1) AGADAH: WEARING WHITE IN THE BEIS HA'MIKDASH AND ON YOM KIPPUR
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rebbi Akiva (see Tosfos) was asked three questions when he arrived at a place called Ginzak. He did not know the answers to the questions, and he found out the answers only after he asked the questions in the Beis Midrash. One of the questions was: What did Moshe Rabeinu wear during the seven days of the inauguration of the Mishkan, when he personally performed the Avodah? RASHI (DH Moshe) explains that apparently Moshe did not wear the Bigdei Kehunah, the priestly garments of the Kohanim, because the verse states, "And you shall make holy garments for Aharon your brother" (Shemos 28:2), excluding Moshe Rabeinu (see also TOSFOS DH ba'Meh). What, then, did he wear? The Chachamim in the Beis Midrash answered that he wore a white robe.
What is the significance of the fact that the robe was white?
(a) The SEDER YAKOV answers that the color of white is also the color of the garments that the Kohen Gadol wears for much of the Avodah on Yom Kippur. White is the symbol of purity and holiness, as the verse states, "At all times your clothes should be white" (Koheles 8:9), which the Targum there translates as, "free from any stain of sin." This is an appropriate reason for Moshe Rabeinu to wear white clothes during the inaugural service of the Mishkan.
This concept is mentioned in a practical context as well. The REMA (OC 610:4) records that "some write that it is the custom to wear clean, white clothes on Yom Kippur, similar to [the appearance of] angels. And it also is the custom to wear a Kittel (a white robe) which is white and clean, and which also represents the shrouds of the deceased. Through this a person's heart will be broken and humbled."
The MAGEN AVRAHAM comments that according to the reason that white resembles angels, this custom should not apply to women, since the Midrash teaches that women cannot be like angels. The Yalkut Shimoni comments that the verse, "[To the] city of the mighty ascended the wise one" (Mishlei 21:22), refers to Moshe Rabeinu who ascended to heaven (the "city of the mighty," referring to the angels) in order to receive the Torah. Rebbi Yehoshua says in the name of Rebbi Acha that "mighty" indicates that this "city" is inhabited only by males and not females.
The Magen Avraham adds that, nevertheless, a woman may wear a Kittel for a different reason. Since it resembles the shrouds of the dead, it causes a person to repent, and this reason applies to women as well. However, he reasons that this reason permits a woman only to wear a Kittel, but not to wear any other white clothing. (See the SEDER YAKOV for an explanation for why this does not contradict the Mishnah in Ta'anis (26b) which states that the Jewish girls used to go out on Yom Kippur wearing white clothes.)
However, according to the explanation that white symbolizes purity and holiness, it would seem appropriate for women to wear this color on Yom Kippur as well. This is the opinion of the MATEH EFRAIM (see ELEF HA'MAGEN #13). The MISHNAH BERURAH agrees with the Mateh Efraim and says that the custom is for women to wear white, but not to wear a Kittel.
(b) The SEDER YAKOV explains further that the building of the Mishkan (according to many opinions) was in order to attain atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. The reason why the people committed that sin was not that they wanted to serve an idol per se, but because they wanted to engage in promiscuity. The masters of Kabalah explain that the reason one should wear white on Shabbos is because it atones for the sin of promiscuity. Therefore, it is fitting that Moshe Rabeinu wore a white robe while performing the Avodah of the Mishkan, since that Avodah was for the purpose of attaining atonement for the promiscuity of the sin of the Golden Calf. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) SLAUGHTERING AN ANIMAL FOR AVODAH ZARAH
QUESTION: The Mishnah (29b) discusses a dispute between Rebbi Meir and the Chachamim regarding the cheese of Onyaki. Rebbi Meir maintains that a Jew may not derive any benefit from this cheese. Reish Lakish explains that since most of the calves of that city are slaughtered for Avodah Zarah, the cheese that is made by being placed into the stomachs of those animals is forbidden like an object that is offered to Avodah Zarah.
Rebbi Shimon bar Elyakim questions Reish Lakish's explanation from another statement of Reish Lakish. Reish Lakish himself states that an animal that is slaughtered in order to pour the blood to Avodah Zarah remains permitted. Why, then, should the stomach of such an animal be forbidden if the animal itself is not used for Avodah Zarah? Reish Lakish answers that at the end of the slaughtering process, the owners have in mind that they are slaughtering the animal in order to give it to their Avodah Zarah.
