Yoma 70: Don't Waste My Time

January 23, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Torah reading as we know it today is a rabbinic innovation, beginning with Moshe Rabbeinu who--in his rabbinic role (as opposed to his role as transmitter of the Divine Torah)--ordained that we must read the Torah on Shabbat, Mondays, and Thursdays. Ezra--who, the Talmud declares, was worthy to have the Torah given through him, but Moshe beat him to it (Sanhedrin 21b)--added the requirement to read it ...
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Yoma 67: A Cliffhanger

January 22, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The ritual of the sa'ar la-azazel is a most incomprehensible one. Howcan atonement of the Jewish people be in any way connected to throwing a goat off a mountain?[1] Does such not go against the entire thrust of the Torah, in which sacrifices may only be offered at the Temple? Does this not border on the idolatrous?[2] "The goat shall bear all their sins to the land of ...
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Yoma 66b: A Walk in the Desert

January 21, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"Some of the nobility of Jerusalem would escort him to the first booth" (Yoma 66b). The "temple" ritual was not complete until the sair la-azazel goat was hurled off the mountain[1] at a distance of some 12mil (24,000 cubits, approximately 10 kilometers) from the Temple. So while the Babylonians were pulling out the hair (see here) of the ish iti--the term the Torah uses...
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Yoma 66a: Barbers in the Temple

January 17, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"Everybody is eligible to walk it, but the kohanim made a permanent rule not to let an Israelite walk it" (Yoma 66a). The kohen gadol, hands resting on the sa'ir la-azazel, would say vidui, pleading for forgiveness for the sins of the Jewish people, at which point the goat would be led away la-azazel. Leading the goat out of the Temple and into the...
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Yoma 66: Between the Lines

January 16, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of great and tragic figures in our Talmudic corpus is that of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanus. Hailed by his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai, as a “cemented cistern that does not lose one drop”, his greatness was such that “if all the scholars of Israel would be on side of the scale and Eliezer ben Hyrkanus  on the other, he would weigh them all down” (Avot 2:8). In a most famous and tragic story, Rabbi Eliezer...
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