Cohen-Levi: The Tribe, the Family Heritage

Temple Studies

In and About the Temple

The Temple: Structure and Procedure

A. The Temple Complex

1. The Site and Pattern of the Temple

The Mikdash, the Holy Temple, was situated on the top of Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem. The site of the Temple was revealed to King David through prophesy. We purchased the land and prepared the foundation for the First Temple which was built and inaugurated by King Solomon. Jewish tradition relates that the Temple site was the starting point of Creation and the source of the material fo the first man. At this place, offerings were brought by Adam, Kain and Abel, and Noah, after the flood. Abraham brought up and bound his son on the Altar in this place and it was Abraham who gave it the name Moriah.

The Temple Complex consists of the Temple building and its courtyards at its center, surrounded by the Temple Mount that was surrounded by the walls of Jerusalem. The pattern of the levels of holiness of the Temple complex is based upon the model established at Mount Sinai at the receiving of the Torah. At the center was the Shechina - the Divine Presence. Located closest to the mountain was the tribe of Levi, and further back were the people of Israel.

This is also the pattern in which the tribes camped and travelled in the forty years before their entry into the Land of Isael. The Mishkan, the Tabernacle containing the Holy Ark, was in the center. The families of the tribe of Levi camped on the four sides around the Mishkan and the twelve tribes of Israel, three tribes in each direction, camped around them.

The Temple Building and the Inner Courtyard repesent the camp of the Divine Presence. The Temple Mount, a 500 square cubit area ( a cubit is approximately half a meter or one and one-half feet) surrounded the Temple, represents the camp of the Levi'im. And the city of Jerusalem within the walls, represents the camp of Israel.

Each area required a high degree of ritual purity. No one afflicted with tzarat, a defiling skin condition, was allowed within the walls of Jerusalem. Within the Temple Mount, no one who was impure through a body emission was allowed until he had purified himself. To enter the Inner Courtyard of the Temple, a person had to purified fom all spiritual impurity including that caused by contact with the dead. Entry into the Heichel, the Temple Building itself, was restricted to Kohanim involved in the service who had purified themselves in a mikve and washed their hands and feet from the Temple washbasin and were dressed in their proper garments.

2. The Temple Mount - Har HaBayit.

In the late Second Temple era, the Temple Mount was extended and the Temple Building and courtyards were embellished by Herod. It is generally this structure which is described in the Mishna and Talmud and by Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived in the time of the Temple. The essential elements and arrangements of the Second Temple were basically the same as in the First Temple, both being based on the Divine instruction to construct the Mishkan and its vessels as described in the Torah. The Third Temple will also maintain the same basic structure and components with some modifications are described in the book of the prophet Ezekiel.

The extended Temple Mount had five major entrance gates. Generally the people entered and walked, always toward the right, to the main entrance into the outer Temple Courtyard, located on the eastern side of the Temple Mount.

Around the walls of the Temple structure was a low wooden fence called the Soreg. No non-Jew or anyone with ritual impurity was allowed to pass beyond this fence. With every increase in closeness to a more sanctified area of the Temple, there was also an increase in the physical elevation. Between the fence and the walls of the courtyard, there were 12 steps with a total rise in elevation of nearly ten feet.

From the east, one entered to the Outer Courtyard or Women's Courtyard. This Courtyard measured 135 square cubits. Four special chambers were located at its corners. In the northeast corner was the wood storage area, in the southeast corner was the Nazirites' Chamber, in the northwest corner was the Chamber of the Metzoraim, and in the southwest corner was the oil storage area. The Women's Courtyard derived its name from the fact that it was there, that the women who came to the Temple assembled. Balconies were constructed to allow the women to view the festivities of the Simcat Beit Hashoeva and to prevent mixing.

3. The Inner Courtyard - The Azorah

The Inner Courtyard was reached through the Niknor Gate which stood atop fifteen semi-circular steps. Built into the wall next to this magnificent polished brass gate was the chamber for the Kohanim's garments, and on the south side was the chamber for the Preparation of the Kohen Gadol's special mincha offering.

