For the week ending 18 January 2014 / 17 Shevat 5774

Yoma 72 - 78

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Threads, poles, boards and crowns of the Mishkan Sanctuary
  • The Torah scholar’s need for fear of Heaven
  • The kohen anointed for war role
  • How the urim ve’tumim conveyed the Divine response
  • The five forms of affliction required on Yom Kippur
  • The ban on eating less than the amount punished by extirpation
  • The sources for fasting as the definition of affliction
  • The manna which sustained the Jews for 40 years
  • How we know that drinking is included in ban on eating
  • Sources for the ban on washing, anointing, wearing shoes and marital relations
  • The banishment and return of the Angel Gavriel
  • When contact with water is permitted
  • The unnavigable waters of the Beit Hamikdash
  • Passing through river waters on Shabbat or Yom Kippur
  • Cooling off on Yom Kippur and other fast days
  • What is expected of the child on Yom Kippur
  • A dispensation for the king and the newlywed wife

The Missing Letters

  • Yoma 73b

When a king or the Sanhedrin wished to have Divine guidance in deciding on an important matter, such as the advisability of taking military action, they consulted the urim ve’tumim. Beneath the precious stones on the choshen breastplate of the kohen gadol was the sacred name of G-d, which enabled the letters inscribed on those stone to communicate the Divine response to the question presented.

Since the twelve stones contained the names of the twelve tribes, the response came by the letters forming the response either coming together or lighting up. The only problem was that there were four letters of the Hebrew alphabet that are not to be found in all the names of the tribes. Two of them are mentioned in our gemara — the letters tet and tzadi. This was solved by adding the names of the Patriarchs – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov – and the words shivtei yeshurun (the tribes of G-d), which contain these missing letters. The Jerusalem Talmud notes that if not for these additions to the names of the tribes, there would be missing also the letters chet and kuf.

These four letters missing from the names of the twelve sons of Yaakov form the basis for the dialogue that the Ba’al Haturim (Bereishet 49:1) suggests took place between the Patriarch and his children as he lay on his deathbed. When he wished to reveal to them the ketz — end of days — he felt the Divine Presence depart and was unable to do so. Turning to his sons he asked if they were guilty of any sin that should have denied them this treasured knowledge. “Look at our names,” they countered, “and you will not find the letters chet and tet which spell sin.” “True,” replied Yaakov, “but your names also lack the letters kuf and tzadi which spell the word ketz – the end of days – so you are probably not deserving of that knowledge.”

What the Sages Say

“There were three crowns on vessels of the Sanctuary – on the altar, the ark and the table. The crown of the altar represents service in the Sanctuary that was awarded to Aharon. The crown of the table represents kingship that was awarded to David. The crown of the ark represents Torah which is still available for anyone who wishes to gain it.”

  • Rabbi Yochanan - Yoma 72b

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