Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 5 Pt. 6

by Lauren Tuchman, SVARA Fellow

שֶׁלֹּא תְשַׁנֶּה דָבָר מִכָּל מַה שֶּׁאָמַרְנוּ לָךְ
That you will not change a thing from all that we have said to you [about the details of the Yom Kippur service].

We completed the fragment of text we began yesterday. We explored the Elders—either of the Court or the Priesthood—administering an oath to the High Priest in the Name of the Holy One. Today, we learned that the oath includes a charge to the High Priest not to change any of what was said by the Elders concerning the details of the Yom Kippur service. I am deeply intrigued and a bit troubled by this.

Our word today, אָמַרְנוּ / amarnu, is one we have explored a lot at SVARA. The root aleph-mem-resh can mean to join, combine, or say. Approaching this from a place of beginner’s mind, I wonder why this particular verb is used here for an action that is of such significance ritually, cosmologically, and theologically. I wonder what it was like for the High Priest to be taught the Yom Kippur rite so exactly by these folks in leadership.

The exactitude and concern voiced by the Elders reminds me of other ways the Jewish tradition prizes exactitude and proper transmission. One such way is something we celebrate at SVARA—teaching b’shem amro—in the name of the one who taught/said the thing. Our Mishnah today brought this to mind; when we teach b’shem amro, we honor the one who spoke, we recognize the humility of knowing our own learning as we also know that we are part of a lineage. Curiosity arises in me around the comportment of the High Priest. If the Elders felt compelled to administer this oath, was their historical precedent for the High Priest not honoring the ritual as it was spoken and taught? When we do not teach b’shem amro, we do not allow space to exist for the ones from whom we learn and grow. To use another term, we are not in right relationship when we do not acknowledge our learning lineage. May we continue to be in right relationship with all of our actions, large and small.

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