Horayot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four



During the time of the First Temple (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E.) the high priest was anointed with special anointing oils wore eight special pieces of priestly garments, as opposed to the four worn by regular priests.  From the time of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.) there was no anointing oil and therefore the high priest was only distinguished by his wearing more garments.

The first part of our mishnah deals with the difference between the high priest who was anointed with the anointing oil and the high priest who only wore more garments.

The second part of the mishnah deals with the difference between the high priest who currently holds office, and the high priest who has already relinquished his office.


Mishnah Four

I)                      And who is the anointed priest?   He who was anointed with the anointing oil and not he that has more garments.  

II)                    The only difference between a high priest who is anointed with the anointing oil and one who has more garments is the bull that is offered for [the unwitting transgression of] any of the commandments.  

III)                   And the only difference between the acting (high) priest and the former (high) priest is the bull on the Day of Atonement and the tenth part of the ephah.  

IV)                   They are both equal in the service of the Day of Atonement, and both are commanded to marry a virgin and are forbidden to marry a widow; they are both forbidden to become impure for their relatives; they do not let their hair grow long, nor do they rend their clothes; and they return the (accidental) killer (from the city of refuge). 



Section one:  Throughout this tractate we have been talking about the “anointed priest”.  Our mishnah teaches that these laws refer specifically to the anointed high priest, and not merely to a high priest who wears the eight garments.  In other words, all of these laws were no longer applicable during the entire Second Temple period.

Section two:  This section is taught in a familiar literary format for the mishnah: a direct comparison between two similar things.  The only difference between these two types of priests is that an anointed high priest who follows his own errant ruling brings a bull, whereas one who merely wears more clothing brings the same sin-offering that a regular person brings.

Section three:  The mishnah now continues to employ the same literary formula, this time comparing the high priest who has already relinquished office with one who currently holds office.  The only difference between the two is that the high priest who currently holds office offers the bull on Yom Kippur (see Leviticus 16:6) and the tenth of the ephah, which is a grain offering (a minhah) offered daily by the high priest (see Leviticus 6:13).  The former high priest does not make these offerings.

Section four:  With regard to the other laws special to the high priest, they are both the same.  Note that all of these laws are contained in the beginning of chapter 21 of Leviticus and all have to do with the special sanctity of priests and especially the high priest.  Both types of high priests can marry only virgins and not widows (Leviticus 21:13-14).  Neither are allowed to become impure in order to bury any of their relatives, even their mother or father (ibid. 21:11).  They are not allowed to grow their hair long (ibid. 21:10) nor tear their clothes (ibid.).  At the death of either one of them, accidental killers may leave the cities of refuge, as it says in Numbers 35:25, “And he shall dwell their until the death of the high priest” (see Makkot 2:6).