This section continues to discuss translating the Torah into other languages.
Shimon b. Gamaliel says that the books of the Bible cannot be translated into any other language besides Greek. R. Yohanan rules that this is the halakhah. He then explains it by referencing Genesis 9:26. Yapheth is the progenitor of Greece and Shem is the progenitor of Israel. According to R. Yohanan’s midrash, the words of Yapheth, meaning Greek, shall dwell in the tents of Shem, meaning in the Torah of Israel. But not just any of the words of Yaphet, such as those of Gomer and Magog, evil kings that descended from Yapheth. Only the beautiful words (a play on the word Yapheth, which is similar to the word “yafeh” meaning beautiful, can dwell in the tents of Shem. Any other language is not “beautiful”; therefore the Torah can be translated only into Greek.
This mishnah deals with differences between different types of high priests.
Section one: The high priest was supposed to be anointed with special anointing oil, except that the composition of this type of oil was unknown in the Second Temple period and hence not used. The distinction in the Second Temple period between high priests and ordinary priests was that the high priest had eight garments and the ordinary priest wore only four. Our mishnah teaches that the difference between the high priest in the First Temple and the high priest in the Second Temple is that only the anointed priest brings a bull for an unwitting transgression, as is stated in Leviticus 4:3, “If it is the anointed priest who has incurred guilt…”
Section two: The high priest who is currently serving in office brings the sacrificial bull on Yom HaKippurim (Leviticus 16:6) and the tenth of an ephah of flour offered every day (Leviticus 6:13). Otherwise a high priest who has been removed or otherwise left office is treated the same as the currently serving high priest. For more information on this, see Horayot 3:4.
The differences between a serving high priest and the high priest whose time has passed (listed in section two) do not distinguish the two different types of priests in section one of the mishnah—the first Temple priest and the second Temple priest.
According to the mishnah, a high priest who was not anointed with the oil does not bring the bull offered for the unintentional transgression of one of the mitzvoth. But R. Meir in this baraita says that he does. Thus the mishnah accords with the sages and not with R. Meir.
Meir expounds upon the extra “the” (the letter heh in Hebrew) that precedes the word “anointed priest” to teach that even a priest who only wears the additional garments, meaning a second Temple priest, can offer this bull sacrifice.
Above we said that the first clause of the mishnah does not agree with R. Meir. The problem is that the second clause of the mishnah is R. Meir’s opinion. According to the second clause, a former high priest can continue to perform any Temple ritual except for offering the bull on Yom Kippur and the tenth of the ephah offered every day. For all other matters he can still act as a high priest. This agrees with R. Meir’s position in the baraita. R. Meir holds that if a serving high priest is disqualified for some temporary reason, he can still return to his service as a high priest when that disqualification is remedied. R. Yose, on the other hand, says he cannot go back to serving as high priest for this would cause enmity between him and his replacement. Once you’re out, you’re out for good. Neither can he go back to being an ordinary high priest, since there is a rule that one can go up in holiness (from priest to high priest) but not down.
The answer is that basically yes, the first clause is the sages’ opinion and the second clause is R. Meir’s opinion. R. Joseph says that Rabbi [Judah Hanasi] is the author of the whole mishnah, but still you’d have to say that in the first clause he agrees with the sages and in the second clause with R. Meir.
Before the Temple in Jerusalem was built it was permitted to build personal altars and offer sacrifices on them. At this time period there were also communal altars. The personal altars are called “small altars” whereas the communal altars are called “great altars”. The “great altar” is referred to in I Kings 3:2, “The people, however, continued to offer sacrifices at altars, because up to that time no house had been built for the name of the Lord. The king went up to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great altar…” Our mishnah outlines the differences that existed in this time period between great, communal altars and personal, small altars.
Section one: An individual cannot sacrifice the pesah at his own altar, but rather must bring it to the communal altar.
Section two: Only voluntary offerings can be offered at a small altar. Mandatory offerings, such as the tamid, the musaf, the pesah, sin-offerings, guilt-offerings, holiday-related offerings and others, must be brought to the central altar.
The Talmud explains that not only the pesah cannot be offered at the small altar, but all mandatory sacrifices as well, which are like the pesach. This is illustrated in the general principle in clause two of the mishnah.
The mishnah allows one to offer pesahim and sacrifices with a fixed time on the large altar. According to the Talmud, only these sacrifices were offered on the large altar. Other sacrifices that do not have a set time could not be offered on either altar, and would have to wait until there was a permanent home in the Temple. The other rabbis disagree and hold that anything offered in the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness can also be offered in the Tent of Meeting that was found in Gilgal in the land of Israel.
The final mishnah of this series of “there is no difference between X and Y except” deals with differences between places in which sacrifices can be offered.
Section one: During the time of Samuel the ark was at Shiloh (see I Samuel 3-4). Since the ark had a permanent home, it was prohibited to offer sacrifices at local altars, just as it was prohibited to offer sacrifices when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. There is only one difference between Shiloh and Jerusalem, and that is with regard to where certain sacrifices and second tithe could be eaten. When Shiloh was the center of worship, these could be eaten in any place within sight of Shiloh. In Jerusalem they had to be eaten within the city walls.
Section two: In both Shiloh and Jerusalem most holy sacrifices, such as sin and guilt offerings, had to be eaten within the Temple/Tabernacle (Mishkan) precincts.
Section three: When Shiloh was destroyed, it again became permitted to offer sacrifices at other communal and personal altars but when the two Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed there was no such permission and it continued to be forbidden to offer sacrifices at other altars. Put another way, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed it became forbidden to offer sacrifices elsewhere and after the destruction of the Second Temple it remained forbidden until the Temple will be rebuilt.