The Inner Courtyard had the equivalent holiness level of the area within the curtains of the Mishkan. Contained within it was the Heichel - the Temple Building, the Mizbayach - the large outer altar, as well as many other vessels and chambers necessary for the service.

The Azora measured 187 cubits, from its entrance to the wall beyond the Heichel. As a person entered from the Inner Courtyard, he would be facing west, the direction of the Holy of Holies. The first eleven cubits was known as the Courtyard of the Israelites where people could view the service. On the platform which served as the border of this area, the Levi'im stood to sing and play music at the required times during the service. The next area of the Inner Courtyard was the Courtyard of the Kohanim into which only Kohanim generally could enter to perform their required duties.

The central object of the Inner Courtyard was the Mizbayach, the Altar. It stood seventeen cubits high, the height of the two-story building. It was thirty-two cubits square at its base with a large ramp, leading up to its top from its southern side. The Mizbayach had to be situated precisely, resting on the bedrock of Mount Moriah. The altar structure itself was made of perfectly smooth stone. On the top of the Mizbayach were three fireplaces.

The largest was used to consume the sacrificial parts of every Korban . The second fireplace provided the burning coals for the Incense Offering. The third fire burned continually as commanded in the Torah. In the center of the top of the Mizbayach was an area known as the tapuach, the apple, which consisted of the ashes removed from the fireplace and piled high until removed from the Mizbayach. At the Altar's southwest corner were two receptacles, for the wine and water libations. At the four corners were horns, square protrusions upon which the blood of certain offerings was placed.

On the north side of the altar was the slaughter area. Here rows of rings for holding the animals down, and tables and pillars with hooks were arranged to facilitate in the slaughter, skinning, cutting and cleaning of the Korban .

On the northern side of the inner Courtyard was the Moked, a large domed structure containing four auxiliary chambers. It was here that the Kohanim would sleep. The elders slept on platform steps and the younger Kohanin on mats on the floor. From the Moked, the serving Kohanim could reach through underground tunnels, the toilets and the mikveh for purfication. In the Moked was a fireplace for warmth.

Many other chambers were located at the periphery of the Azora. The most significant of these was the Chamber of Hewn Stone which was the seat of the Great Sanhedrin, the Supreme Torah Court.

Between the Altar and the Heichel building, near the ramp of the Altar, stood the Kiyur, the copper washbasin. Here the Kohanim were required to wash their hands and feet as a necessary preparation for the Avodah. The entire washbasin was immersed in a pool of water every night and raised to the surface every morning with a system of pulleys. This was to keep the water in the washbasin from becoming unfit for use.

Near the west side of the ramp to the Mizbayach stood two tables. One was of silver upon which were placed the 93 vessels which were needed for a normal day's Avodah. The second table was of marble. Upon it were placed the limbs of the Offerings before they were brought up the ramp to the Altar. At the conclusion of the Tamid service, two Kohanim would stand on this table and blow the silver trumpets signaling the song of the Levi'im and the music to begin.

4. The Temple Building - The Heichel

The Temple Building was a magnificient structure raising one hundred cubits high. In Herodian times, the building was refubished in pure marble and fine wood and gold ornamentation. Twelve wide steps led up to the entrace of the Heichel. Upon these steps, the Kohanim recited the Blessing of the Kohanim every morning as part of the Tamid service. The entrance to the Heichel was flanked by two large columns. A magnificent woven curtain hung at the entranceway.

The Heichel was symbolically shaped like a crouching lion, wide in front and narrowing towards the back. Immediately beyond the entrance was a wide hall or antechamber known as the Ulam. The building narrowed at the entrance to the Kodesh, the Holy Area. This area contained the Menorah, the Incense Altar and the Golden Table and beyond it stood the Holy of Holies.

Great doors opened into the Kodesh area and a tapestry curtain hung there. The windows of the Kodesh consisted of long narrow openings in the walls. The openings were wider on the outside than on the inside, indicating that the light source was within and spread outwards. The Kodesh was forty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and forty cubits high with a ceiling above separting it from the second story.

