Although the story of the Hasmonean victory against the Greeks during the Second Temple is well-known, the dynasty that they built degenerated over time. In a number of places in the Talmud we are told about disagreements between the Sages and the High Priests, who often did not follow the traditions and rulings of the Sanhedrin. Massekhet Keritotconcludes with a number of stories about Kings and High Priests of the Hasmonean dynasty, and the lack of respect that they had for Jewish tradition generally and theTemple service specifically.
The Gemara quotes a baraita that lists four cries that were heard in the courtyard of the Temple. One of them was about Yissakhar ish Kfar Barkai who was so fastidious about his own honor that he would wrap his hands in silk while performing the Temple service, thus indicating that he did not perceive the avodah (=work) of the mikdash as being worthy of dirtying his hands.
The Gemara then describes what became of Yissakhar ish Kfar Barkai. He was called before the king and queen who had been arguing whether the meat of sheep or the meat of goats was better to eat. They decided to call in an expert, and the biggest expert they could think of was the Kohen Gadol who deals with sacrifices every day. When Yissakhar ish Kfar Barkai heard the question he responded in a less-than-serious manner and said that the fact that a sheep is brought as the daily sacrifice, the korban tamid, proves its superiority. At this point the king, who had been arguing that goat meat was better, commanded that Yissakhar ish Kfar Barkai’s right arm be severed as punishment for his lack of respect for the king.
Following this story, the amora’im comment that aside from his lack of political sensitivity, he also was incorrect in his decision about the quality of the different types of meat. Rav Ashi points out a Mishnah that clearly says that they are of equal importance; Ravina infers this from Biblical passages.
Although the story appears to simply show the lack of respect the participants had for the Temple service, in his commentary to the Talmud, Rabbi Yehudah Bachrach suggests that a serious question was involved. A person who brings a sin-offering has a choice of either bringing a sheep or a goat. If a sheep is brought, no one will know that it is a sin-offering, as it could also be a voluntary sacrifice; a goat clearly indicates that the sacrifice is being brought because of a sin. Thus the question that Yissakhar ish Kfar Barkai did not take seriously was whether as part of the repentance process it would be better to publicize that a sin had taken place or to hide it.