This section is a mishnah. My commentary here is taken from Mishnah Yomit.
The priests were divided into twenty-four watches, each watch serving for a week at the Temple. During a watch’s week the priests of that watch kept all of the sacrificial meat and any other part of the sacrifice that they were allowed to use. However, during pilgrimage festivals all twenty-four watches equally divided the sacrifices that were offered on account of the festival. Our mishnah teaches how the numerous Sukkot offerings were divvied up.
Section one: On the first day of Sukkot there were thirty animals sacrificed: thirteen bulls, two rams, one goat (for a sin-offering) and fourteen lambs (Numbers 29:13-16). This means that 16 priestly watches could take one animal each, leaving fourteen animals for the other eight watches. On the first day of the festival, six watches would sacrifice two lambs and the other two watches would get one lamb each.
Section two: On the second day there was one less bull, so the total number of animals was only 29. Fifteen watches would take the fifteen non-lamb animals, leaving nine watches to split 14 lambs. Five would take two lambs, leaving four to each take one.
Section three: On the third day there were 11 bulls, for a total of 28 animals. Fourteen watches would take the fourteen non-lamb animals, leaving ten watches to split 14 lambs. Four would take two lambs, leaving six to each take one.
Section four: On the fourth day there were only 10 bulls, for a total of 27 animals. Thirteen watches would take the thirteen non-lamb animals, leaving 11 watches to split 14 lambs. Three would take two lambs, leaving eight to each take one.
Section five: On the fifth day there were only 9 bulls, for a total of 26 animals. Twelve watches would take the twelve non-lamb animals, leaving 12 watches to split 14 lambs. Two would take two lambs, leaving ten to each take one.
Section six: On the sixth day there were only 8 bulls, for a total of 25 animals. Eleven watches would take the eleven non-lamb animals, leaving 13 watches to split 14 lambs. One would take two lambs, leaving 12 to each take one.
Section seven: On the seventh day there were 24 animals for 24 watches—each watch got one.
Section eight: On Shmini Atzeret there were only 10 animals sacrificed, one bull, one ram, one goat and seven lambs (Numbers 29:35-38). The watches would then cast lot to see who received what (see Yoma 2:1).
This section deals with the issue of which watch (mishmar) offers the bull sacrifices on Shemini Atzeret, an issue addressed by the mishnah from yesterday.
The mishnah had stated that on the eighth day they returned to casting lots, as was done on the first day. The Talmud now quotes a baraita which gives the impression that the opinion in the mishnah accords with Rabbi [Judah Hanasi]. The other sages hold that the watches that didn’t get to offer three bulls during Sukkot had the chance offer this bull.
The mishnah might even accord with the rabbis. The mishnah only says that they cast lots on the eighth day to decide who would offer the bull. Even if only two watches were eligible to offer this bull, they would still need to cast lots to decide which of them does so. Thus Rabbi would hold that all watches cast lots, whereas the other rabbis would hold that only those lots that had not yet offered two bulls could cast lots.
The Talmud now cites a baraita that states that all of the watches went through two full cycles of sacrifices except for the last two. This again seems to follow Rabbi who said that on Shemini Atzeret, they go back to a regular system of casting lots.
The Talmud resolves that even the other rabbis can agree with this baraita. The last two watches do get a chance to participate in all three casting of lots. The only thing they don’t get is a certainty about receiving a third bull.
What then does this baraita teach us? After all, we could do the count ourselves without the baraita specifically telling us that one of the last two watches does not get a third bull?
The answer is that the baraita teaches that the watch that receives the meat of the bull this day, will not receive the meat of a bull tomorrow.
During Sukkot 70 bulls are offered in total. These correspond to the 70 nations that there are in Jewish lore. Each bull sacrificed offers atonement for one nation.
The final bull offered on Shemini Atzeret corresponds with Israel. Israel is that favored friend in the parable, who God asks to stay on just one more day, so that God can enjoy our company.
R. Yohanan offers an expression of lament for the non-Jews who lost their mechanism for atonement when the Temple was destroyed. It is as if he is saying, “Look, our Temple was not only for the atonement or protection of the people of Israel. It was for the whole world, at least on this most universalistic of holidays, Sukkot. You destroyed. This was your loss as well as ours.”
Today’s section is a mishnah. My commentary is from Mishnah Yomit.
Section one: This is a reference to the previous mishnah. On all three festivals all of the watches shared equally in all of the sacrifices that came on account of the festival. This would include the musafim mentioned yesterday, but also the “hagigah” and other special sacrifices that individuals would bring on account of the festival. They also divided the showbread equally, despite the fact that the showbread is not really a sacrifice that comes on account of the festival.
Section two: On Shavuot there were both the matzot of the showbread and leavened bread (chametz) from the two special loaves on Shavuot. Therefore they could amusingly say to the priest coming to take his share: here’s your matzah, here’s your chametz.
Section three: The watch whose week fell on the week upon which there was a festival would get the offerings that were brought not on account of the festival. They would get the tamid, the daily offerings. They also received the individual voluntary offerings—vow offerings and free-will offerings. They also received other public offerings not listed in the previous mishnah. This would include the Shabbat musaf offerings. Finally, they would get any offering that was brought for some reason other than the festival. This would include first-born animals and tithes. We should note that despite the fact that the festival offerings were divided up equally among the different watches, it surely would have been a bonus to have one’s watch fall on the festival for the simple reason that more people came to the Temple at these times. It was at these times of the year that people would have brought their voluntary offerings, their first-born animals, their animal tithes and other offerings. Hence, it was probably quite lucrative to have your watch fall during the festival.
Today’s section explains various portions of the mishnah that deal with what parts of sacrifices each of the watches receive.
The mishnah had taught that the “emurim” were shared by all the watches. The usual meaning of “emurim” are the parts that are completely burned on the altar. So how could this belong to the watches of priests? It belongs to God!
R. Hisda therefore reinterprets the word to be pronounced “said”—the mishnah refers to the special sacrifices offered on the festivals.
This baraita offers a midrash supporting the idea that during the festivals all watches share the sacrifices equally. The Torah refers to a priest who comes to Jerusalem when he so desires and serves in the Temple there. The beginning of the verse describes the priest as coming from “one of your gates.” The midrash interprets these words to mean that the priest comes when all of Israel is gathered at “one of your gates” meaning in one city. This is, at least idealistically, during one of the festivals. Thus they share the sacrifices only when all of Israel is gathered together in Jerusalem.