Only a Kohen with a particular assignment could enter the Kodesh. On the left as he entered, which is the south side of the room, stood the Menorah. In the center and slightly closer to the entrance was the Golden Incense Altar, and on the right, stood the Golden Table supporting the twelve loaves of the showbread.

The Menorah is a seven-branched candalabra formed from solid gold with all the intricate design details as described in the Torah. In order to clean, fill and light the Menorah, the Kohen would mount a three-stepped stone platform which allowed him to reach the height of the lamps. Following the opinion of Maimonides, the Menorah was placed on a north-south orientation with its central lamp directed towards the Holy of Holies. During the First and into the Second Temple times, this Ner M'arvi, Western Lamp, stayed lit continuously. The Menorah was cleaned and prepared as part of the morning Tamid service. It was lit in the late afternoon as part of the afternoon Tamid service and burned through the night.

The Golden Table or Shulchan was located near the northern wall of the Kodesh. On this Table the twelve loaves of the Showbread - Lechem HaPanim - were specially placed along with two golden spoons filled with frankincense. Every Shabbat afternoon the previous week's breads were removed and eaten by the Kohanim on duty and the frankincense was burned on the Outer Altar. At the same time, the twelve new breads were placed on the Table. Nearby to this unique Golden Table stood ten other golden tables to enhance its beauty. The Table, as well as the Golden Incense Altar, as well as the Holy Ark, had rings and carrying poles always attached as it was in the Mishkan.

The Golden Incense Altar stood in a direct line with the Holy of Holies. Twice a day, as part of the Morning and Afternoon Tamid services, a Kohen would enter the Kodesh area with a portion of incense, the Ketoret. Another Kohen would enter with a shovel full of burning coals which he would place on top of the Golden Altar. The first Kohen would then place the incense on the coals and a bellow of smoke would rise straight up producing a heavenly fragrance. This Altar would also be used to receive the blood of certain Offerings.

5. The Holy of Holies - Kadosh Kadoshim

The Holy of Holies was the most sacred area of the entire Temple complex. Entry to this inner sanctum was forbidden to all but one man, the Kohen Gadol, on one day each year, Yom Kippur.

The Holy of Holies was a room twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and forty cubits high. It was located at the westernmost section of the Temple Building. There was a ceiling to the Holy of Holies with another floor-level above it whose dimensions and decorative work were identical to those of the chamber below.

There was a separation between the Kodesh area and the Holy of Holies. At the time of the Mishkan there existed a single curtain barrier. In the First Temple, there was a solid wall constructed with a doorway at its center. In the Second Temple the separation was demarked by two large parallel curtains one cubit apart between which the Kohen Gadol would walk to enter and exist.

In the Holy of Holies was an outcropping of the bedrock of Mount Moriah. During the First Temple, the Holy Ark rested upon this rock. During the Second Temple, however, the Ark was not in its place and the rock itself served as the location of the Yom Kippur Incense Offering.

The Holy Ark, the Aron HaKodesh, is described in the Torah as a three-ply gold-wood-gold rectangular box measuring two and one-half cubits in length by one and one-half cubits width and one-half cubits high. Contained within this box were the original Tablets of Stone engraved with Ten Commandments. The cover of the Ark was a solid piece of gold upon which the Keruvim, two angel child-like forms stood with their wings outspread facing one another. It was from the Ark, from between the wings of the Keruvim, that the Divine communication emmanated.

When King Solomon constructed the First Temple, he knew through Divine Inspiration that it would come to be destroyed. He prepared, therefore, hidden chambers below the Temple floor to protect the Holy Ark and Temple vessels. Shortly before the Babylonian invasion, King Yoshiahu ordered the Ark and other holy objects to be hidden in these underground chambers. During the Second Temple, the Holy Ark did not reappear.

The Avodah - The Service in the Temple

A significant part of the activities of the Temple centered around the offering of a Korban , an animal offering or sacrifice. The process of the Korban is described in detail in the Torah, particularly in the book of Leviticus -Vayikra which is also known as Torat Kohanim, the teaching of particular relevance to Kohanim, those who process the Korban .

