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Introduction to Yoma – The Main Structure

Masechet Yoma (literally, “The Day”) deals with  Yom Kippur (YK).  

Structure of the masechet: 

The masechet is arranged in chronological  order, starting with the preparations for the  day, moving through the details of the unique  avoda and then concluding with the laws that  apply to the entire nation. Of its eight  chapters, seven focus on the complicated and  unique avoda of the day in the Bet HaMikdash,  when the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh  HaKodoshim and when atonement was  achieved for the entire nation. The final  chapter deals with fasting, prohibited labor  and teshuva (repentance) and kapara  (atonement).  

A confluence of  sanctity 

On Yom Kippur, in Rav Steinsaltz’ words, there  is a confluence of  sanctity: the holiest  place – the inner  

sanctum of the Bet  HaMikdash, the holiest  time – Yom Kippur, and  the holiest person – the  Kohen Gadol.


Chapter 1 (2a-21b) שבעת ימים  The preparation of the Kohen Gadol,  beginning a week before YK
Chapter 2 (22a-28a) בראשונה  The morning avoda
Chapter 3 (28a-39a) אמר להם הממונה  The morning avoda on YK, the remaining  preparations, until the first vidui 

confession recited by the Kohen Gadol

Chapter 4 (39a-46b) טרף בקלפי  The lots (the 2 goats), the second vidui,  the slaughter of the Kohen Gadol’s bull,  and the clearing of the coals
Chapter 5(47a-62a) הוציאו לו  The special ketoret service, the slaughter  of the goats, the sprinkling of the blood in  the Kodesh and the Kodesh HaKodoshim


Chapter 6 (62a-68b) שני שעירי  The need for keeping the procedures in  order and how to correct errors, vidui, the  goat sent to Azazel
Chapter 7 (68b-73b) בא לו כהן גדול  The Torah reading, the remainder of the  day’s avoda
Chapter 8 (73b-88a) יום הכיפורים  Laws of the fast; prohibition of work;  repentance and atonement


Types of Korbanot 

The Rambam, in Laws of Meilah (Tresspass), chapter 8:8, writes:

ראוי לאדם להתבונן במשפטי התורה הקדושה, ולידע סוף ענינם כפי כוחו. ודבר שלא ימצא לו עילה אל יהי קל בעיניו, ולא יהרוס לעלות אל ה’ פן יפוץ בו. ולא תהא מחשבתו בו כמחשבתו בשאר דברי החול…החוקים הם המצוות שאין טעמן ידוע. אמרו חכמים: חוקיים חקתי לך ואין לך רשות להרהר בהן. ויצרו של אדם נוקפו בהן. ואומות העולם משיבין עליהן, כגון איסור בשר חזיר ובשר בחלב ועגלה ערופה ופרה אדומה ושעיר המשתלח…וכל הקורבנות כולן מכלל החוקים הן. אמרו חכמים שבשביל עבודת הקורבנות העולם עומד. שבעשיית החוקים והמשפטים זוכין הישרים לחיי העולם הבא. והקדימה התורה צווי על החוקים שנאמר “ושמרתם את חקותי ואת משפטי אשר יעשה אותם האדם – וחי בהם”. It is appropriate for a person to meditate on the judgments of the holy Torah  and know their ultimate purpose according to his capacity. If he cannot find a  reason or a motivating rationale for a practice, he should not regard it  

lightly. Nor should he break through to ascend to God, lest God burst forth  against him. One’s thoughts concerning them should not be like his thoughts  concerning other ordinary matters… 

The decrees are the mitzvot whose motivating rationales are not known. Our  Sages said: “I ordained decrees and you have no license to question them.” A  person’s natural inclination confronts him concerning them and the nations  of the world challenge them, e.g., the prohibition of the meat of a pig, milk  and meat, the calf whose neck is broken, the red heifer, and the goat sent to  Azazel… 

All of the sacrifices are in the category of decrees. Our Sages said: “The world  exists for the sake of the service of the sacrifices.” For through the  performance of the decrees and the judgments the righteous merit the life of  the world to come. And between the two of them, the Torah gave precedence  to the command for the decrees, as Leviticus 18:5 states: “And you shall heed  My decrees and judgments which a person will perform and live through  them.”

