Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 3 Pt. 4

by Bronwen Mullin, Faculty

עֶרֶב יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים שַׁחֲרִית מַעֲמִידִין אוֹתוֹ בְּשַׁעַר מִזְרָח
On the morning of Yom Kippur eve, the Elders stand [The High Priest] at the eastern gate.

Being on the precipice of Shabbos feels weirdly akin to the moment we’re in inside Mishnah Yoma, where the High Priest is on the precipice of Yom Kippur, of doing all of the high-ritual-art of the Temple Service that effectuates and inspires teshuvah (repentance/repair/return) on a cosmic and human level. No biggie lol

This week’s texts have really focused in on the elders’ responsibility for preparing the High Priest and today’s text used a wonderful word, מעמידין, to mean “they stand him up”. The word is a hif’il (causative) form of the root ע–מ–ד, meaning “to stand” but as many of you noted, in the causative form it can also mean “to uphold/hold up” or “to support.” What a stunning word, because one might believe that it is the High Priest who upholds/holds up/supports the people, very top-down, but here it is the people upholding the High Priest. To be fair, it’s a very specific group of people, The Elders. So what about the rest of us?

This has me thinking about the importance of “Elders” in a community, folx who have lived a lot of life and held on to and reflected upon many of those life lessons. Being an elder isn’t necessarily about age, but it does seem to be connected to a particular wisdom—that one of the most sacred acts we can do is hold up others, help them be in the right place at the right time. (And here that’s the Eastern Gate, marking the cosmic path of the sun, the rising of the light through the sweet mixture that is the night—a wonderful play on the word ערב, meaning “night” or “eve”, but also have root meanings of “to sweeten” and “to mix”.) May we all be blessed to know and cherish those experiences that make us elders, and feel emboldened by this life to be a support to the others. Can’t wait to learn with you again soon!

Check out the rest of the Yoma Learning Guide here!

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