Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 3-4 Chazarah

by Lauren Tuchman, SVARA Fellow

Today we reviewed Mishnayot 3 and 4 of the first chapter of Masechet Yoma. Chazarah is such an important process at SVARA, as returning again and again to text allows new insights and questions to be asked and centered. Such was our experience today. The beautiful questions asked about the ritual, the historical context and the role of the Kohen Gadol all added depth and complexity to these difficult-to-grasp mishnayot. 

Some of the questions that surfaced concerned the zekinim / elders. Who are these folks? What was their relationship like with the Kohen Gadol? What makes one an elder, particularly concerning matters of judgement as was the case here? How did these folks assume their role and responsibilities, and what was their leadership structure like? As such, focusing on the word zekinim / elders, can surface all of these other wonderings.

As we continue unpacking the ritual minutia off Yom Kippur, I find myself wondering quite a bit about historical and positional context. The Mishnah was compiled in 200 of the Common Era, or thereabouts. It is a singular type of Jewish literature, but what we find in the Mishnah is not the entirety of this form of literature and law. The Tosefta is a parallel text containing the material that Yehudah haNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, did not include in it. I am curious about the editorial and religious choices made. How do the rabbis position themselves vis-à-vis the Kohen Gadol and the zekinim of the era? How is this ritual imagined 120 years after the Bet haMikdash was destroyed, and what of our text is a direct transmission of how the ritual happened? We know much Mishnaic material was extant at the time of the Temple. So many questions arising from the magic of chazarah! 

Want to do some chazarah / review yourself?
Check out the Yoma Chapter 1 Learning Guide here!

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