Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five

 

Introduction  

The mishnah continues to outline the differences between certain procedures during the rest of the year and on Yom Kippur.  The two in today’s mishnah are both related to special practices done to enhance the honor of the high priest. 

 

Mishnah Five

1)      On other days the priests would go up on the east side of the ramp and come down on the west side, but this day the high priest goes up in the middle and comes down in the middle.

a)      Rabbi Judah says: the high priest always goes up in the middle and comes down in the middle.

2)      On other days the high priest sanctified his hands and feet from the laver, but this day from a golden ladle.

a)      Rabbi Judah says: the high priest always sanctifies his hands and feet from a golden ladle.

 

Explanation

Section one:  The ramp was on the south side of the altar.  The priests would walk up on the east side and walk down on the west side so that they wouldn’t run into each other.  On Yom Kippur in order to emphasize his honor, the high priest would walk up the middle of the ramp.  Other versions of the mishnah read “they would go up the middle and come down the middle”, in which case it refers to the high priest and those other priests who accompany him. 

Rabbi Judah says that when the high priest goes up and comes down the ramp, he always does so in the middle.  Rabbi Judah here and in the next section seems to be emphasizing that the honor of the high priest is no less during the rest of the year than it is on Yom Kippur.  We might even be able to suppose that for Rabbi Judah the high priest’s import is inherent in his position and perhaps even in his very genes.  He is the high priest and therefore he is honored with special practices. In contrast, for the first opinion in the mishnah the high priest’s import is related to the unique rituals he performs. Since these are mostly on Yom Kippur, his honorific practices are only on Yom Kippur as well. 

Section two:  Usually the high priest would wash his hands from the laver, but on Yom Kippur he used a special golden ladle, again to emphasize his honor and the significance of the day.  Again, Rabbi Judah holds that the high priest does so every day. 

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