כ״ה בכסלו ה׳תשע״ד (November 28, 2013)

Yoma 20a-b: Keriat Hagever

On Yom Kippur, as on every day, the very first activity in the Temple was terumat ha-deshen – removing ash from the altar. The Mishna on our daf  teaches that on an ordinary day, the terumat ha-deshen took place around the time of keriat hagever, but on Yom Kippur it was done earlier, at about midnight.

The Gemara asks a simple question of definition. What is keriat hagever?

Two answers are offered by the Gemara:

  • Rav says it is the time when the appointed person announces that it is time.
  • Rabbi Sheila says that it is the time when the rooster crows.

Some of the commentaries understand that this is a question of semantics, and that the time of the terumat ha-deshen would be the same, no matter how the term keriat hagever is defined. The Me’iri, however, argues that the crowing of the rooster begins well before the official time, and that there is a practical difference between the opinions of Rav and Rabbi Sheila. Our Gemara does not reach a conclusion about this argument. In the Jerusalem Talmud a proof is brought to support Rav. It appears that the name of the individual whose job it was to announce the time for the terumat ha-deshen was “ben gever,” which could not possibly mean that he was the son of a rooster. Others point out that the halakha at the time the Temple was standing forbade raising chickens in Jerusalem, making it more likely that the term keriat hagever refers to the man’s announcement.

Rav happened to come to the place where Rabbi Sheila was the most prominent local Torah scholar and Rav was not yet known. There was no disseminator to stand before Rabbi Sheila to disseminate his lecture to the public. Rav stood before him to disseminate the lecture, in the course of which Rabbi Sheila mentioned keriat hagever. Rav interpreted the concept for the audience and said: What is the meaning of keriat hagever? It means the call of the man. Rabbi Sheila said to him: And let the Master say it is the call of the rooster.

This then led Rabbi Sheila to enter into a discussion with him, until he realized that Rav had taken the position of amora on his behalf. It was common practice in the time of the Mishna and the Gemara that the head of the academy would lecture while sitting, usually in Hebrew. It was the task of the amora, or meturgeman, to translate the lecture into Aramaic and repeat it in a loud voice to the listeners. of the Gemara called themselves amora’im because they saw their job as merely clarifying and translating the teachings of the true masters – the tanna’im.

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