The 7.5-year Talmud daily learning cycle (aka Gemara daf yomi) started January 5th 2020. Today on July 8th 2021 we complete tractate (aka masechet) Yoma, the sixth masechet of the cycle.

I am sadly without a daf yomi learning partner (aka chevruta) so I am using this Medium as a study aide. Hopefully some reader may benefit from it too. Please feel free to act as my online virtual chevruta and help me find any inaccuracies in my writing.

I am behind schedule and need to catch up on several days’ worth of learning today so don’t expect any grand analyses here.

On the question of kill or be killed, Rava answers: ‘Let yourself be killed, for who says your blood is any redder than theirs.’ (Yoma 82b)

And there’s your source for the blood-is-redder phrase! I think it’s cool to see its written source dating back ~1500 years in the Gemara.

Here’s my question: what’s the original source? Did Rava coin the phrase himself or did he hear it somewhere? תיקו aka we don’t know but God-willing speedily in our days on this here earth in the early CE 21st century before the non-CE 6000 years are up, the answer will be revealed to us.

Anywho, yea, our blood is no redder than anyone else’s. We are all children of God. ‘That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.’ — Hillel the Elder (Shabbat 31a)

On the question of illness allowing one to break the Yom Kippur fast, specifically whether we trust an individual over the opinion of expert doctors, Mar Bar Rav Ashi says that a person knows what they need better than any subject expert (Yoma 83a) based on the verse ‘The heart alone knows its bitterness, and no outsider can share in its joy.(Proverbs 14:10)

Trust your God-given, and sometimes self-learned, instincts — they are quite powerful. See Malcom Gladwell’s Blink and scores of other literature written on the topic.

Mishna on Yoma 83a: we are allowed to violate the laws of Shabbat to save someone’s life. Even in a case of doubt, such as if someone is buried under an avalanche or cave-in (or collapsed building) and we don’t know whether they are even there or not, alive or not, Jewish or not, we keep digging and find them.

R’ Meir was careful in investigating his acquaintances to discern their character and determine if appropriate to keep interacting with them. He accomplished this by analyzing their names (Yoma 83b)— parents beware.

Did you catch the deduction (aka diyuk) on the ‘Jewish or not’ scenario above?

Tough topic to discuss: in a case of doubt where we are not certain of the current danger, according to the letter of the Torah law a Jew can violate Shabbat to save a fellow Jew’s life but not a non-Jew’s. (Yoma 84b)

* Darchei shalom is a halachic concept that promotes peace. This body of halacha rules (aka paaskins) that the Gemara’s paaskin-ing (aka halachic ruling in Heb-Eng-Yiddish / ‘yeshiva-ish’ / yeshivish…or more simply in modern Hebrew: psak) may have applied to the Mishnaic/Talmudic era— the early centuries CE — but no longer applies in our modern era. A number of justifications form the heart of darchei shalom, including: promoting world peace, averting anti-Semitism, mutual giving between Jews and non-Jews, and avoiding the desecration of God’s Name (aka chillul Hashem) in the eyes of anyone witnessing the emergency scenario at hand.

* thank you R’ Michael Reichel for the addition

The topic (aka sugya) of checking for buried life after a cave-in, mentioned earlier on Yoma 83b and fleshed out in greater detail on Yoma 85a, was broached soon after the terrible tragedy in Surfside, Florida. Coincidence? No such thing.

The Gemara posits that the question of when to stop digging when you’ve found someone (do we wait to get to their head or heart) to determine if they’re still alive is based on the formation of life. In the womb, in what order is a baby born — one opinion says the head, and Abba Shaul says the navel. But that’s the miracle of life. When it comes to determining death, Abba Shaul acknowledges that ‘life is in the breath’ (literally: nostrils). In fact, when the body is unburied feet-first, we stop at the nose to determine life and n̶o̶t̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ must not keep digging until the head. Notice how careful Judaism is in protecting life and how meticulous in guarding Shabbat’s sanctity.

I’m proud to hear that many Jews and Israelis participated in the Surfside rescue effort. I wonder how many of them were aware of this Gemara.

The topic of violating Shabbat to save life had been going on for several pages until we finally ask on Yoma 85a: what is the source for this ruling? Show me the posuk [verse], my high school rebbe taught me to always ask. To know the true nature of something, we must investigate its source in the Torah.

You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live’ (Leviticus 18:5) — deduction: ‘live,’ not die. When faced with a potentially fatal situation we do all we can to save life, even if that means violating the commandments (sans exceptions).

Judaism places a great deal of value on life, Jewish or not Jewish. Life is a gift from God and we cherish it.

On Yom Kippur we are all repentants (aka baalei teshuva). But, one cannot keep sinning and say they’ll repent on Yom Kippur — ‘heaven’ (aka God) doesn’t allow it. (Yoma 85b)

Wait, God doesn’t allow repentance (aka teshuva) as in He controls our behavior? Free will question! How about when God ‘hardened’ Pharaoh’s heart against letting the Jews go free? (Exodus chapters ~7–10) Food for thought, so chew on that on your own for a moment. Here’s one of many answers.

The Gemara clarifies that a sin between man and God can be atoned for on Yom Kippur, however a sin between fellow men must first be rectified before forgiveness in the eyes of God can be earned on Yom Kippur.

Do all sins need Yom Kippur to achieve teshuva? The Gemara offers several possibilities, such as only the most severe sins requiring the power of Yom Kippur. A scarier possibility is that for some sins only death atones. (Yoma 86a)

Repentance/forgiveness is a powerful force and a great gift from God. See more details on Yoma 86b. Some highlights: teshuva erases past sins, turns sins into merits, brings long life, staves off suffering.

How do we define doing teshuva? Being in the same situation— i.e. same love interest at the usual rendezvous, assuming one is repenting for promiscuity — and refraining from committing the same sin. Maimonides goes into great detail in codifying the laws of teshuva.

When you sin against another you must request forgiveness. If they refuse then you must try again. Three times but no more. After three genuine attempts the onus is on them to forgive you. If they die before you can gain forgiveness then you must bring 10 people to their burial site and announce to those assembled that you are asking for forgiveness. (Yoma 87a)

Yom Kippur involves many hours of prayer. Just how much confessing of sins is required? Mar Zutra answers: ‘Indeed, we have sinned.’ That’s the basic requirement, everything after that is extra credit. (Yoma 87b)

Masechet Yoma ends on a doozie and discusses the implications of a wet dream (aka nocturnal emission) occurring on Yom Kippur. The conclusion seems to be that it’s a good sign, metaphysically speaking. (Yoma 88a)

Mazal tov and shkoyach on learning some masechet Yoma. May we merit to return to learn it again and in more depth. Here comes masechet Sukkah next!

- Yona Dov (aka Zach)