Sotah, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Twelve

 

Introduction

The first section of this mishnah teaches what ceased when the earlier prophets died out.  The remainder of the section teaches what ceased when the Second Temple was destroyed.

 

Mishnah Twelve

1)      When the former prophets died, the Urim and Thummim ceased.

2)      When Temple was destroyed, the shamir and nopheth zufim ceased. 

3)      And people of faith ceased, as it says, “Help, O Lord, for the faithful are no more” (Psalms 12:2).  

4)      Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel in the name of Rabbi Joshua:  from the day the Temple was destroyed, there is no day without a curse, the dew has not descended for a blessing, and the flavor has departed from produce.

a)      Rabbi Yose says: the fatness was also removed from produce.

 

Explanation

Section one:  The Urim and Thummim were two oracular stones that the high priest would carry in his breastplate.  When the Israelites had questions they would ask the Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30).  The Urim and Thummim were in use only during the First Temple period.  When the prophets of the First Temple died out, the Urim and Thummim ceased.

Section two:   According to the Talmud, the “shamir” was a worm that was so strong that it could cut through stone.  King Solomon used it to cut the stones to build the Temple and it was also used to the stones for the breastplate. The “nophet zufim” was a special type of sweet honey. According to the mishnah, after the Temple was destroyed, these wondrous creations ceased to exist. 

Section three:  Not only did the abovementioned wondrous creations cease to exist, but so did people of faith.  This is hinted at in Psalms 12:2.

Section four: In these two statements we can see how bitter a loss the destruction of the Temple was for those who lived in that time period.  Indeed, this statement reminds me of something someone would say after the loss, God forbid, of a spouse or child.  Things just never again taste as good and every day is somewhat of a curse.       

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