The basic process of a Korban was that an animal was brought to the Temple where it was checked for blemishes and then slaughtered within the sanctified area. Its blood was received in a vessel and applied to a specific area of the Mizbayach - Altar. The meat of the Korban was then partially or entirely consumed on the Altar fire, depending on the specific type of Korban .

This process with all its particulars is known as the Avodah - the service. Hundreds of mitzvot in the Torah are concerned with the Avodah. These are among the mitzvot known as chukim - statutes. They are, at least on the surface, not fully understandable in the limited human realm. Therefore we do them because they are the Will of God and not because we claim to grasp their meaning. However, there a number of approaches which help make this essential part of the Temple Service more comprehensible. These approaches are as follows:

1. The word Korban is usually translated as “sacrifice” or “offering”. Neither of these words convey its true meaning. Sacrifice implies depriving one’s self while offering, implies a tribute made to appease the receiver. The word Korban comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to bring close”. A Korban is designed to restore relationship, to bring the giver of the Korban closer to God.

2. It is obvious that God, the Creator of the Universe and all of life, does not need animals to be burnt for Him or for their blood to be placed on an Altar. Clearly, the benefit of the Korban is for man. A man needs to experience the animal, material side of his nature, is temporary and finite. Only the spiritual side, the soul, survives death. The blood and the consumption of the animal flesh makes the human being aware that it is the Divine element above the animal with which he must fully identify.

The Torah relates that the Korban provides a “satisfying aroma” to God. That is, when a man offers himself, symbolized by the animal offering on the fire, his actions are pleasing to his Creator. An analogy can be made between a father and a son. The father needs nothing of substance from the child, but when the child brings a gift to the father, indicating his desire for closeness and love, the father’s pleasure is great.

3. The offering of a Korban achieves atonement for the offerer whether it be an individual or the community. The relationship which is impaired through the violation of the will of the Creator is restored through the bringing of the Korban . Every aspect of a Korban had to be precise without any alteration from the command of God. This precision and discipline to the word of God allowed for the restoration of the relationship.

4. Animals were created, as was all of the material creation, to serve man in his service of God. Permission was given to man to use animals for work and for food. The highest use of an animal is to promote closeness in relationship between man and his Creator. This is the purpose of the Korban .

Jewish Law is very concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals. Ritual slaughter, shechita, which is used both in preparation for food as well as in preparation for the Korban , provides instantaneous death and a minimal suffering of the animal.

The bringing of an animal as a Korban raises the animal’s “soul” - its life-force. If an animal has been used for a Korban , it has aided in the service of God, helped restore relationship between man and God, and allowed the human soul to be elevated. This is indeed the highest purpose an animal can achieve.

5. Through the bringing of a Korban , particularly a sin-offering, a person rectifies his soul. His thought, speech and action are repaired by the Korban . Proper intentions in pledging the Korban rectify his improper thoughts, his statement of repentance rectifies improper speech, and the placing of his hands on the animal before it is slaughtered rectifies his actions. The experience of the Korban - the animal’s slaughter, its blood spilled on the Altar, its internal organs burned in the fire, all serve as a vicarious experience of his own death. It is God’s mercy and desire for man’s improvement that allows an individual to atone through his Korban .

6. From the earliest times, the offering of a Korban was known to be a means of closeness to God. Adam HaRishon, Kane and Abel, Noah, all brought offerings to God.. There is a strong desire in man to offer something of himself to the Highest Power. This desire became misused by idol worshipping societies who sought to appease their nature gods with animals. To show the world the proper use of animal offerings, the Torah instructed the Jewish People the precise procedure and components of the proper Korban .

7. Though the practice of the Temple Service seems remote to the modern mind, in time it will be reestablished once again in its place. The Prophet Ezekiel describes the floorplan for the future Temple. Clearly, the promises of God will not go unfulfilled and the Torah which commands the service will not be abrogated and the millennia of prayers of our people will not go unanswered.

As we say in the Musaf prayer of Rosh Chodesh: “A new Altar in Zion will be established and Offerings will be brought upon it. In the Service of the Holy Temple, we shall all rejoice, and the songs (Psalms) of David, Your servant, will be heard in Your city, as they are recited before Your Altar.

