Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 4 January 2014 / 3 Shevat 5774

Yoma 58 - 64

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“One should not pass by a mitzvah.”

This is a general rule of halacha that is taught in a statement by the amora Reish Lakish on our daf. However, we find an exception to this rule in our sugya regarding where the Kohen Gadol began to sprinkle on the golden mizbe’ach. During the service on Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol would pass by the first keren of this mizbe’ach and not sprinkle until he reached the next keren (on the far side). The gemara states that this exception is learned from the wording of the verse, “el ha’mizbe’ach” — which connotes that he transverse the entirety of the mizbe’ach before beginning.

  • Yoma 58b

“It is a mitzvah that the two goats of Yom Kippur be equal in their appearance (color –Rashi), height and value — and they should be purchased at the same time.”

Thus begins the first mishna in the sixth chapter of our mesechet. (The mishna adds that if these criteria are not fulfilled the goats are nevertheless kosher for use.) The reason for the preference that they be equal in these four respects is derived in the gemara from the fact that the Torah states “shnei se’irim” — “two goats” — three different times in Sefer Vayikra, which implies three equalities.

However, a quick count shows that there are only three verses, yet we are meant to learn what appear to be four similarities according to our mishna from these verses! How so?

The commentary of the “Tosefot Yeshanim” explains that in fact what appear to be four equalities listed in the mishna are in fact only three. The quality of having the same “appearance” includes having the same height as well. According to Rashi, however, this explanation would not seem to suffice, since he defines “appearance” as “color” – black or white – and another explanation appears necessary in order to reconcile the “count” according to this approach.

  • Yoma 62a

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