The eighth perek of Massekhet Yoma begins on today’s daf. In contrast to the rest of the massekhet, this final chapter deals with the commandments of Yom Kippur that apply to every Jewish person, and not specifically to the High Priest serving in the Temple.
There are two commandments that apply to all Jews on Yom Kippur: the prohibition of melakha, and the mitzva of inuy – to create a sense of suffering or oppression, as defined by the Sages. We are familiar with the prohibition against work from our study of the rules and regulations of Shabbat, and, in fact, the Gemara learns that melakha is forbidden on Yom Kippur in a similar manner to the prohibition on Shabbat. Inuy, on the other hand, has no clear parallels in the realm of halakha, and the Torah does not make clear what exactly must be done to fulfill this mitzva. Do we simply refrain from pleasurable activities, or are we obligated to perform specific acts that bring with them a certain level of suffering?
The first Mishna in the perek enumerates five pleasurable activities that are forbidden as a result of this mitzva. They are:
Eating and drinking
There is a difference of opinion between the commentaries regarding the level of these prohibitions. According to the Rambam, they are all Biblically forbidden, while the Rosh and the Tosafot Yeshanim understand that only eating and drinking are forbidden by the Torah, while the other inuyim are Rabbinic in origin.
Included in the Mishna are some exceptions to the rule. For example, a Jewish king and a newly married bride are permitted to wash their faces. According to the reasoning of the Rosh and Tosafot Yeshanim, it is fairly easy to accept these exceptions. Given that the obligation is Rabbinic, the Rabbis apparently chose not to apply the prohibition in these particular cases when they established the law. It is more difficult to explain the Rambam’s position, however.
The Ran suggests that this is an example of a case where the Torah presents a commandment, but leaves it to the Sages to determine how exactly that mitzva should be fulfilled. In our case, the Torah commanded that people reach a level of inuy, but left it to the Rabbinic leaders to decide how that state should be reached.