“May You bring us to Zion, Your city in joy, to Jerusalem, Your Holy Temple, with everlasting gladness. There we will perform before You our obligatory Offerings, the Korban Tamid in its proper order, and the Additional Offerings, according to their laws...”

B. Components and Procedure of the Avodah

1. The materials and substances used in the Avodah of the Korban come from the totality of creation. Represented are the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms.

a. Animals. Only kosher animals were used for the Korban . Only domesticated non-carnivorous animals were used. These are sheep, goats and cattle, male and female. Of the birds, only doves and young pigeons were used for a Korban .

b. Vegetation. Refined wheat and barley flour were used for the Mincha offering which consisted of flour mixed with olive oil. Grape wine was used for libation pouring on the Altar. The incense offered daily on the Inner Altar was composed of eleven spices of plant origin. Wood, clean of worms and mold was the fuel of the fireplace and could also be brought as an Offering.

c. Mineral. Every Korban was required to be salted. The origin of the salt was from the Dead Sea. One week of the year, on Succot, a libation of water was poured on the outer Altar.

2. The participants of the Korban included the owner, who was offering the Korban , and the Kohanim, who processed the Korban .

The Korban could be offered by an individual or by the community as a whole. An individual’s Korban was either a voluntary one or one that was obligatory. All community offerings were obligatory.

3. There are three major classes of an animal Korban under which the eight specific types can be broadly categorized.

a. The Completely Burnt Offering - Olah. A communal Olah, known as the Tamid Offering, was brought twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Varying numbers of Olah offerings are components of the Musaf offerings of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals. An Olah is also obligatory upon individuals in certain specific situations. These include a woman after childbirth, a metzora, a nazir, a convert, and a person who visits the Temple on the three festivals. An Olah may also be brought voluntarily by an individual as an elevation offering. Also, when there was no other Korban being processed, the Kohanim offered communal Olahs.

b. The Sin and Guilt Offering- the Chatot the Asham. For specific sins denoted in the Torah, an individual, and in some cases a community, was required to bring a Korban . The specifics of the Avodah of the two types of Korban in this category are the same, but they differed in the causes for which they were offered. In general, the Chatat was brought for an unintentional commission of a sin which, had it been done intentionally and with proper warning, would have been punishable by death. The Asham, which was always an individual’s offering, is required in six specific situations. A portion of these offerings was burnt on the Altar, the remainder was eaten by the Kohanim in the Inner Courtyard area.

c. The Peace Offering - Shelamim. The most common form of shelamim was the individual’s Shelamim Offering. The only communal Shelamim was the two sheep brought with the two loaves of fine flour on the festival of Shavuot. In contrast to the other categories of offerings, the meat of the personal Shelamim offerings belongs to the owners of the offering, though the Kohanim were given portions of each Shelamim. Shelamim were mostly brought voluntarily, though in certain circumstances, including visiting the Temple on the three Festivals, Korban Shelamim were required.

Other types of Korban similar to the Shelamim, yet each with its specific differences, include the Korban Pesach, Ma’aser Behema, the Bechor and the Todah - Thanksgiving Offering.

4. the Meal Offering - Korban Mincha. A Mincha is an Offering composed of flour mixed with olive oil. These Offerings were brought together with the Korban Olah and Korban Shelamim, along with a wine libation. A person could also offer a Korban Mincha on its own as a free-will offering. Special Mincha Offerings were also brought for particular needs such as the daily Mincha of the Kohen Gadol, the Inauguration Mincha on a Kohen’s first day of service, the Sinner’s Mincha for one who was too poor to afford an animal offering, and the Mincha of a Sotah, a suspected wife.

The Mincha had various means of preparation. Besides the mixed raw flour and oil Mincha, there were baked Minchas and frankincense. A Kohen removed a fistful of the Mincha called the Kamitza which was then burned on the Outer Altar. The Mincha was then eaten by the Kohanim within the Inner Courtyard area.

