire city became a separate entity, or perhaps Jerusalem remained within the confines of the two shevatim, and only the area of the Temple itself had extraterritorial status.

There are some sources that do not place the altar entirely within the boundaries of shevet Yehudah, rather within shevet Binyamin, with the exception of the south-eastern corner that was in Yehudah. Even so, the Gemara relates a tradition that Binyamin himself “saw” (apparently in a prophetic vision) that the altar – or a significant part of it – would not be in his portion, and was so disturbed by this that as a consolation prize he became the host (ushpizikhan) to the Almighty in that the Holy of Holies was built in his portion.

(For a more detailed picture of the Temple, look at this website:

Yoma 13

The first Mishnah of the Masechet (2a) taught that a “replacement” kohen was appointed in order to ensure that there would be a High Priest who could perform the Yom Kippur service in the event that something were to happen to the kohen gadol.

What happens to a kohen who replaces the High Priest when the High Priest recovers and can once again serve in the Temple?

The Gemara (12b) brings a Tosefta in which Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yossi disagree about such a case. According to Rabbi Meir, the original kohen gadol returns to his position, and his replacement continues to keep all of the rules and regulations of the kohen gadol. Rabbi Yossi rules that the original kohen gadol returns to his position, and that his replacement can no longer serve in the Temple at all. He cannot serve as the High Priest because the presence of two kohanim gedolim would lead to enmity between them; he cannot return to the position of a regular kohen because of the principle ma’alin be-kedusha ve-ein moridin – we raise people to higher levels of holiness, but do not bring them down.

The Gemara on our daf rules like Rabbi Yossi against Rabbi Meir, noting that even Rabbi Yossi agrees that if he were to perform the Temple service it would be acceptable after the fact, and that he could serve as the High Priest upon the passing of the kohen gadol.

Several questions are raised by the commentaries regarding the Gemara’s ruling. Tosafot points out that it is rather unusual to find the Gemara offering a ruling on a topic that is not pertinent in the contemporary period. This ruling, after all is hilkhita le-mishicha – a rule applicable in the Messianic age. The R”i ha-Lavan asks why there is any need to state a ruling like Rabbi Yossi, given the Talmudic principle that we follow Rabbi Yossi in all of his arguments with Rabbi Meir.

With regard to the first question, some suggest that this discussion does have contemporary application, specifically in a case where a community leader is incapacitated and replaced, only to recover his abilities. How should he and his replacement be treated? Perhaps we can derive some direction from this discussion in the Gemara. Some attempt to answer the two questions by turning them against one-another. Since the question is not one that applies to a real situation today, we cannot apply the normal rules of following Rabbi Yossi against Rabbi Meir, forcing the Gemara to explicitly state that the ruling is like him.

Yoma 14

The second Mishnah in the Masechet appears on our daf, and it puts forward the basic curriculum that was offered to the High Priest during the week that he was in training prior to his officiating at the Yom Kippur Temple service. Under ordinary circumstances, the every-day activities in the Temple were performed by one of the kohanim whose turn to participate in the avodah fell out on a given day. During the week before Yom Kippur, however, the kohen gadol performed all of these services himself. The Mishnah teaches that he

The Gemara is concerned with the order of the morning Temple service as described in the Mishnah. It appears from our Mishnah that the ketoret – the incense – comes before setting up the menorah, while the Mishnah in Tamid seems to have the order the other way around. Rav Huna suggests that the author of Masechet Tamid was Rabbi Shimon ish ha-Mitzpah, which could explain discrepancies between the different versions.

Rabbi Shimon ish ha-Mitzpah appears very rarely in the sources, but we do know that he lived during the period of Rabban Gamliel ha-Zaken while the second Temple was still standing. From our Gemara it appears that he was recognized as the individual who edited the basic Mishnayot in a given Masechet, with other sages only adding and editing some of it further. The conclusion of the Gemara is that Rabbi Shimon ish ha-Mitzpah is not the primary author of Masechet Tamid, as some of his positions do not match those of the Masechet. What is clear, however, is that it is not uncommon for the Gemara to assume that the majority of a given Masechet was authored by a single sage, with only minor additions or clarifications from others.

Yoma 15

For a close-up of the corner of the mizbe’ach, click here.

The main atonement offered by a sacrifice is brought about by sprinkling – called a matana (=placing) – the blood of the sacrifice on the altar. The matana was done differently depending on the sacrifice. A regular korban olah would have the blood sprinkled on two corners of the altar so that it would splash on two sides each time, in order to assure that all sides of the mizbe’ach had gotten blood on them (shetei matanot she-hen arba = two “placings”; that are four). [In the sketch this is the example on the bottom.]

The altar had a red line running around it called the chut ha-sikra which indicated the upper and lower halves of the mizbe’ah. In the case of the olah described above, the blood was sprinkled on the lower half. In the case of an animal that was brought as a sin offering, the blood would be sprinkled on the top of the altar, near each of the raised corners, where each side was sprinkled once (arba matanot = four “placings”). [In the sketch, this is the example at the very top.]

Rabbi Shimon ish ha-Mitzpah suggests in our Gemara that the blood of the daily sacrifice – the olat tamid – should be put below the hut ha-sikra with two separate matanot [indicated in the sketch by the example in the middle], almost a compromise position between the ordinary olah and the chatat.

To contrast this placing of the blood, the Gemara points to a Mishnah later on in Masechet Yoma (53b) which describes how the kohen gadol entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood towards the kaporet covering the aron (=ark) “one upwards and seven downwards.” In that case there was no strict line demarcating the difference between the upper and lower halves, and the Gemara explains that he sprinkled the blood ke-matzlif. The Me’iri explains this expression as meaning that he placed the blood without paying particular attention to whether they were directly above or below one another. Another explanation given by the Tosafot ha-Rosh suggests that the difference was the direction in which the
kohen gadol held his hand – whether he held it upwards or downwards.

(For more on the mizbe’ach, take a look at:

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.