Categories of animal offerings: 

  • Chatat (sin offering) 
  • Olah (burnt offering) 
  • Asham (guilt offering) 
  • Shelamim (peace offering) 
  • Todah (thanksgiving offerubg 
  • Bechor (first born offering) 
  • Maaser (tithe offering) 
  • Pesach 

Components of all animal offerings: 

  • Blood: Applied to mizbeach (sprinkle, throw, pour – depends on type of korban
  • Emurim (sacrificial parts): Burned on mizbeach Meat: Eaten (by Kohanim and/or owners)/Olah is burned  on mizbeach/ Some Chatat meat is burned outside  Jerusalem 

The YK offerings were all chatat or olah: 

  1. Chatat- Distinguished by where their blood is applied:
    •  Chatat Penimit (Inner chatat). Only offered as a  communal offering (1)This is the only type of korban that has its blood applied anywhere but the outer (copper)  mizbeach. 
      • The blood is applied inside the Heichal
        • In the Kodesh  
        • On the inner (golden) mizbeach, also called the mizbach haKetoret (incense altar)
        • SOMETIMES (on YK)– in the Kodesh haKodoshim.
      • The emurim are burned on the outer (copper) mizbeach
      • The meat and hide are burned outside Jerusalem
    • Chatat Chitzona (outer chatat). Can be communal or  personal (most commonly to atone for inadvertent violation of prohibition which has karet as penalty for  willful transgression). The YK mussaf offerings include a  male goat as a chatat chitzona
      • Blood applied to the 4 karnot (horns) of the outer  mizbeach (see #4 in the picture) 
      • The emurim are burned on the outer (copper) mizbeach
      • The meat is eaten by the Kohanim within the Azarah (courtyard of the Mikdash) by midnight of the night after it is brought. The Kohanim would eat the chatat of the YK mussaf after the fast was over.
  2. Olah – Can be communal or personal; required or voluntary.
    • Blood is thrown on the lower corners of the copper (outer)  mizbeach (see #1 in the picture) 
    • Entire korban is burned on the mizbeach 

(1) On Yom Kippur, a bull and a male goat are offered as chatat penimit. The other ones are par  he’elem davar shel tzibbur – bull for a communal error, and par Kohen Gadol – the Kohen  Gadol’s chatat bull (Vayiqra 4:1-21)

Avoda (Sacrifice Service) 

The procedures for each type of korban are known as its avodot (plural of avoda). While all are necessary, interestingly, not all are  essential. This means that if certain steps are omitted (while they should have been done according to Torah law), the korban is still  valid. 

The general process: 

  1. Most personal korbanot: semicha (leaning): the owner places  his/her hands on the animal’s head, leans down, and (where  applicable) recites vidui (confession) 
  2. Shechitah (slaughter) 
  3. Blood is caught in a bowl and applied to mizbeach
  4. Emurim are burned on mizbeach. The Kohanim may only  eat their portion (step 5) after the emurim have been  burned, as long as they are still in existence and fit to be  burned.(2) The emurim (3) are: 
    • The hard fats around the body cavity 
    • The fats on the stomach, kidneys and flanks 
    • The kidneys 
    • The diaphragm 
    • Part of the liver 
    • In a sheep: the tail 
  5. Meat is eaten or burned. The consumption of the meat by  the Kohanim is a part of the kapara (atonement) process(4),  but not essential for the validity of the korban. 


