Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 2 Pt. 3

by Lauren Tuchman, SVARA Fellow

וּשְׁאָר כָּל הַיָּמִים אִם רָצָה לְהַקְרִיב מַקְרִיב
On all the other days of the year, if [the High Priest] wishes to sacrifice, he sacrifices.

We are continuing our exploration of the Kohen Gadol’s week of preparation and seclusion before Yom Kippur. As our teachers, Jhos, Olivia and Micah taught us this week, the High Priest had very specific ritual functions that he had to perfect because Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, could not be left to chance. If the transgressions of the people were to be expiated, it had to be done correctly and with exactitude. What makes Yom Kippur and the week prior different from all other days? On all other days, the High Priest can bring sacrifices of his heart and of obligation, just like everyone else. On these days, though, the High Priest sacrifices according to a highly specific ritual rubric.

Our word today is l’hakriv. This is a causative, infinitive construct of the shoresh kuf-resh-vet, meaning to draw close or to sacrifice. It feels fitting that we find ourselves here today, as the Torah-reading cycle wraps up the portion Vayikra this Shabbat. Sacrifices have been, in my view, poorly understood. Though I am amongst the vast majority who do not long to return to sacrifices—I really love the sacrifices of my lips and heart and words—I also recognize that in their context, animal sacrifice was an act of cleaving or closeness to the Divine. It is about giving over what is most precious.

So, too, does the High Priest have to handle with care that which is most essential. Seclusion helps him prepare for the holy moment. I am reminded of how preparation alters the character of a thing. When we take time to prepare for learning or anything else, we are creating an intentional container. My invitation to us is to think about how preparation shows up for us. I so look forward to continuing to dive deeply into this text with you.

Check out the rest of the Yoma Learning Guide here!

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