What does Reish Lakish mean when he says that they have in mind "at the end" of the slaughtering process? Why does he not say simply that they slaughter their animals with the intention to give it to their Avodah Zarah?
(a) The Gemara in Bava Kama (72a) and Chulin (29b) discusses -- with regard to the Mitzvah of Shechitah -- whether the act of slaughtering is considered to occur throughout the duration of the act of Shechitah, or whether the actual slaughtering is considered to occur only at the end of the process of killing the animal. RASHI (DH b'Omer) and the RITVA explain that Reish Lakish understands that the act of slaughtering is considered to occur only at the end of the Shechitah process. Accordingly, Reish Lakish says that the idolaters have in mind to offer their animals to Avodah Zarah "at the end" of the slaughtering process, because he follows his own view that the act of slaughtering occurs only at the end of the process.
The KEHILOS YAKOV (15:2) questions Rashi's explanation. The Gemara later (50b) teaches that if it is normal for a certain Avodah Zarah to be served by breaking a stick in front of it, then the person who does so transgresses the prohibition against serving Avodah Zarah. This is because the act of serving Avodah Zarah is determined by the common practice. Why, then, should the beginning of the act of slaughtering which is done for Avodah Zarah differ from breaking a stick in front of Avodah Zarah? Even if the action at that point is not technically an act of slaughtering, it still constitutes a normal procedure done for the sake of Avodah Zarah, and the animal should be prohibited!
The Kehilos Yakov answers that Rashi understands that only a complete action can be considered an act of serving Avodah Zarah; a partial action cannot be considered an act of serving Avodah Zarah. Hence, only at the end of the slaughtering does the idolater's intention matter. This has logical basis, because the Gemara itself (50b) compares the breaking of the stick to slaughtering. Based on this comparison, one can understand just as slaughtering is a complete action, breaking a stick for Avodah Zarah is forbidden because it is a complete action. If one would break only half of a stick in front of the idol, this would not be considered serving Avodah Zarah.
TOSFOS seems to disagree with this approach, because in Bava Kama (71b, DH Keivan) he argues with Rashi and maintains that an animal is forbidden from benefit from the moment that the act of slaughtering starts, even according to the opinion that the act of slaughtering is considered to occur only at the end. How, then, does Tosfos explain the wording of Reish Lakish in the Gemara here?
(b) TOSFOS (DH v'Chi) takes a different approach to answer this question. He asks, why does Rebbi Shimon bar Elyakim assume that Reish Lakish, in his statement explaining the view of Rebbi Meir, refers to slaughtering an animal with intention to pour its blood for Avodah Zarah? Reish Lakish clearly states that the animal is slaughtered for the sake of Avodah Zarah, without mentioning that it is slaughtered in order to pour its blood for Avodah Zarah. That is, Reish Lakish here refers to the actual slaughtering as being an act of service of Avodah Zarah, while in his other statement the slaughtering itself is not an act of serving Avodah Zarah, but rather a prerequisite for doing another act (i.e., pouring its blood) that will constitute serving Avodah Zarah! What, then, is Rebbi Shimon bar Elyakim's question?
Tosfos answers that it is obvious that when an idolater slaughters an animal, the act of slaughtering itself is not an act of serving Avodah Zarah. Rather, when an idolater slaughters an animal, he always slaughters it with intention to use its blood (and fats) in the service of Avodah Zarah (as is apparent from Chulin 39b). This is why Rebbi Shimon bar Elyakim understands Reish Lakish's statement regarding slaughtering an animal for Avodah Zarah as referring to slaughtering animal for the eventual purpose of serving Avodah Zarah.
This also explains why, in his answer, Reish Lakish says that the idolater has intention to serve Avodah Zarah only at the end of the act of slaughtering. The primary purpose of slaughtering the animal is to obtain the blood and fats. Reish Lakish explains that his statement refers to a case in which the idolater intended to worship the Avodah Zarah at the end of the slaughtering process, because it is at that point that the blood pours forth and his intention is fulfilled, and thus at that point the animal itself becomes prohibited. (Y. MONTROSE)