Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten



Since at the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that Ben Gamala made the lots out of gold and he was praised for it, today’s mishnah teaches other ornaments that were donated by individuals and for which they were praised.  You can think of this mishnah as an ancient dedication plaque!


Mishnah Ten

1)      Ben Katin made twelve spigots for the laver, for there had been before only two.

a)      He also made a mechanism for the laver, in order that its water should not become unfit by remaining overnight.   

2)      King Monbaz had all the handles of all the vessels used on Yom HaKippurim made of gold.

3)      His mother Helena made a golden candelabrum over the opening of the Hekhal.

a)      She also made a golden tablet, on which the portion concerning the suspected adulteress was inscribed.

4)      For Nicanor miracles happened to his doors.

5)      And they were all mentioned for praise.



Section one:  Ben Katin, who was also a high priest, made twelve spigots for the Temple’s laver, a fancy word for sink (see Exodus 30:18-21). The Talmud explains that this was so each of the twelve priests who were offering the tamid (see above, mishnayot 2-3) could have their own spigot.

Ben Katin is also credited with another improvement in the Temple, this one also connected to issue of water.  He made a wheel that went into the water cistern which would cause the water in the laver to be connected to the water in the cistern.  The reason for this is that any water left out overnight in a vessel in the Temple is rendered unfit.  Without this wheel, the water left over in the laver would need to be emptied out every morning.    

Section two:  King Monbaz was king of Adiabene, which is north of Israel, and is now part of Turkey.  He, as well as his brother and mother, are mentioned as converts in Josephus. They ruled in the first century C.E., slightly before the destruction of the Temple.  According to the mishnah, he paid to make the handles of vessels out of gold, in cases such as a knife, where the vessel itself could not be made of gold.

Section three:  Monbaz’s mother, who is also mentioned in Nazir 3:6, made a golden candelabrum to stand at the entrance to the Hekhal.

Helene also made a golden tablet on which to write the chapter of the Sotah (Numbers 5:11 ff.)  From here the priest could copy the words when he needed to perform the sotah (suspected adulteress) ritual (see v. 23).

Section four:  Finally, the mishnah obliquely mentions Nikanor’s doors and the miracles that happened to them.  The Talmud (Yoma 38a) explains:  “What miracles happened to his doors? They say that when Nicanor had gone to bring doors from Alexandria of Egypt, on his return a storm arose in the sea to drown him. They took one of his doors and cast it into the sea and yet the sea would not stop its rage. They wanted to cast the other into the sea. He rose and clung to it, saying: ‘Cast me in with it!’ The sea immediately stopped its raging. He was deeply grieved about the other [door]. When he arrived at the harbor of Acco, it broke through and came up from under the sides of the boat.  Others say: A monster of the sea swallowed it and spat it out on the dry land.”