For the week ending 21 December 2013 / 18 Tevet 5774

Yoma 44 - 50

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • When no one but the kohen gadol can be present in the Sanctuary
  • The atonement feature of the incense
  • The taking of coals from the outer altar for burning the incense
  • The golden shovel and the superfine incense
  • The honor accorded to the kohen gadol
  • How many fires there were on the altar
  • Parts of the early olah sacrifice not consumed before Shabbat
  • Extinguishing coals from the altar
  • Taking a fistful of incense and carrying it together with the coals
  • Why Kimchit merited to have seven sons as kohanim gedolim
  • The challenge of kemitza and chafina taking of incense
  • The unresolved issues arising from the above
  • The status of sacrificial blood spilled before application
  • Left-handed transportation of sacrificial blood
  • The kohen gadol who died before offering the incense he took or before applying the sacrificial blood he received
  • How long is an animal considered as such
  • Does the kohen gadol’s bullock belong to his fellow kohanim
  • Which sacrifices are offered even on Shabbat and despite ritual impurity

The Extra Coals

  • Yoma 44b

When the kohen took burning coals from the outer altar to use for burning the incense on the golden altar he did so with a silver shovel that held four kavim. He then poured those coals into a golden shovel that held only three kavim which he would bring to the golden altar.

What happened with the kav of coals that would spill on the floor?

In our gemara we are taught that those coals were swept into the amah. Rashi’s explanation of this is that this amah is the cubit-wide canal that carried the wastes of the Beit Hamikdash outside to the waters of Nachal Kidron.

Tosefot (Yoma 46b) raises the problem of how this could be done, since it is the position of the Sage Abaye that if someone extinguishes a coal he has taken from the altar and placed on the floor, he is in violation of the Torah prohibition (Vayikra 6:5) against putting out altar fire.

One resolution suggested by Tosefot is that the amah mentioned in our gemara is not the watery canal to which Rashi refers, but a dry spot where the coals burned out by themselves.

Another approach is that the prohibition against extinguishing coals is limited to those coals that are going to be used for lighting the menorah or burning the incense, which are removed from the altar in a sacred vessel and placed on the floor. This prohibition does not apply to the extra kav of coals that was initially slated for falling on the floor and will not be gathered for any purpose. Such coals may indeed be extinguished by sweeping them into the canal.

What the Sages Say

“The incense offering in the Beit Hamikdash served as an atonement for the transgression of lashon hara (evil tongue, slander and gossip). Let something that was done in secret atone for a transgression committed in secret.”

  • Rabbi Yishmael - Yoma 44a

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