Talmud - Yoma 39a - 39b
The most pertinent portions of these passages are shown in bold.
The grayed out section just below has no bearing on this discussion.
Talmud - Mas. Yoma 39a
: If [a purchaser] comes to measure naphtha, he [the shopkeeper] says to him: Measure it
out for yourself; but to one who would measure out balm he says: Wait, till I measure
together with you, so that both I and you, may become perfumed.
The school of R. Ishmael taught: Sin dulls the heart of man, as it is
said: Neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled
thereby.1 Read not we-nitmethem [that you should be defiled],
but u-netamothem [that you should become dullhearted].2 Our
Rabbis taught: Neither shall you make yourselves unclean that you should be defiled
thereby. If a man defiles himself a little, he becomes much defiled: [if he defile
himself] below, he becomes defiled from above; if he defile himself in this world, he
becomes defiled in the world to come. Our Rabbis taught: Sanctify yourselves, therefore,
and be ye holy:3 If a man sanctify himself a little, he becomes
much sanctified. [If he sanctify himself] below, he becomes sanctified from above; if he
sanctify himself in this world, he becomes sanctified in the world to come.
C H A P T E R I V
MISHNAH. HE SHOOK4
THE URN AND BROUGHT UP THE TWO LOTS. ON ONE WAS INSCRIBED: FOR THE LORD, AND
ON THE OTHER: FOR AZAZEL. THE DEPUTY HIGH PRIEST WAS AT HIS RIGHT HAND, THE
HEAD OF THE [MINISTERING] FAMILY AT HIS LEFT. IF THE LOT [HAVING] FOR THE LORD
[INSCRIBED THEREON] CAME UP IN HIS RIGHT HAND, THE DEPUTY HIGH PRIEST WOULD SAY TO HIM:
SIR HIGH PRIEST, RAISE THY RIGHT HAND! AND IF THE LOT [WITH THE INSCRIPTION] FOR THE
LORD CAME UP IN HIS LEFT HAND, THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY WOULD SAY: SIR HIGH PRIEST,
RAISE THY LEFT HAND! THEN HE PLACED THEM ON THE TWO HE-GOATS AND SAID: A SIN-OFFERING
UNTO THE LORD! R. ISHMAEL SAID: HE DID NOT NEED TO SAY: A SIN-OFFERING, BUT
UNTO THE LORD. AND THEY ANSWERED AFTER HIM: BLESSED BE THE NAME OF HIS
GLORIOUS KINGDOM FOR EVER AND EVER!5
GEMARA. Why was it necessary to shake the urn? Lest he
take one intentionally.6 Raba said:
The urn was of wood and profane and could hold no more than the two hands [at its mouth].
Rabina demurred to this: It is quite right that [its mouth] could contain no more
than his two hands, i.e., to prevent his taking one intentionally [through manipulation]
but why should it be profane? Let it be sanctified? That would result in our having
a ministering vessel of wood, and we do not make ministering vessels of wood. Then let it
be made of silver, or of gold? The Torah has consideration for the money of
Our Mishnah is not in accordance with the following Tanna, for it was
taught: R. Judah said in the name of R. Eliezer: The deputy high priest and the high
priest put their hand into the urn. If the lot [For the Lord] comes up in the
hand of the high priest, the deputy high priest said to him: Sir high priest, raise thy
hand! And if it came up in the right hand of the deputy high priest, the head of the
[ministering] family says to him: Say your word!8
-Let the deputy high priest address him? Since it did not come up in his hand, he
might feel discouraged.9 In what
[principle] do they10 differ?
One holds, the right hand of the deputy high priest is better than the left hand of
the high priest, the other holding, they are of even importance. Who is the Tanna
disputing R. Judah? It is R. Hanina, deputy high priest. For it was taught: R.
Hanina, deputy high priest, says: Why does the deputy high priest stand at the right? In
order that if an invalidating accident should happen to the high priest, the deputy high
priest may enter [the Sanctuary] and officiate in his stead.11
Our Rabbis taught: Throughout the forty years that Simeon the
Righteous ministered, the lot [For the Lord] would always come up in the right
hand; from that time on, it would come up now in the right hand, now in the left. And
[during the same time] the crimson-coloured strap12
would become white. From that time on it would at times become white, at others not. Also:
Throughout those forty years the westernmost light13
was shining, from that time on, it was now shining, now failing; also the fire of the pile
of wood kept burning strong,14 so
that the priests did not have to bring to the pile any other wood besides the two logs,15 in order to fulfil the command about
providing the wood unintermittently; from that time on, it would occasionally keep burning
strongly, at other times not, so that the priests could not do without bringing throughout
the day wood for the pile [on the altar]. [During the whole period] a blessing was
bestowed upon the omer,16 the
two breads,17 and the shewbread, so
that every priest, who obtained a piece thereof as big as an olive, ate it and became
satisfied with some eating thereof and even leaving something over. From that time on a
curse was sent upon omer, two breads, and shewbread, so that every priest received a
piece as small as a bean: the well-bred18
ones withdrew their hands from it, whilst voracious folk took and devoured it. Once one
[of the latter] grabbed his portion as well as that of his fellow, wherefore they would
call him ben
(1) Lev. XI, 43.
