כ״ז בטבת ה׳תשע״ד (December 30, 2013)

Yoma 52a-b: Concealed Items

After describing how the would walk between the curtains in order to enter the Holy of Holies, the Mishna on our daf teaches that he would put the shovel containing the coals between the poles of the aron (the Ark of the Covenant).

The Gemara attempts to understand whether the Mishna is discussing the first or the second Temple. As we learned on the previous daf, in the first Temple, there were no curtains, but a wall. In the second Temple, however, there was no aron!?

The Gemara explains that the Mishna means to say that the kohen gadol placed the shovel in the place where the aron was supposed to be, and that it is discussing the second Temple period.

Why was there no aron in the second Temple? The Gemara quotes a baraita that the aron had been hidden away towards the end of the first Temple period by King Yoshiyahu, who understood that the passage (Devarim 28:36) which described the exile was referring to his time. The Radak, in fact, explains that this is the passage that was highlighted in the sefer Torah discovered during Yoshiyahu’s reign (see the story in II Melakhim 22).

Our Gemara teaches that according to that tradition, several other items that were on display in the Temple were concealed together with the ark. They included the jar of manna, Aharon the High Priest’s staff and the shemen ha-mish’ha, the flask of oil used for anointing.

The shemen ha-mish’ha was made from afarsimon (which may be identical to the tzari mentioned in the Torah), which was, apparently, the plant Commiphora apobalsamum. This is a small tree or shrub that stands from 10 to 12 feet high, with wandlike, spreading branches. The best perfume that can be extracted from it drips from the seeds, but it is usually produced by boiling the branches. The oil that is extracted from this plant was occasionally used as a medicine, but more as incense or perfumed oil. The afarsimon was considered so valuable that at one point it was literally worth its weight in gold.

The shemen ha-mish’ha was used to anoint kings and high priests. The Rosh points out that the need to anoint the high priest is a clear passage in the Torah (see Shemot 30:30), but there appears to be a prohibition to use the oil on any other person (see Shemot 30:32). How was the decision made to use this oil on kings, as well?
He answers that the Gemara in Megilla understands that it is only forbidden to use this oil on a normal person. The king is not simple an adam (man) and therefore he does not fall into the category of the prohibition.

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