5. The Procedure of the Korban . Though differing in details between the various categories, a Korban required these basic processes:

a. Bringing Close - Hakrava. The owner of the Korban selected the animal which he either brought with him or purchased nearby the Temple Mount. He led it to the area of Offering where it was thoroughly checked for no disqualifying blemishes. The owner then proclaimed it to be the particular type of Korban it was to be and thereby sanctified it.

b. Placing of Hands - Semichah. Only for an individual’s Korban was the preliminary rite of semichah required. The owner of the offering placed his hands on the animal’s head and, while pressing down with all his strength, recited his confessional, in the case of an Olah, Chatat or Asham, or words of praise of God, in the case of the Shelamim.

Semichah is not considered an Avodah, if it were omitted the Korban was not invalidated.

c. Ritual Slaughter - Shechitah. The Korban was slaughtered according to the same laws of kashrut as apply to all kosher meat. This took place at specifically delineated locations within the Inner Temple Courtyard. The act of Shechitah could be performed by the owner or any other capable individual. After Shechitah, all the procedures required the services of a Kohen for the Korban be valid.

d. Receiving the Blood of the Korban - Kabalah. The Kohen received the blood as it spurted from the animal’s neck in a vessel sanctified for this purpose.

e. Carrying - Halacha. The Kohen carried the vessel containing the blood to the required part of the Mizbayach - Altar.

f. Application of the Blood - Zarikah. The Kohen applied the blood to the appropriate part of the Altar. For the Chatat and the Asham, the blood was applied to the upper section of the Altar; the blood of the Olah and the Shelamim was applied to the lower section. It was the application of the blood which was the essential part of the Korban . It served to validate the Korban as well as to atone and to discharge the owner’s obligation. Once the Zarikah had been performed, the offering was considered to be valid, even if the remaining stages of the Avodah were not performed.

g. Burning of the Parts in the Fire of the Mizbayach - Haktara. The sacrificial parts of all the animal offerings, except for the Olah which was skinned, cut and completely burnt, consisted of portions of the fat and certain internal organs. These were placed in a sanctified vessel and brought to the top of the Altar, salted and thrown into a fire by a Kohen.

h. Eating the Meat of the Korban - Achilah. Only after the essential procedure was completed could the sanctified meat of the Korban be eaten. The meat of the Chatat and the Asham was eaten by the Kohanim who served the day it was offered. It had to be eaten, prepared in any manner they desired, within the Inner Courtyard and its adjoining chambers. From the Shelamim, The Kohanim received the breast and the right hind thigh. The remaining meat of the Shelamim was taken by its owner. The owner and members of his household were allowed to eat the Shelamim in a state of ritual purity within the walls of Jerusalem for up to two days from the time it was offered, in contrast to most offerings which may be eaten only for a day and its following night.

 The Order of the Service in the Mikdash.

The nature of the order of the Avodah, the Temple service, was commanded in the Torah and was in actual practice for nearly 1,500 years. The Talmud devotes many tractates to the intricacies of the Avodah. The order of the day’s service is described step-by-step in the Mishna Tamid.

The service in the mikdash was very orderly and precise. An appointed administrator, the Memune, oversaw the smooth flow of the service.

The nightwatch. 24 places in the Temple Complex required the presence of an honour guard. Young Kohanim served watch in three upper-story locations in the Azora, the Inner Courtyard. Levi'im stood watch in 21 locations throughout the Temple Mount.

Wake-up. Kohanim of the Beit Av serving the following day slept in the central area of the Moked that adjoined the Inner Courtyard. Very early in the morning the Kohanim would wake, immerse in the mikveh and dress in their uniforms. Before daybreak, the Memuna knocked on the door of the Moked and the Kohanim opened for him and three trumpet blasts were sounded.

Checking the Courtyard. The Kohanim divided into two groups. Each group took torches in hand and entered the Inner Courtyard. One group walked around the periphery towards the east and the other towards the west. They checked that all was in order and that the vessels necessary for the day’s service were in place. The two groups rejoined near the eastern entrance to the Inner Courtyard. If all was in order they greeted each other with “Shalom, everything is shalom - peaceful.”

