In the mishnah R. Judah had stated that the watch that is incoming gets seven loaves whereas the watch that is outgoing takes only five. Why the extra two loaves?
R. Yitzchak says that this is a reward for closing the doors, which were opened by the watch that was leaving in the morning. I guess this was a lot of work.
The problem is that this system doesn’t really make sense. Why not just make it even every week? After all, the entering watch is going to receive less next week.
Abaye answers with a maxim that is equivalent to our “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The incoming watch would prefer to receive an extra two loaves now, even if that means they will receive less next week.
This is it—the siyyum (conclusion) of Sukkah. This last section deals with the priestly watch known as Bilgah, and why they were set apart from the other watches.
The watches generally divided their shares in separate sections of the Temple so that everyone could see that there were two watches, one whose week of service was beginning and one whose week was concluding. Furthermore, people seem to have entered in the north, such that it would make more sense that the incoming watch would divide in the north.
According to this baraita, the watch of Bilgah was punished either for its apostasy or for its lack of diligence in Temple service. Modern historians note that this connects with the fact that the two Helenizing high priests in the Maccabean period, Simon and Menelaus, were both from the watch of Bilgah (this is preserved in II Maccabees 4:23). Furthermore, they were not late one time in their Temple service. Rather the watch wished to avoid their sacrificial duties altogether.
Thus the baraita is partly reflective of second century B.C.E. reality. However, there is no hint in earlier sources as to the sins of one particular individual, Miriam the daughter of Bilgah. This is found only in rabbinic literature.
The word “lokos” is Greek for wolf. Miriam accuses the altar of being a wolf, consuming Israel’s sacrifices without offering any benefit in return. Interestingly, this is probably a case of the rabbis using a marginalized figure to express their own doubt. They may have had their own doubts as to the efficacy of their sacrifices. Rather than express them themselves, they commonly attribute them to others, especially apostates and non-Jews.
Yeshbav was the name of the watch that followed Bilgah. They were rewarded by always dividing in the north.
The Talmud raises the difficulty that it does not seem fair to punish the entire watch on account of the actions of one individual.
Abaye provides a two-part answer as to why the whole watch was penalized for one girl’s actions. First of all, a child’s words, thoughts and actions are reflective of her parents. Clearly, Miriam must have heard such talk from her mother and father.
Second, while there is no evidence that the rest of the watch sinned, people who live in proximity to the wicked suffer the consequences. The whole watch of Bilgah is thus penalized for the evil behavior of the few.
Congratulations! You finished the entire Tractate. This was an amazing accomplishment, especially if you stuck with it for all 55 daf (remember, we started on page 2). Learning a whole masekhet of Talmud justifies a siyyum—a celebratory mitzvah meal. Below is the Hebrew text recited at this occasion. You can recite the first part of this without a minyan, but the Kaddish which appears at the end requires a minyan. So bring it to your synagogue and celebrate.