These are: 

  1. Shechita – slaughter. This is done the same way as the  slaughter of animals for consumption today is completed.
  2. Kabala – “receiving” the blood in a kli sharet (sacred utensil).  The blood that spurts from the neck after the shechita is  caught directly in the kli sharet. 
  3. Holacha – carrying the blood to the mizbeach.  
  4. Zerika – throwing or dabbing the blood (depending on the type  of korban) on the mizbeach
    • Most korbanot’s blood is thrown against the wall of the  mizbeach (and if poured rather than thrown, is acceptable  bediavad – after the fact) 
    • Outer chatat: blood is applied with a finger to the horns  of the mizbeach 
    • Inner chatat: sprinkled in the Kodesh (and on YK also in  the Kodesh HaKodoshim) and applied by dabbing on the  horns of the golden (inner/incense) mizbeach. On YK, it is  also sprinkled on the top of that mizbeach 

The rest of the blood is poured on the base of the mizbeach, but  this is not an essential avoda. All four steps of the blood avoda are  essential – the zerika is the step that effectuates kapara (atonement).

(2) We learned that in Pesachim (59b)! 

(3) An olah is totally burned after it is dismembered. The internal organs are carried separately in  a kli sharet

(4) Pesachim 59b again!



There are three categories of korbanot that were brought on YK: 

  • The “usual” two tamid offerings(a lamb olah that was  offered twice daily every day – the “bookends” of each day’s  korbanot
  • The korbanot associated with the entry of the Kohen  Gadol into the Kodesh HaKodoshim:
    • 2 personal
      • Bull as a chatat penimit5 
        • Blood sprinkled inside the Kodesh HaKodashim and the Kodesh 
        • Kohen Gadol performed semicha and recited 2 vidui confessions:
          • His own sins
          • His owns sins and those of his fellow Kohanim
        • Meat is burned outside Jerusalem
      • Ram as an olah
    • 2 communal – identical, role chosen by a lottery (goral)
      • Male goat offered as chatat penimit 
        • Blood sprinkled inside the Kodesh HaKodashim and the Kodesh 
        • Meat is burned outside Jerusalem
      • Male goat sent leAzazel 
        • Kohen Gadol performed semicha and recited vidui for the entire nation
        • Sent off to the wilderness and pushed off a cliff (6)
  • The mussaf offerings (additional korbanot specified for every holiday, Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat)
    • Olot:
      • Bull
      • Ram
      • 7 sheep
    • Chatat chitzona:
      • Male goat – eaten by Kohanim after YK

(5) Actually, this was quasi-personal, since all the Kohanim were joint owners of this korban and  it was brought on behalf of all of them 

(6) Fun fact: This is the origin of the word “scapegoat.”


The order of the Yom Kippur Avodah (based on Rambam)(7)

The Kohen Gadol would perform all aspects of the avoda on YK  himself. As you can imagine, this was physically and spiritually  demanding! The other kohanim were able to assist at certain points. 

At midnight, begin preparing the outer mizbeach: 

  • Terumat haDeshen: Ash is separated from the  mizbeach (8)
  • Wood is arranged on top (9)
  • Excess ash is removed (10)

At daybreak, people would begin arriving. A linen sheet would be  spread out to serve as a screen between the Kohen Gadol and the  people, and he would change out of his personal clothing, by first  

immersing in a mikveh(11), putting on the “standard” golden garments  of the Kohen Gadol(12), and performing kiddush yadayim veraglayim (sanctifying his hands and feet) with water from the kiyor (copper  laver).  

(7) Rashi and Rambam disagree on several points. The chazzan’s repetition of Mussaf on YK  includes a poetic description of the avoda; different communities have different descriptions  based on this (and other) disagreements. 

(8) This is an actual avoda and not a preparation. However, since it was performed at night, there  is a debate whether the Kohen Gadol had to do this himself. 

