Jonathan's Little Corner : Torah : Siyum on Mishnayot Seder Moed


Siyum on Mishnayot Moed
Simchat Torah, 5761
First Yahrzeit of Arthur E. Korpus, Aharon Eli ben Yaakov
Jonathan Baker

You've heard me talk about my rabbi-chazan friend at work, R' Rich Wolpoe. We've been learning mishnayot after the office mincha minyan for over a year, and for the past year we've dedicated our learning to the memory of Debbie's father, Aharon Eli ben Yaakov. About a month or two ago, it became clear that with a bit of work, we could hit the end of Moed, the Division of Appointed Times, the second section of the Mishna, about this time, so we decided to try for a siyum today - I sped up and finished today, Rich will make a siyum at work next week. So here we are.

The seder Moed talks about Shabbat, Pesach, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur - all the yontiffs, all the holidays. This last tractate, Chagigah, talks about the festival offering that was brought by individuals on the major pilgrimage holidays, which they would eat for dinner. One brought a pesach offering on pesach, but wouldn't get to eat more than an ounce or so, so one could eat more of one's personal chagigah offering. In line with its subject matter, Chagigah talks about the tahara, ritual purity, needed to eat this offering  There are different levels of taharah which one needs to eat different types of sacrifices and priestly food; different levels are compared for strictness. But it presents the subject, at least in part, in a strange way.

Chagigah talks about the society of Chaveirim, who would eat chullin, regular food, with the tahara-level of trumah, priestly food. This way, they got more people to be more careful about taharah in general. There is much discussion of the Chaveirim vs. the amei haaretz, the ordinary folk, who were generally not so careful with tahara and its opposite, tumah, unfitness for use in the Temple. The Chaveirim, the Associates, are generally identified with the Prushim, the Pharisees, the progenitors of the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud. The Prushim are often contrasted with the Tzedukim, the Sadducees, who were mostly priests, who denied the Oral Tradition that the Prushim, the Rabbis, and we hold today to be authentically Divine.

This tractate brings out an interesting question about the position of the Chaveirim, the Pharisees, in antiquity. Mishnah 2:2 is a list of five pairs of Nasiim, Princes, and Av-Bet-Dins, heads of the rabbinical court, ending with Hillel and Shammai who lived in the last years of the Temple, and their arguments about whether leaning on a particular offering was permitted on Yom Tov, on holidays. Underlying this is the idea that the Rabbis were in a position to be listened to on this question, in other words, that they controlled t