Me'ilah 9 - 15
A Change of Clothes
In addition to the ritual of lifting some ashes from the altar each morning, it was also the duty of the kohanim to remove the ashes piled into the center of the altar when that pile became large enough to interfere with functioning on the altar. The question of whether these ashes retained any sanctity, which would cause anyone taking them for personal use to be guilty of meilah, is a matter of dispute. Rabbi Yochanan contends that they do retain their sanctity, and supports his position by quoting the passage which states that the kohen must wear his priestly garments while performing the ashes removal.
In Mesechta Yoma (23b) Rabbi Yochanan explains that passage which states "He will take off his priestly garments and put on other garments to remove the ashes" (Vayikra 6:14) as meaning that those "other garments" are also priestly ones, only of inferior quality, because they are likely to become dirty in the process of removing the ashes. This is in opposition to the opinion that there is no need for priestly garments at all.
The reason given for the need to change from the sacred priestly garments when removing the ashes is that "the clothes one wears when cooking for his master are not the ones he wears when pouring a cup for him."
Rashi, in his commentary on Chumash, writes that this change from dignified priestly garments to inferior ones is not obligatory but rather a matter of good manners, as illustrated by the parable of the servant and master. Ramban disagrees, insisting that it is an obligation for the kohen to maintain the cleanliness of the garments he wears for his regular duties.
In his footnotes Rabbi Akiva Eiger calls attention to the problem of the gemara citing the passage (Vayikra 6:5) which speaks about the kohen putting on his regular priestly garments to perform the "lifting of the ashes" when it really should have quoted the next one, which we mentioned above, that speaks of the change to inferior garments.
- Meilah 9a
What Happened to the Priestly Garments?
When the Kohen Gadol completed that part of the Yom Kippur services which he performed while wearing the special linen garments reserved for the service in the "holy place", the Torah commands that "he shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place and shall leave them there." (Vayikra 16:23)
There are two different interpretations as to what is meant by the instruction to "leave them there". The view of Rabbi Dosa is that once these garments have fulfilled their role there is no problem of meilah in using them for something else, and they can therefore be utilized by ordinary kohanim throughout the year. The other Sages, however, rule that these garments must be permanently put away because using them for any other purpose constitutes meilah.
These two positions are based on interpreting the term "he shall leave them there". Rabbi Dosa sees it as a restriction on those garments being used again on another Yom Kippur, as if the Torah is telling us that once the kohen gadol has removed the garments this Yom Kippur they must remain removed from the use of any kohen gadol on another Yom Kippur. This does not, however, exclude their use for any ordinary kohen for the regular service.
The other Sages interpret the command to "leave them there" as a prohibition on their use for any purpose and an order to permanently put them away.
This debate as to the fate of these garments which have already fulfilled their mitzvah role has ramifications for another subject in our gemara. The position of Rabbi Dosa places these garments in the general category of sacred items to which meilah no longer applies after they have been used for the mitzvah for which they were intended. According to the other Sages, however, it is an exception to that rule.
- Meilah 11b