Yoma 73

With the mishnah on today’s daf, we finally arrive at a subject you probably would have expected to encounter much earlier in Tractate Yoma: the basic rules for observing Yom Kippur.  The text states:  On Yom Kippur, the day on which there is a mitzvah by Torah law to afflict oneself, it is prohibited to engage […]

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Yoma 72

Since antiquity, the swan has been associated with music; it was believed that swans sang sweetly just before dying — giving rise to the notion of a “swan song.” Far more interesting, though, is the fact that in medieval bestiaries the swan was a symbol of hypocrisy; the brilliant pure white plumage seen as belying […]

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Yoma 71

After a full day of costume changes, ritual immersions, lotteries, sacrifices, blood sprinklings, confessions, mysterious moments in the Holy of Holies, and much more, the high priest’s day comes to an end. The mishnah on yesterday’s daf tells us that the high priest would mark the end of Yom Kippur with a feast for his […]

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Yoma 70

The Jewish month of Tevet always begins during Hanukkah. But when the first of that month also happens to be Shabbat, it’s a busy day in synagogue.  As Rabbi Titzhak Nappaha says on today’s daf: When the new moon of Tevet occurs on Shabbat, we take out three Torahs: From one, we read the topic of the […]

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A Jewish Prayer for Juneteenth

Juneteenth is an American holiday celebrating the end of slavery. This prayer reflects on the core story of the Jewish people — the Exodus from Egypt — which impels us to fight slavery everywhere. It celebrates the milestone of emancipation of Black American slaves, even as it acknowledges that there is much work still to […]

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Yoma 69

One of the oldest Jewish jokes in the book involves Mr. Cohen and Mr. Goldberg, regular minyan goers (meaning they pray together daily at the synagogue). One morning, as Mr. Cohen is hemming and hawing about going to synagogue, his wife asks: “Why do you even bother going? You don’t even believe in God!” His answer: “Goldberg talks to […]

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