Bringing an offering on the altar involved many priests. A mishna on this daf lists some of their job descriptions, including this: on the Shabbat that falls during Sukkot, one man carried in his hand a bottle of water. This was for the water libation that was specific to Sukkot. The g'mara discusses this case further: one would say to the priest "hold your hands up!", for it happened once that he poured out the water on his feet and all the people pelted him with their etrogim (the citrus fruit used ritually during this festival). What's that about? A note in the Soncino translation explains: the Sadducees rejected the water libation so when they were in charge they would invalidate it (by pouring it out like the man in this story). The people who saw this reacted by throwing etrogim at him. And why is this story in the g'mara here at all? To teach that the service we're talking about is the morning service, the only one at which etrogim are used -- and the only time at which the water libation is done. (26b)
Aside: the "don't diminish in sanctity" factor also figured into the talmudic story of how R. Elazar became head of the Sanhedrin, kind of.
No answer yet on the question from last week's daf bit about the substitute wife, by the way.
Today's daf finds us in the midst of a discussion of the removal of the high priest from his home. Why is this? Lest he have relations with his wife and they discover afterward that her monthly cycle had begun -- this makes him ritually impure, disqualifying him for the service. (Knowingly having relations at that time is a transgression, but even accidents have consequences.) (mishna 2a, g'mara 6a)
In the temple there were chests for money designated for different purposes. The mishna discusses cases where a coin is found (for example, on the floor) between two of the chests: what do we do with it? The mishna describes several examples; in all of them the coin is assigned to the nearer chest, even if that means assigning it to a less-important (less-holy) purpose. But if the coin is found half-way between two chests, it is assigned to the purpose that is more important. Specifically: freewill-offerings trump shekels, frankincense trumps wood, young pigeons for burnt-offerings trump bird-offerings, and second tithes trump common money. (19a)
The temple didn't keep one mingled collection of money and a ledger; when money was set aside for a purpose, that specific money was used. I don't know how much this is error-avoidance (you can't mess up the accounting) and how much is that money designated for a holy purpose "attaches" to that holy purpose. The latter is definitely a factor; I just don't know if it's the only factor. (This is a consideration today too).
R. Pinchas's donkey was stolen by thieves in the night. It spent three days with them but did not eat. After three days they returned it, saying: "take it out of here, lest it die with us". The donkey then stood at its master's gate, braying. Pinchas told them: "open the gate, for it hasn't eaten in three days -- give it something to eat." They set barley before it but it would not eat. They said: "Rabbi, the beast does not want to eat." He said to them: "is the produce properly tithed?" "Yes." "And did you remove the extra that must be taken when the tithe is doubtful?" "No -- didn't you teach us that food for beasts is exempt?" R. Pinchas said: "what shall we do for this unfortunate creature who imposes a strict rule upon itself?" They removed the extra for the doubtful tithe and the beast ate. (5.1 Yerushalmi, daf 13b)
It strikes me that, from this telling, R. Pinchas appears to disapprove of his donkey's extra stringency, but the rabbis citing the story seem to consider it meritorious. Perhaps this is a function of the translation I'm using and the original Aramaic is more nuanced, or perhaps not. (R. Pinchas apparently also knew that the thieves weren't stringent, since he knew that the donkey hadn't eaten in three days.)
The talmud discusses money that is collected for communal purposes (like the half-shekel temple tax for which the tractate is named). What happens if you accidentally set aside too much money for a designated purpose? It depends on what the purpose was. Excess shekalim go to the common treasury. Excess money for sin-offerings or guilt-offerings are set aside for freewill-offerings. Some types of designated monies must be used for another case of the same type of offering: excess for a burnt-offering is used for (another) burnt-offering, and likewise for meal-offerings, peace-offerings, Pesach-offerings, and Nazarites (in general). (Money for a specific Nazarite's offering goes to freewill-offerings.)
We then get a long list of cases following a common pattern: money raised for the poor must be spent on other poor, but money raised for a particular poor man must be given to him; money for ransoming captives must be spent on other captives, but excess money for a particular captive is given to him; money for burial of the dead is used for other dead, but excess money for burial of a particular person is given to his heirs. R. Meir says in this last case the money is held until Eliyahu comes (Eliyahu will sort out all unanswered questions), while R. Nathan says it must be used to raise a monument over his grave. (Mishna 2.5, daf 6b)
That's quite the travelogue. But what especially strikes me is the idea that apparently this great pile of wealth was never divided up, according to the rabbis of the g'mara. Followup question here.
There's other interesting stuff on this daf too, but I chose this part for the minyan because not only is the starting point from this week's parsha, but I'll be chanting that specific part on Shabbat so I'm currently attuned to it.
(It is not explained why he chose those nights. Shabbat in particular seems counter-intuitive to me. If it's not already answered there I plan to ask on Mi Yodeya, along with a question about demons in general.)
Today's g'mara (and nearby pages) is full of short bits of rabbinic advice. Another from today's daf: don't go into a house with a cat barefoot, because cats kill snakes and you might stick yourself with a snake-bone. But also don't go into a house without a cat in the dark, lest a snake attack you. I didn't actually know that cats kill snakes, nor that this was understood to be a hazard at the time of the g'mara.
Addendum: only after posting this did I see this relevant question from Mi Yodeya via the Twitter feed.
The next day: "What? Six bank robberies!? But I just vandalized the library!" "Nice try. They saw your plate with all the 1s and Is." "That's impossible! I've been with my car the whole ti-- ... wait. Ok, wow, that was clever of her."I saw this in the parking garage at work today:
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The Avinu Malkeinu prayer describes what God is to us -- our father and king. Both of these are one-sided; there is nothing about our role, our place in God's realm. The caring father and the just king both act upon us, not with us. So after days of pleading to the frightening, distant Avinu Malkeinu, it is time to add new images to our conception of God. It is time for us to be actors and not just acted-upon.
Ki Anu Amecha adds the relationship that has been missing until now. God is still Malkeinu, but we are his people. Still Avinu, but we are his children. Now we matter, taking our place as partners with God. Further, our view of God is not limited now to Avinu and Malkeinu -- God is shepherd to our flock, portion to our congregation, and most powerfully, our friend.
Friend? I don't know if I'm ready for God to be my friend. That's even more intimidating than Avinu and Malkeinu -- a true friend knows me as well as, or better than, I know myself. I am flawed, broken, not the best person I can be, and it's all laid bare for a true friend. Can I stand up to the scrutiny of a divine friend? On this Yom Kippur I look more for the divine teacher or the divine shepherd. I am grateful that God offers us so many ways to relate to each other; if one does not resonate for me this year, another will. What is most important is that the relationship exists; in Ki Anu Amecha God reaches out to us as surely as we reach out to him, true partners in teshuva and atonement on this grave night of Kol Nidrei.
(I don't understand why not breaking the bone of a clean offering isn't also a negative commandment. Or, if it is, why it nonetheless gets lashes.)