(9) This could be done by another Kohen 

(10) This could be done by another Kohen 

(11) This first tevila was done in a mikveh located on top of the “Water Gate.” The other immersions were done in a mikveh located on top of the lishkat haParva

(12) Described in Shemot 28



Outer avoda – Part I 

  • In the azara (Courtyard),he would slaughter the tamid  by cutting only the majority of the windpipe and  esophagus(13); shechita was completed by another Kohen so that the Kohen Gadol could…
  • …catch the blood in a kli shareit… 
  • …carry it to the mizbeach, and… 
  • …throw the blood against the corners 
  • Enter the Kodesh:
    • Burn the morning ketoret (incense)
    • Prepare the lights of the menorah for kindling later
  • Go back to the azara, and carry and burn the limbs of  the tamid (14)on the mizbeach 
  • Offer his daily mandatory minchat chavitin 
  • Offer the mincha and nesech (libation) of the tamid 
  • Offer(15) the bull and the seven sheep of the day’s Mussaf (16) korbanot. The remainder will be offered later. 

(13) The halachic minimum for kosher slaughter 

(14) Which had been skinned and dismembered by another Kohen while he was in the Kodesh

(15) Same as with the tamid – start the slaughter, catch, carry and throw the blood

(16) The actual timing of the Mussaf is subject to debate between Rashi and Rambam. This is  Rambam’s opinion 

Inner avoda – Part I 

  • Perform kidush yadayim veraglayim 
  • Remove the golden garments 
  • Immerse in a mikveh 
  • Put on the special white garments(17)
  • Perform kidush yadayim veraglayim 
  • Approach his personal bull, lean on it and recite vidui  for his sins and those of his immediate household 
  • Draw lots between the two male goats
  • Tie a strip of red wool to the head of the goat designated leAzazel 
  • Tie a strip of red wool around the neck of the goat for  the chatat 
  • Return to personal bull, lean on it and recite vidui for  himself, his household and on behalf of all the Kohanim
  • Slaughter the bull and … 
  • …catch its blood and hand the bowl to a Kohen who  will stir it to prevent coagulation 
  • Take a shovel and fill it with coals from a special pyre  on the west side of the top of the mizbeach 
  • Place the shovel on the floor of the azara(18)
  • The Kohanim brought out a vessel filled with extra  finely-ground ketoret and an empty ladle 
  • Kohen Gadol would cup his hands together and scoop  up ketoret and placed it into the ladle 
  • Taking the shovel in his right hand and the ladle in his  left, he would enter the Kodesh HaKodashim 
In the time of the first Temple,  he would place the shovel of  coals between the staves of the  Aron In the time of the second  

Temple, he would place the shovel on the even hashetiya (foundation stone(.

  • He would perform one of the most difficult avodot:  Grasp the ladle with his fingertips or teeth, empty its contents back into his cupped hands (without spilling)  and then place the ketoret on the coals.
  • Once the Kodesh HaKodoshim was full of smoke, he  would slowly exit, walking backwards as a sign of reverence.
  • In the Kodesh, he would recite a brief prayer on behalf  of the people.(19)
  • Back in the azara, he would take the blood of the bull  (that had been continually stirred to prevent coagulation), enter the Kodesh HaKodoshim, and sprinkle it 8 times (one up and seven down).(20)
  • He would go back to the azara, leaving the blood in a vessel on a gold stand in the Kodesh. 
  • He would then slaughter the chatat goat, catch its  blood, bring the blood into the Kodesh HaKodoshim and sprinkle it eight times (7+1) as he did with the  blood of the bull. 
  • He would go into the Kodesh and place the remaining  blood on a second stand. 
  • He would take the blood (of the bull) from the first  stand, and (while standing in the Kodesh) sprinkle it 8  times (7+1) towards the Parochet (curtain) which separated between the Kodesh and the Kodesh HaKodoshim. 
  • He would replace the blood of the bull on the stand,  and take the blood of the goat, and sprinkle it 8 times  (7+1) towards the Parochet
  • He would mix the two bloods together and apply the  mixture to the four keranot (“horns”) of the golden  mizbeach, which was in the Kodesh. 
  • He would clear the coals from a section of the top of  the golden mizbeach and sprinkle the mixed blood  there seven times. 
  • He would go into the azara and pour the rest of the  blood on the western side of the foundation of the copper mizbeach. 
  • He would go to the Azazel goat, lean on it and recite a  vidui for the entire nation. 
  • The goat would be sent off to the desert, where it  would be pushed off a cliff. 
  • He would remove the emurim of the bull and the goat  whose blood had been sprinkled in the Kodesh and  place them in a kli sharet. 
  • The rest of those 2 animals were sent out of Jerusalem  to be burned. 
  • He would go to the Ezrat Nashim (Women’s Courtyard)  and read from the Torah. 