MS.M. cur. ed. oynybu.
(3) Lev. XVI, 44.
(4) Continuing the account of Mishnah (supra 37a); or shook hastily (because
of eagerness, anxiety).
(5) The J.T. states that when the high priest pronounced the Ineffable Name those near
prostrated themselves, those afar responding with Blessed be the name of His
glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
(6) It was considered a happy omen when it came up in the right hand, and the temptation
was as great as near to improve upon chance by dexterous manipulation.
(7) V. infra 44b.
(8) Viz., A sin-offering unto the Lord.
(9) If the deputy high priest, in whose hand it came up, gave him the command, he might
easily read into his words the arrogance of the successful.
(10) R. Judah and the Tanna of our Mishnah.
(11) Nazir 47b, which implies that as long as the high priest is fit for service the
deputy high priest performs no priestly service whatsoever, in opposition to R. Judah.
(12) Which was tied between the horns of the bullock. If that became white, it signified
that the Holy One, blessed be He, had forgiven Israel's sin. Cf. Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isa. I, 18, Rashi).
(13) The westernmost light on the candlestick in the Temple, into which as much oil was
put as into the others. Although all the other lights were extinguished, that light buried
oil, in spite of the fact that it had been kindled first. This miracle was taken as a sign
that the Shechinah rested over Israel. V. Shab. 22b and Men. 86b.
(14) On the altar, on which it was kindled in the morning.
(15) V. supra 26b.
(16) V. Glos.
(17) V. Lev. XXIII, 17ff
(18) Lit., modest, decorous.
Talmud - Mas. Yoma 39b
hamzan [grasper] until his dying day. Rabbah b. R. Shela
said: What Scriptural basis [is there for this appellation]? O my God, rescue me
out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the unrighteous and homez [ruthless]
man.1 Raba said, From here [is the
basis obtained]: Learn to do well, seek justice, strengthen hamoz [the oppressed]2 i.e., strengthen him hamoz [who is oppressed],
but strengthen not homez [the oppressor].3
Our Rabbis taught: In the year in which Simeon the Righteous died, he
foretold them that he would die. They said: Whence do you know that? He replied: On every
Day of Atonement an old man, dressed in white, wrapped in white, would join me, entering
[the Holy of Holies] and leaving [it] with me, but today I was joined by an old man,
dressed in black, wrapped in black, who entered, but did not leave, with me. After the
festival [of Sukkoth] he was sick for seven days and [then] died. His brethren [that year]
the priests forbore to mention the Ineffable Name in pronouncing the [priestly] blessing.4 Our Rabbis taught: During the last
forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [For the Lord] did
not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did
the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R.
Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer
thyself?5 I know about thee that
thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee:6 Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may
devour thy cedars.7
R. Isaac b. Tablai said: Why is its8
name called Lebanon? Because it makes white the sins of Israel. R. Zutra b. Tobiah said:
Why is it called Forest, as it is written: The house of the forest of Lebanon?9 To tell you that just as a forest produces
sprouts, so does the Temple. For R. Hosea said:10
When Solomon built the Sanctuary, he planted therein all sorts of precious golden trees,
which brought forth fruit in their season. When the wind blew against them, their fruits
would fall down, as it is said: May his fruit rustle like Lebanon.11 They were a source of income for the
priesthood. But as soon as the idolaters entered the Hekal, they dried up, as it is said:
And the flower of Lebanon languisheth.12
And the Holy One, blessed be He, will restore it to us, as it is said: It shall blossom
abundantly, and rejoice, even with joy and singing, the glory of Lebanon shall be given to
it.13 Our Rabbis taught:14 Ten times did the high priest pronounce the
[Ineffable] Name on that day: Three times at the first confession, thrice at the second
confession, thrice in connection with the he-goat to be sent away, and once in connection
with the lots. And it already happened that when he pronounced the Name, his voice was
heard even unto Jericho.15 Rabbah
b. Bar Hana said: From Jerusalem to Jericho it is a distance of ten parasangs. The turning
hinges of the Temple doors were heard throughout eight Sabbath limits.16 The goats in Jericho used to sneeze because
of the odour of the incense. The women in Jericho did not have to perfume themselves,
because of the odour of the incense. The bride in Jerusalem did not have to perfume
herself because of the odour of the incense. R. Jose b. Diglai said: My father had goats
on the mountains of Mikwar17 and
they used to sneeze because of the odour of the incense. R. Hiyya b. Abin said in the name
of R. Joshua b. Karhah: An old man told me: Once I walked towards Shiloh18 and I could smell the odour of the incense
[coming] from its walls.