The First Draw. Each task in the Temple service was greatly desired. As there were more Kohanim than specific tasks, a policy of lotteries or draws were instituted. The Kohanim assembled and formed a large circle. A number was chosen larger than the number of Kohanim present. The Kohanim would show one or two fingers and starting from a particular Kohen, the Meuma would count the fingers. The Kohen upon whom the chosen number fell out would be honoured with the first service. The Kohanim after him would receive the next tasks. The first draw was for the first service of the day, that of removing a portion of the ash from the Mizbayach, the Outer Altar.

Removal of the Ash from the Altar. The Kohen selected to remove the ash would first wash his hands and feet from the copper washbasin located in the Inner Courtyard. He would then take a silver shovel and ascend the ramp to the roof of the Mizbayach.

There he stirred the coals on the fireplace to locate some fully burnt ash and collect it in the shovel. He then descended the ramp and placed the ash in its particular place on the floor by the east side of the ramp. Other Kohanim with fire rakes and other tools then ascended the ramp to remove the remaining ash. They placed it in a large vessel and removed it from the Temple area.

Firewood for the Altar. The Kohen selected to remove the ash also received the honour of placing wood on the fireplace of the Altar. He brought up two blocks of quality firewood which he placed on the large fireplace. Enough wood to maintain a large fire necessary for the consumption of the sacrificial parts was first placed on the large fireplace. The secondary fireplace used for obtaining the coals of the Incense Offering was also supplied with firewood at this time. A fire was constantly burning on the Mizbayach night and day. Firewood was provided though Divine fire consumed the Offerings.

The Second Draw. The Memuna announced the second selection for the thirteen tasks involved in the daily Tamid service. Those fortunate enough to receive a particular task performed those same tasks at the afternoon Tamid service as well. These tasks included the slaughter, receiving of the blood and the burning of the various parts of the Tamid Offering. Also included in this lottery were the cleaning and the lighting of the Menorah, preparation of the Incense Altar, and the bringing of the Mincha and Wine Offerings which accompanied the Korban Tamid.

Preparation for the Korban Tamid. The Tamid was the twice-daily offering of a male lamb as commanded in the Torah. It was the first offering and the last offering of each day. The Tamid was a Korban Olah, a completely Burnt Offering.

Those Kohanim selected for the Tamid service were told by the Memuna to bring the lamb from the chamber where it was kept. The vessels needed for the day’s Avodah were set in place. The animal was given water to drink from a golden vessel and was given final inspection for blemishes. The lamb was then lead to the north side of the Altar where the slaughtering was to take place.

Cleaning and Preparation of the Golden Incense Altar and the Menorah. The Kohanim privileged to do the service of the Inner Altar and the Menorah entered the Heichel, the Temple building, with the particular implements which they needed. After the ashes of the Inner Altar were collected, the receptacle was left and the Kohen bowed and went out. The Kohen privileged to prepare the Menorah entered and cleaned out five lamps of ashes and unconsumed oil and then removed and replaced their wicks. He climbed the three steps at the side of the Menorah to be able to reach the lamps. When he finished, he placed the vessels on the second step, bowed and exited the Heichel. After the Ketoret Offering, he entered again and prepared the remaining two lamps.

The Offering of the Korban Tamid. Only after the opening of the doors of the Heichel was the lamb slaughtered. The animal was held down by Kohanim with its body facing south and its head towards the west. A blessing was made by the Kohen as he performed each aspect of the service. The animal’s blood was received in a golden vessel, called a Mizrak, which had a handle and a pointed bottom so that it could not be placed down, thus preventing coagulation of the blood.

The blood was carried immediately to the northeast corner of the Mizbayach where the blood was applied in such a manner that it reached both the northern and eastern sides of the Altar.

The Kohen then circled the Mizbayach towards the west and repeated the procedure on the southwest corner. the blood remaining in the vessel was poured on the foundation of the Altar at the southwest corner.

The animal was then skinned and cut into defined pieces. The Kohanim who were selected by the draw brought the individual parts half-way up the ramp of the Mizbayach. The pieces were thoroughly salted and left temporarily on the ramp.