(17) One of the reasons for the kittel worn by Ashkenzai men and for the general custom of  wearing white on YK.

(18) Specific location was the fourth row of the paving stones

(19) So that people don’t get worried – no one could be in the Mikdash while this was happening

(20) Between the staves or on the stone


Outer avoda – Part II 

  • Return to the azara, and change clothes by: 

o Performing kidush yadayim veraglayim 

o Removing the white garments (21)

o Immersing in a mikveh 

o Putting on the usual Kohen Gadol garments 

o Performing kidush yadayim veraglayim 

  • Offer the rest of the mussaf

o Chatat goat 

o Olah ram 

  • Offer his personal olah ram 
  • Burn the emurim of the bull and the goat whose blood  had been sprinkled in the Kodesh 
  • Offer the afternoon tamid 

Inner avoda – Part II 

  • Change into a new set of white garments: 

o Perform kidush yadayim veraglayim 

o Remove the golden garments 

o Immerse in a mikveh 

o Put on the special white garments 

o Perform kidush yadayim veraglayim 

  • Enter the Kodesh HaKodoshim for the last time, remove  the coal shovel and the ladle. 

(21)These were stored and not re-used


Outer avoda – Part III 

  • Return to the azara, and change clothes by: 

o Performing kidush yadayim veraglayim 

o Removing the white garments22 

o Immersing in a mikveh 

o Putting on the usual Kohen Gadol garments 

o Performing kidush yadayim veraglayim 

  • Enter the Kodesh and offer the afternoon ketoret 
  • Light the Menorah 

He would then leave the Kodesh, perform kidush yadayim  veraglayim and change into his own clothes. Masses of people  would accompany him as he left the Bet HaMikdash, and he would  make a great celebration at the conclusion of the fast. 


If you want to learn about the Bet HaMikdash’s architecture, this  website is very informative: index/ 

This link is an article by Dr. Shmuel Safrai about YK in the times  of the Second Temple: 22These were stored and not re-used


Summary Chart

What he wore  Where  When  What he did
His own clothes Lishkat  

HaPalhedrin (The  chamber of the  officials)

7 days before YK  Sequestered in the chamber and  was taught the complexities of  the avoda
Bet HaMikdash  During the week  

before YK

Practiced specific parts of the  avoda so that he could be  accustomed to them
Eastern Gate  Erev YK  Reviewed all the animals that  would be used
The Chamber of  the Avnitas family Oath that he would do the  ketoret in accordance with Halacha
Copper mizbeach Midnight of YK  Terumat hadeshen23
The Chamber of  the Avnitas family The rest of the night Learned until daybreak (was not  allowed to sleep)24
The mikve on top  of the Water Gate Daybreak  First tevila (followed by kiddush  yadayim veraglayim25)

23 According to some; others hold that he did not do it 

24 Fear of tumat keri (seminal emission) 

25 The first of ten that he will do 

What he wore  Where  When  What he did
Golden garments
(“regular” KG  
Bait Mitbachaim (slaughterhouse) Slaughtered the tamid and  threw its blood on the copper  mizbeiach26
Heichal Prepared 5 candles of the  menora
Offered ketoret on the golden  mizbeach
Prepared the final 2 candles of  the menora
Copper mizbeiach  Carried the limbs of the tamid from the ramp and burned them  on the mizbeiach
Steps of the ulam  Performed birkat kohanim (with  the other kohanim)
Copper mizbeiach  Offered the menachot and the  wine (nisuch hayayin).  

