Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 5 Chazarah

by Lauren Tuchman, SVARA Fellow

We reviewed the fifth Mishnah of the first chapter of Masechet Yoma. This Mishnah primarily concerns itself with the process through which the High Priest was administered an oath by the Elders of the priesthood and of the Court. This oath implores the High Priest not to change any of the details of the Yom Kippur service taught to him by the Elders. So many underlying questions arise for me as I learn this Mishnah.

Why was the precision so important that it was recorded with such care and exactitude, such that we are learning it nearly 2,000 years later? What is the dynamic between the High Priest and both groups of Elders? Do the Elders not trust the High Priest? Was there historical precedent for this lack of trust, such that it became an oath administered in the Name of the Holy Name itself? Why do both parties, the Elders and the High Priest, weep? Is this an emotional reaction to the gravity of the cosmic moment—performing the Yom Kippur service correctly—or something that is part of the ritual script for administering the oath? I invite us to return to my exploration of amar from last week. Lifting up again the importance of honoring the ones from whom we learn Torah is a means of affirming and orienting ourselves to the lineage of learning we are all a part of. On a day of such grave significance, changing a detail of the Yom Kippur service, deviating from what was said and taught, is to place one outside of that sacred lineage.

I love learning the details of the ritual preparation of the High Priest before Yom Kippur. Compiled after the crash that created rabbinic Judaism as we know it, I am curious to know how the rabbis oriented themselves to this ritual that was no longer extant. I want to know more about the relationship between the rabbis and the Kohenim—contemporaneously to them and in the past. What assumptions, critiques and questions do the rabbis bring to their rendering of the High Priest’s preparation? I look forward to continuing to learn this amazing text together.

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

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