Taanit, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven
In the previous mishnah we learned that the men of the guard have to fast more on a Taanit then the men of the fathers house. Todays mishnah teaches another distinction between the two groups, one that has nothing to do with fast days.
1) The men of the guard are permitted to drink wine in the evenings but not during the day, but the men of the fathers house may not [drink wine] either on the day or on the preceding evening.
2) Both the men of the guard and the men of the ma’amad may not cut their hair nor wash their clothes, but on Thursday they may [do so] in honor of Shabbat.
Section one: A kohen may not be drunk while serving in the Temple. Our mishnah discusses when during his week of service in the Temple a priest may drink.
The men not serving in the Temple on a given day may drink at night. Since there is little work to be done in the Temple at night, they are allowed to drink. However, during the day they may not drink. This is because these kohanim may be asked to replace or supplement those members of the fathers house who are serving on that day. Since they might end up serving in the Temple, they may not drink.
The men of the fathers house, who are actually serving in the Temple may not drink either at night or in the day. Even though there is not much work to be done at night, there may be some work so they may not drink.
Section two: Corresponding to the twenty-four divisions of priests, there were twenty-four divisions of Israelites who would offer up special prayers while their corresponding division of priests were serving in the Temple. These groups are called maamadim or a maamad. The purpose of this set-up is to allow all of Israel to take part in the sacrificial service. This week is special holiday-like time for each group. In order to encourage the men of the maamad to cut their hair and wash their clothes before their week, they are not allowed to do so during this week. As an aside, we should note that this is similar to the laws concerning the intermediate days of the festival (we shall learn these when we learn Tractate Moed Katan). However, they may cut their hair and wash their clothes on Thursday in preparation for the coming of Shabbat. Again we see what an important place Shabbat played in their lives.