Slaughtered and offered the  mussaf offerings

Roof of the  

Lishkat HaParva

Second tevila (preceded and  followed by kiddush yadayim  veraglayim) and changed to  white garments

26 Kohanim dismember it and leave the limbs on the ramp of the mizbeach

What he wore 

White garments

Where  When  What he did
Between the ulam and the  


First vidui (for himself and  immediate household) – on the  bull
East side of azara  Lots between the 2 goats
Between the ulam and the  


Second vidui (for himself,  immediate household, and the  kohanim) – on the bull
Between the ulam and the  


Slaughtered the bull, put the  blood in a vessel, gives it to  someone to stir
Copper mizbeiach  Takes a shovel, goes up on the  altar and takes burning coals,  places shovel on the fourth row  of paving stones
Azara  Takes an empty ladle and fills it  with special ketoret from a  shovelful


Enters with the coals in his right  hand and the ketoret in his left,  places the shovel with the coals between the staves of the  Aron,27 offers the ketoret. After  he leaves, he recites a brief  prayer

27 Second Temple: On the stone

What he wore  Where  When  What he did
4th row of paving  stones Retrieves the blood of the bull 


Sprinkles the blood (7+1)  

between the staves towards the  kaporet (cover)

Heichal  Puts the bull’s blood on a stand
North of the  

copper mizbeaich

Takes the goat “for Hashem” (the chatat), slaughters it,  places blood in a basin and  brings it into Kodesh  




Sprinkles the blood (7+1)  

between the staves towards the  kaporet (cover)

Heichal  Puts the goat’s blood on a stand
Sprinkles the bull’s blood  towards the parochet
Sprinkles the goat’s blood  towards the parochet
Mixes the bloods
Golden mizbeiach  Sprinkles the mixed blood on  the four corners/horns.
Moves the coals from on top of  the mizbeach to the sides
Sprinkles the mixed blood 7  times on top


What he wore  Where  When  What he did
Azara  Pours out the leftover blood  mixture on the west side of the  mizbeach
South side of the  azara Third vidui (for the nation) is  recited on the goat for Azazel.  Goat is then sent to the desert
Near the copper  mizbeaich Separates the emurim of the  bull and the goat, and prepares  them to be burned on the  copper mizbeiach28
Sends the rest of the meat to be  burned outside Jerusalem
Ezrat Nashim  Reads from the Torah
Roof of the  

Lishkat HaParva

Third tevila (preceded and  followed by kiddush yadayim  veraglayim) and changed to  golden garments
Golden garments  Copper mizbeaich  Dusk  Offered the goat, 2 rams, the  emurim of the bull and the goat  and the afternoon tamid lamb
Roof of the  

Lishkat HaParva

Fourth tevila (preceded and  followed by kiddush yadayim  veraglayim) and changed to  white garments

28 The avoda cannot proceed until the goat has reached its final destination

What he wore 

White garments 

Where  When  What he did


Removes the shovel and the  ketoret ladle
Roof of the  

Lishkat HaParva

Fifth tevila (preceded and  followed by kiddush yadayim  veraglayim) and changed to  golden garments
Golden garments  Heichal  Offered the ketoret on the  golden mizbeiach
Lit the menorah
Copper mizbeaich  Offered the mincha of the  tamid, the remainder of his  personal minchat chavitin and  the wine nesesch of the tamid
Roof of the  

Lishkat HaParva

Performs kiddush yadayim  veraglayim 29and changes into  his own clothes
His personal  


Home  Stars come out  Goes home, accompanied by the  crowds

29 The tenth – and last- one!


Gitta Jaroslawicz-Neufeld

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