Mishnah Yoma Chapter 1 Mishnah 6 Pt. 3

by Ren Finkel, Emergent Programs Coordinator

וּבַמֶּה קוֹרִין לְפָנָיו בְּאִיּוֹב וּבְעֶזְרָא וּבְדִבְרֵי הַיָּמִים
And what would they recite before him? They would read from Job, and from Ezra, and from Chronicles.

Twas the night before Yom Kippur, when all through the house (of Avtinas)…well, many creatures were stirring, especially the High Priest! At this moment in the Mishnah’s story-telling (perhaps history-telling), the High Priest is doing his darndest to stay awake lest he risk becomming a zav, and therefore too ritually unclean to do the Yom Kippur rites. In order to keep him awake, the other priests/elders in the room are doing some recitation, in the event he’s not able to recite & study himself.  

I was surprised to see Divrei Hayamim aka Words of the Day aka the book of Chronicles on this list. With all due respect to Chronicles, my experience of it was a total snooze-fest. It turns out, I might have judged it too soon. While it certainly is full of lists of who’s son had a son who had a son who had a son and so on, apparently there’s more than meets the eye. As I did some digging, I learned that from Sefaria there are sections of the book that have additions or even alternative explanations to events in other sections of Tanakh. For many ancient rabbis and contemporary Jews alike, it’s absolutely unthinkable that the Tanakh could contradict itself. As such, I imagine Chronicles had plenty of moments for the priests to drash & argue about, to help make sense of what could otherwise look like an internal contradiction. Turns out that Chronicles has more to it than lists of whose son commanded which army—as the saying goes, never judge a book by it’s final 19 chapters!

After learning about a play about the book of Job from a participant, this mishnah is really starting to feel like the rabbis are setting the scenery for a play. I can imagine a small group of elders and priests, surrounded by the finest incense, spending the first few hours of the night preparing & testing the High Priest in between light snacks. As the hours go on, they recite some torah, doing their best to keep spirits high with arguments and storytelling. Here’s hoping our protagonist can make it through till it’s time for sacrifices!

Check out the rest of the Yoma Learning Guide here!
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