Redacting culture: ethnographic authority in the Talmudic arrival scene

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Date: Fall 2016
From: Jewish Social Studies(Vol. 22, Issue 1)
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 10,978 words
Lexile Measure: 1340L

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3. B. Yoma 2a-3b

The tractate begins by juxtaposing two mishnayot. The first mishnah (m. Yoma 1:1) enjoins a period of separation upon the high priest for seven days before Yom Kippur; another mishnah (m. Parah 3:1) enjoins the same period upon the priest who burns the red heifer. After a digression to clarify a number of terms in the first mishnah, the anonymous voice inquires after the legal source of the two mishnayot ("Where are these things from?"). Its first answer is from a Babylonian Amora (BA 1), transmitting R. Yohanan's legal exegesis of Leviticus 8:34 via another Babylonian Amora (BA 2). As the text assumes we know, in the context of the biblical verse, Moses enjoins the same seven-day period of separation from the tent of meeting upon the Aaronides. The verse itself says, "Everything done today, the Lord has commanded to do, to make expiation for you." Assuming that this verse is a precedent (tent of meeting : temple :: Aaronides : priesthood) (137) and that its verbal redundancy ("to do," "to make expiation") cannot be meaningless, (138) Yohanan concludes that both the priest who burns the red heifer and the high priest are implicitly included in its separation period ("to do" refers to the former priest; "to make expiation," to the latter). (139) This answers the anonymous voice's first question--the source for our mishnah is Leviticus 8:34--and it makes sense: the high priest officiates on Yom Kippur (the Day of Expiation), so "to expiate" alludes to him. But the anonymous voice is not satisfied: Why does the verb "to do" allude to the other priest? How do we know that both verbs do not simply allude to the high priest? (140) The word "commanded" in this verse might be a more suitable candidate for both including and distinguishing the two priests.

A long dialectical discussion ensues, dominated by the anonymous voice and tannaitic sources introduced mostly by anonymous formulae, with cameo appearances by a few Amoraim, including, near the end, the late Babylonian sages Ashi and Ravina (traditionally credited with the redaction of the Bavli). (141)

The next sugya begins with the arrival of Dimi, who states a different version of Yohanan's position than BA 1, presumably on the authority of his fieldwork (though not actually citing Yohanan). Dimi converts the anonymous voice's logical objection at the beginning of the previous sugya into a certainty: Yes, Yohanan only derived the separation of the high priest from Leviticus 8:34. He did not further apply it to the priest who burns the red heifer. Dimi clarifies that a different Palestinian sage (PA 1), a contemporary of Yohanan, was the one who applied the verse to both priests. But the anonymous voice is not content to have its objection confirmed by Dimi. Again, it juxtaposes the original two mishnayot and insists: Yohanan must have accounted for the separation of both priests, not just the high priest! It tries out an answer to its own difficulty: Yohanan did not believe that...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A470230151