Yoma, Chapter Three Mishnah Eight

 

Introduction

The priest is now wearing his special Yom Kippur linen and is prepared to offer the first of the Yom Kippur sacrifices, the bull which atones for the high priest and his house. This is mentioned in Leviticus 16:6, and then again in verse 11.

 

Mishnah Eight

1)      He came to his bull and his bull was standing between the Ulam and the altar, its head to the south and its face to the west.   

2)      And the priest stands on the eastside facing the west.   

3)      And he lays both his hands upon it and confesses.

4)      And thus he would say: “Please, ‘Hashem’! I have done wrong, I have transgressed, I have sinned before You, I and my house. Please, ‘Hashem’! Forgive the wrongdoings, the transgressions, the sins which I have committed and transgressed and sinned before You, I and my house, as it is written in the torah of Moses Your servant: “For on this day shall atonement be made for you [to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before the Lord”] (Leviticus 16:30).   

5)      And they answered after him: “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever!”

 

Explanation

Section one:  The bull was standing on the northern side of the Temple courtyard, between the Ulam, which is the outermost portion of the sanctuary (the Hechal) and the outer altar, which is to the east of the Ulam.  The head of the bull was facing south but they would turn its face west towards the sanctuary.  In the Talmud they explain that they would put the bull here because some of its blood would need to be sprinkled inside the Holy of Holies and this was as close as they could bring the bull. 

Section two:  The priest would stand on the east side of the bull, with his back to the altar and facing the sanctuary.

Section three:  The priest would lay his hands on the animal, a practice done for all sin-offerings (see Leviticus 4:29, 33) and then offer up the confession, alluded to in Leviticus 16:6.

Section four: The language of the confession does not appear in the Torah and indeed it is not clear at all in the Torah whether the “atonement” mentioned in Leviticus 16:6 is an atonement achieved solely through sacrifice or through a verbal confession.  In any case, the rabbis explain that a verbal confession was made.  During this confession the high priest would explicitly state God’s four letter name (the tetragrammaton) but due to its extreme caution in stating God’s name the mishnah only writes “Hashem” which means “the name.”  We should note that the way we pronounce this name now is not the way it was originally pronounced.  The original pronunciation has probably been lost.  “Yehovah” is certainly not the original pronunciation as it is based on the vowels from the word “Adonay”.

Section five:  When the people heard the explicit pronunciation of God’s name they would respond by blessing God’s holy name.

We shall see this ritual of confession and response repeated several times throughout the remainder of the tractate.  Indeed, on Yom Kippur, if you’re still in shul, try to follow along in the “Avodah” service, which comes at the end of Mussaf. You will see many of the elements of these mishnayot incorporated into the service.

 

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