R. Jannai said: To bring the lot up out of the casket is indispensable,19 but to place [it on the bullock's head] is
not.20 R. Johanan said: Even to
bring up the lot is not indispensable.21
On the opinion of R. Judah who said that services performed in the white garments outside
the Holy of Holies are not indispensable there is no dispute, [all agreeing] that [the
bringing up of lots] is not indispensable; they dispute only the opinion of R. Nehemiah:22 He who says it is indispensable, holds even
as R. Nehemiah [does]; whereas the other who holds it is dispensable, explains [R.
Nehemiah to refer to] an actual service, whereas the casting of the lots is no service.
Others say: On the opinion of R. Nehemiah, who says it is indispensable, there is
no dispute, [all agreeing that] it is indispensable; the dispute touches only the opinion
of R. Judah: he who holds it is dispensable, agrees with R. Judah; whereas he who holds it
is indispensable [explains] that it is different here because Scripture repeats twice: On
which [the lot] fell.23 An
objection: was raised It is a command to cast the lots but if he has failed to do
so, [the service] is, nevertheless, valid. Now that will be quite right according to the
version that none disputes that on R. Judah's view it is dispensable, so that this
[teaching]24 is in accordance with
(1) Ps. LXXI, 4.
(2) Isa. 1, 17.
(3) V. Sanh. 35a.
(4) Men. 109b. Tosaf Sotah 38a suggests that the Ineffable Name could be pronounced only
when there was some indication that the Shechinah rested on the Sanctuary. When Simeon the
Righteous died, with many indications that such glory was no more enjoyed, his brethren no
more dared utter the Ineffable Name.
(5) Predict thy own destruction.
(6) I.e., concerning this significant omen of the destruction of the Temple.
(7) Zech. XI, 1. Ido was his grandfather, but it occurs occasionally that a man is called
the son after a distinguished ancestor.
(8) The Sanctuary. A play on iubck, connected with ick.
(9) I Kings X, 21.
(10) V. supra 21b.
(11) Ps. LXXII, 16.
(12) Nahum I, 4.
(13) Isa. XXXV, 2.
(14) Tosef. Yoma II, 2.
(15) V. supra 20b.
(16) The marked-off area around a town or place within which it is permitted to move on
the Sabbath. Sabbath limits i.e., two thousand cubits in every direction. The turning
hinges, then, created a sound, according to this scholar, audible beyond sixteen thousand
(17) The name varies: Mikmar, Mikwar, Makvar (a district of Peraea). One version omits
reference to a place, and reads on the mountains, which may have appropriated
from the next word and omitted it for want of clarity. It should be reasonably near
Jerusalem to suit the context. See D.S., p. 110.
(18) The place of the tent of meeting. In the mind of the narrator the odour of incense
must have been well-nigh imperishable.
(19) Without the casting of the lots no choice could be made as to the destination of the
two he-goats, i.e., the service could not go on.
(20) This view considers the service of the high priest dependent on the decision of the
lots, the decisive factor being the lots and not the formal putting of the lot on the
(21) R. Johanan considers the action of the high priest the determining factor,
independent of his having either had lots or having placed them on the head. His
declaration as to which animal is for the Lord and for Azazel resp., validates the
(22) Infra 60a contains the dispute between R. Judah and R. Nehemiah as to whether any
change in the prescribed order renders the service invalid. It hinges on the question as
to whether the word hukkah (statute) i.e., binding order, applies to the
service in the Holy of Holies only, independent as to the garments wherein they are
performed (R. Judah) or whether it applies to any service in the white garments, performed
either in the Holy of Holies or elsewhere (R. Nehemiah). A sub-question would be whether
anything in connection with the Day of Atonement, or only a service proper is covered by
R. Nehemiah's view. If e.g., the casting of the lots is not considered a service, though
an action in connection with it, it may not be indispensable since it is performed outside
the Holy of Holies, although in white garments.
(23) Lev. XVI, 9,10 which repetition emphasizes the indispensable nature of this service.
(24) That it is a command to cast the lots, but that failure to do so does not invalidate
Return to the main article OR
Return to part 2 of this article