April 27, 2021

Yoma 16

Much of today’s daf (Yoma 16a) explores the structure and dimensions of the Beit HaMikdash while also quoting extensively from Massechet Middot, which then leads the Gemara to note that Massechet Middot was taught and edited by Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov.
According to tradition, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov’s life spanned the final years of the second Beit HaMikdash as well as the years of destruction that followed, and it seems that the need to clearly record the dimensions (Middot) of the Beit HaMikdash became somewhat of a life mission of his. Significantly, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov was referred to by the accolade קב ונקי – literally ‘small measured and clean’ – which is generally interpreted to mean that while, aside from Massechet Middot, he made far fewer contributions to rabbinic discourse than most of his rabbinic contemporaries, when he did his teachings were generally considered to be authoritative. However, it should be noted that the usage of the term קב – small measured, may also have been employed to allude to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov’s interest in Middot – dimensions.
I am a strong believer that each of us have latent Torah wisdom that we have been gifted by God to discover and to reveal to the world – each according to our unique interests, skills and understanding. And it seems that while Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov was a great Torah scholar, it was the realm of explaining the structure and dimensions of the Beit HaMikdash which most spoke to him and which became his life mission to learn and teach to the world. And from then on, whenever Massechet Middot is referenced, it is done so in his name, because it represents his passion and dedication to this subject which ran so deep that he held himself back from contributing to other areas of rabbinic discussion in order to focus his attention on this one.
There are those who feel frustrated when their total involvement in their own ‘stuff’ means that they ‘lose out’ from participating or contributing to other valuable topics and discussions. Of course, in the ideal world it would be nice to have sufficient time and attention for everything. However, I personally take comfort from the legacy of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, because though he was ‘small measured’ in other areas of Torah, his contribution to Judaism – through Massechet Middot – was monumental.
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