Yoma, Chapter  Four, Mishnah Four

 

Introduction

Our mishnah teaches seven differences between how the incense was offered on Yom Kippur and how it was offered every other day.  Many of these changes were done to make the work on Yom Kippur easier for the high priest.  The others were done to highlight the importance of the day.

 

Mishnah Four

1)      On other days he would take out [the cinders] with a silver coal-pan, and empty it into one of gold, but this day he took them out with a golden coal-pan and in it he brought them [into the Hekhal].

2)      On other days he would take them up with a coal-pan containing four kabs, and empty it into one containing three kabs, but this day he took them out with one containing three kabs, and in it he brought them in.

a)      Rabbi Yose says: on other days he would take them out with a coal-pan containing one se’ah, and empty it into one containing three kabs, this day he took them out with one containing three kabs, and in it he brought them in.

3)      On other days the pan was heavy, today it was light.

4)      On other days its handle was short, today it was long.

5)      On other days it was of yellowish gold, today of reddish gold, the words of Rabbi Menahem.

6)      On other days he would offer half a mina in the morning and half a mina in the afternoon, today he adds also his two hands full.

7)      On other days [the incense] was finely ground, but today it was the most finely ground possible.

 

Explanation

Section one:  On other days he would take the cinders off the altar with a silver coal-pan and then transfer them into a gold coal-pan. This was done in order to preserve the gold coal-pan because putting it directly into the fire would damage it.  The Talmud demonstrates from here that the Torah has mercy on Israel’s money and doesn’t require them to consistently make the most expensive expenditures possible (a lesson that I think we would do well to take to heart).  However, on Yom Kippur in order to make things less complicated for the high priest, the coals were removed with gold-pan itself and brought into the Hekhal and later into the Holy of Holies in the same gold-pan.

Section two:  On other days he would remove the coals with a coal-pan that held four kav (about 8 liters) of coals and then transfer the coals to a slightly smaller pan which held on three kav.  The extra kav of coals would spill out and they would sweep them away into the water channel in the Temple courtyard.  On Yom Kippur since only one pan was being used he only removed three kav.  Rabbi Yose says that on other days he would remove one seah, which is an equivalent of six kav of coals.  He agrees that on Yom Kippur he would remove only three kav.

Sections three and four:  Both of these changes from the daily routine would make the removal of the coals easier for the high priest.

Section five:  Red gold was considered more valuable than greenish gold. Therefore it was used on Yom Kippur but not during the rest of the year.

Section six:  Every other day the high priest would make two incense offerings, each of incense weighing half a mina, the weight of fifty dinars in coins.  These two incense offerings were done on the incense altar in the Hekhal.  On Yom Kippur because there was a third offering inside the Holy of Holies, he would have to add two handfuls.

Section seven:  The daily incense was finely ground but the special incense for Yom Kippur, that which will be brought into the Holy of Holies was ground even finer.  This is because Leviticus 16:12, the chapter concerning Yom Kippur, emphasizes that the incense must be ground fine, which is understood to mean that it must be ground even finer than the regular incense mentioned in Exodus 30:36 which also must be ground fine.

 

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