For the week ending 28 December 2013 / 25 Tevet 5774

Yoma 51 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The bullock of the kohen gadol – who pays for it and who receives atonement through it
  • The curtains at the entry to the kodesh hakedoshim and the status of the space between them
  • The route of the kohen gadol to the kodesh hakedoshim
  • How the incense was offered on Yom Kippur
  • Why the sons of Aaron died
  • Respectful leave taking
  • Prayer of the kohen gadol
  • What happened to the Holy Ark of the Beit Hamikdash
  • The keruvim and their symbolism
  • From where Earth was formed
  • The spraying of the blood and the counting that accompanied it
  • The shofar-shaped collection boxes in the Beit Hamikdash
  • The issue of bereira
  • Preventing a mix-up in regard to two bloods

The Foundation Stone

  • Yoma 54b

A high point in the Yom Kippur service of the kohen gadol was the placing of the special incense on the Holy Ark. Since this Ark was not around during the time of the Second Beit Hamikdash, the incense was placed on the even shetiah — the foundation stone.

This stone, three fingers high above the floor of the kodesh hakedoshim, was so called because it was where the world’s formation began. This view of how Creation began is based on the passage (Tehillim 50:1-2) in which the psalmist speaks of G-d “calling to the earth” to initiate Creation, and goes on to describe how “out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, did G-d shine forth.”

The Maharsha notes that although this source cited in our gemara serves to identify Zion as the foundation of Creation, there is no specific mention of a stone. In the Midrash, however, we find a reference to the stone that the Patriarch Yaakov utilized to serve G-d.

On his way from Eretz Yisrael to find his mate in the home of Lavan, Yaakov stopped off at the site where the Beit Hamikdash would eventually stand. After 14 years of learning Torah in the Yeshiva of Eiver, during which he never lay down on a bed to sleep, he took stones from the area and placed them under his head and went to sleep. Upon awakening he took the stones that had miraculously been fused into a single stone, and set up a pillar on which he poured a libation to G-d. “And this stone,” he declared, “shall be a House for G-d.” (Bereishet 28:22)

This very stone, suggests the Midrash, was the stone where the world began and where the purpose of Creation became fulfilled in the House of G-d.

What the Sages Say

“How beloved are the People of Israel that G-d did not require them to have an agent (and that everyone of them is able to pray for himself – Rashi).”

  • Rabbi Yossi, Yoma 52a

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