One of the fundamental teachings of Judaism is that nothing is inherently good or bad--it all depends on how it is used. Even the evil inclination can be most positive and without it, we would not have children or an advanced economy (see Yoma 69b). Greed, revenge, money, even kindness can be used for both positive and negative purposes. It can be no other way, as G-d is the Creator of all. If G-d "saw all that He did, and it was very good" (Breisheet 1:31), then everything must have the potential for good.
The kohen gadol had a hard day of work on Yom Kippur. The avodah, the special Yom Kippur Temple service, was intricate and difficult, and had to be performed after the kohen gadol was forced to stay up all night. He was kept up to avoid the possibility of a seminal emission, which would disqualify him from working on Yom Kippur. The Gemara relates how the mikarei Yerushalayim, the important people of Jerusalem, would also stay up making noise through the night, to make it difficult for the high priest to doze off (Yoma 19b).
Sometimes the choices we make turn out to be better than we could have imagined in our wildest dreams. The baseball player drafted in the 11th round who becomes a superstar; the shul rabbi who is the fourth choice of the board, yet is an inspiration for so many; the unassuming summer student who so impresses and eventually becomes CEO.
“And he shall atone for himself and for his household” (Vayikra 16:6). The Rabbis derive from this verse that the kohen gadol, in order to effect atonement, must be married. What if the kohen gadol should suddenly become single? What would happen if his wife were to die suddenly, just prior to Yom Kippur? The Sages argue that we need not worry about such.
The opening Mishnah of Yoma teaches that a backup kohen gadol was to be prepared lest the kohen gadol become tameh, ritually impure, and thereby unable to perform the avodah, ritual service, on Yom Kippur. What happened in those cases where the backup actually had to fill in?
“And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house” (Devarim 6:9). The mitzvah of mezuzah is a most beloved and popular one—and many a Jew far from traditional practice proudly identifies his home as a Jewish one.
Although it is mashechet Gittin (55b-57b) that records the stories relating to the destruction of the Temple, the famous Talmudic passage stating that the first Temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins of idolatry, adultery, and murder, and the second because of sinnat chinam is actually found in mashechet Yoma (9b).
About twenty-five years ago, a series of studies found that upwards of 50% of elite athletes would take a drug that would guarantee overwhelming success such as an Olympic gold medal, yet would kill them within five years. Later researchers questioned this study, with their research showing that "only" 6% of elite athletes would do such.
"Abba Chanan said, in the name of Rav Elazar: One verse says, 'make for you an ark of acacia wood' and one verse says and 'they (not you) shall make an ark of acacia wood'. How is it [possible]? This verse refers to when the Jewish people are doing the will of G-d, and this verse to when they are not doing the will of G-d" (Yoma 3b).
Seder Moed, the order of Mishnah dealing with our festivals, begins with Shabbat and includes such tractates as Pesachim, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkah and Megillah. One need not be well versed in Jewish law to immediately know the main theme of each of the above tractates. Yet the tractate dealing with Yom Kippur, instead of being referred to by the name of the holiday, is simply called Yoma, the day. Yom Kippur is a special day like no other, affording us the opportunity for forgiveness and a fresh start, the day of reconciliation, repentance, and renewal.