Prayer. The Kohanim then assembled in the Chamber of Hewn Stone where all the drawings for Service were held. The Memuna announced “Bless...” Though it was still before dawn, the Kohanim recited the entire Kriyat Shma, read the Ten Commandments, and recited three blessings including a request that the Avodah just performed be acceptable. At that time a third drawing was held. Only those Kohanim who had never in their lives had the privilege of offering the Incense could take part. A drawing was also held amoung all the remaining Kohanim for the privilege of placing the pieces of the Tamid Offering in the Altar fire.

The Incense Offering - The Ketoret. The Kohanim who had cleaned and prepared the Inner Altar and the Menorah entered the Heichel to remove the vessels which they had left inside and then bowed and exited the Heichel. The Kohen privileged with the Incense Offering took the golden vessel with the Ketoret. Another Kohen took a silver shovel and removed hot coals from the Outer Altar which were then placed in a golden vessel and taken into the Heichel where they were spread on the top of the Golden Incense Altar. This Kohen then bowed and exited and stood on the steps outside the Heichel.

The Kohen privileged to do the Ketoret Offering entered the Heichel with the Incense. The Ketoret was a fine powder made from eleven types of spices, some mentioned in the Torah, mixed to a precise formula. The Memuna accompanied the Kohen to the Inner Altar. He announced “Hatir, burn the Incense” and he then excited as no one other than the Kohen offering the Ketoret was allowed to be in the Heichel at the time of its offering.

The Kohen carefully placed the Incense upon the coals of the Golden Altar. A cloud of smoke rose to the ceiling and filled the Kodesh area. The Kohen then bowed and exited.

The Conclusion of the morning Tamid service. At this time a loud noise was made in the Courtyard as a signal for all the Kohanim to come to the Heichel where they would enter and bow. The Levi’im assembled on the platform in the Inner Courtyard and prepared for their musical service.

Those Kohanim selected to bring the pieces of the Tamid Offering up to the Altar for burning now did so.

The Kohanim gathered on the twelve steps at the entrance to the Heichel to give the Blessing of the Kohanim. In the Mikdash, Kohanim raised their arms straight up above their heads while reciting the Blessing. The Blessing in the Mikdash was done with the Explicit Name of God, though it was uttered in a concealed manner. The Blessing was said as one unit and the people present answered, “Blessed is Hashem, God of Israel, in this world and all worlds forever,” rather than Amen.

The Communal Mincha Offering which consisted of pure flour and olive oil was then brought to the Altar fire. The Kohen Gadol, who if he chose to, could perform any or all of the daily services, then brought his personal daily Mincha Offering. The Kohen selected for the wine libation then mounted the Altar and poured wine into the receptacle at the southwest corner of the Outer Altar.

At the completion of the wine libation, a signal flag was raised. Two Kohanim, who were standing on a nearby table, then blew on silver trumpets, “Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah”. At this signal, the Levi’im began their song accompanied by harps, flutes, cymbals and other musical instruments. Each day required a particular Psalm to be sung by the Levi’im. Each Psalm was divided into sections and between these sections, the trumpets were sounded and the people present would bow and prostrate themselves. This completed the Tamid service of the morning.

The Remainder of the Day’s Avodah. The nature of the rest of the day’s service depended on whether it was a weekday or a Shabbat or a Holiday. On Shabbat and Holidays, additional public offerings, the Musaf, were brought as commanded in the Torah. These were offered after the normal Tamid Service. On weekdays individuals’ offerings were accepted.

These included Chatot - Sin Offerings, which were required for atonement; Olah - Burnt Offerings, as a freewill offering; and Shelamim - Peace Offerings, which could be eaten by their owners. If there were no other offerings, the Kohanim would bring Olah Offerings to keep the Altar active.

In the afternoon, toward sunset, after all the private offering were completed, the afternoon Tamid Offering was brought. The procedure was identical to the morning Tamid with the exception of the ash removal, the preparation of the fireplaces and draws. Except for the Incense Offering, those who received a particular task in the morning service repeated that same task in the afternoon service. The Menorah was lit as part of the afternoon Tamid service.

No Offering could be brought after the afternoon Tamid with the exception of the Korban Pesach. No Korban could be brought after sundown though the burning of the Offerings continued into the night.

Temple Studies