A person who offers a sacrifice outside [the Temple Courtyard] is not liable unless he brings [the sacrificial animal] to the top of the altar that he constructed outside [the Temple]. If, however, he offered it on a stone or a rock, he is exempt, for the term sacrifice applies only when [an animal is offered] on an altar, even if it is outside [the Temple], as [indicated by Genesis 8:2]: "And Noah built an altar." He is not liable unless he offers the sacrifice to God, as [Leviticus 17:9]: "...to offer it to God," i.e., unless his intent is for God.1
One is liable only for offering an entity that is fit for the fire2 and for the altar,3 for example, a burnt offering, as [ibid.:8] states: "who will offer a burnt-offering or a sacrifice." [One may infer:] Just as a burnt-offering is fit to be offered on the fires, so too, everything that is fit to be offered on the fire is what one is liable for offering outside [the Temple Courtyard].
On this basis, [our Sages] said that individuals [who perform the following services] outside [the Temple Courtyard] are liable: One who throws the blood, offers on the pyre the limbs of a burnt-offering, the parts of an animal offered on the altar,4a handful [of meal], or frankincense,5 or incense,6 the meal-offering of a priest,7or the meal-offering within the accompanying offerings8 or one who pours a libation of three lugim9 of wine or of water.10 [This is derived from ibid.:9:] "He did not bring it [to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting] to offer it." [Implied is that] any [sacrifice] that would be accepted within [the Temple Courtyard] causes one to be liable for [offering] it outside.
If, however, one throws the remainder of the blood [of a sacrificial animal] - even the remainder of the blood [from a sin-offering whose blood was offered] inside [the Sanctuary],11 he is exempt. [The rationale is that] throwing the blood on the altar is the remaining aspect of the mitzvah and is not an absolute necessity.12
Similarly, one who pours a libation of less than three lugim of wine or water outside [the Temple Courtyard] is exempt, whether during Sukkot13 or throughout the year. Since the required measure is lacking,14 they are not fit to be accepted within [the Temple]. Similarly, one who offers from the meat of a sin-offering, that of a guilt-offering, or that of a peace-offering whether of an individual or of the community or from the remainder of the meal-offerings, the two breads [offered on Shavuot], or the showbread outside [the Temple Courtyard] is exempt. [The rationale is that] all of these are fit to be eaten, not for the fires [of the altar].
One who offers an entire animal outside [the Temple Courtyard] is liable, because of the portions offered on the altar. Even though they have not been separated, the meat of the sacrifice is not considered as an intervening substance15 and it is as if he offered those portions on the pyre alone. In contrast, if one offers a meal-offering from which a handful [of meal] has not been separated, he is exempt. [Even though he would have been liable for the handful], the handful is not a distinct and discrete entity. If he separated [the handful] and then it was mixed back into it and he then offered the entire [measure] outside the Temple Courtyard, he is liable.
One who pours oil [over a meal-offering], mixes the meal and oil, breaks up the wafers, salts them, waives them, approaches an altar with them, arranges a table for showbread, cleans the lamps of a candelabra, separates a handful [of meal], or receives the blood [of a sacrificial animal] outside [the Temple Courtyard] is exempt. [The rationale is that] all of these are not activities that complete the offering [of the sacrifice] and [the prooftext] says: "Who will offer a burnt-offering or a sacrifice." [One may infer:] Just as offering [these sacrifices] is the final stage of the service [involved with them], so too, one is liable only for activities that are the final stage of sacrificial service.
When one burns a red heifer outside the place where it is required to be burnt16 or if one offers, outside [the Temple Courtyard], the goat that is sent [to Azazel]17 after the confession was recited over it,18 he is exempt. [The rationale is that the prooftext] says: "He did not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting." [One may infer:] One is not liable for any sacrifice which is not fit to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.19
In contrast, one is liable for offering [outside the Temple Courtyard] sacrificial animals that were disqualified if they were disqualified in the Temple. What is implied? [Sacrificial meat or blood] that remained overnight [without being offered], they were taken out [of the Temple Courtyard], they became impure, or they were disqualified because of the intent of the person sacrificing them all are required to be burnt20 as will be explained in Hilchot Pesulei HaMukkdashim.21 If a person transgressed and offered [such entities] as sacrifices outside [the Temple Courtyard], he is liable. [This is derived from the prooftext]: "...to offer it to God." One is liable for any [entity] that is are fit to be offered to God and these are fit to be offered to God.22
Whenever there is a substance for which one is liable for offering it outside [the Temple Courtyard], he is liable for offering an olive-sized portion of it outside.23[This applies] whether he offered [a portion of the entity] inside [the Temple Courtyard] first, left over an olive-sized portion and then offered it outside or left the entire entity inside and took an olive-sized portion and offered it outside. If, however, [the size of] the sacrificial entity was decreased in the slightest way24 inside the Temple Courtyard and then the remainder was offered outside, he is exempt.
What is implied? If a portion of the handful [of meal offered on the altar], the frankincense, the portions of a sacrifice offered on the altar, a burnt-offering, a meal offering that is burnt,25 and the wine libations was decreased within [the Temple Courtyard] and the remainder was offered outside [the Temple Courtyard], he is exempt. [This is derived from the prooftext which states:] "to offer it." [Implied is that] he is liable for a complete entity, but he is not liable if it is lacking.26 If one remove [the sacrificial entity] from the Temple Courtyard while it was complete, its [size] was decreased outside [the Temple Courtyard] and then he offered it [there], there is an unresolved question [whether he is liable]. Therefore [a transgressor] is not given lashes.
If, [outside the Temple Courtyard,] one offered a limb that did not have an olive-sized portion of meat on it, but the bone itself caused it to reach the olive-sized measure, he is liable, because the meat is connected to the bone. If salt caused [the sacrificial entity] to reach the olive-sized measure, there is an unresolved question [whether he is liable].27 Therefore [a transgressor] is not given lashes. A burnt-offering and the portions of the innards of a burnt-offering28 that are offered on the altar can be combined to complete an olive-sized portion [to cause one to be liable].29
If one offered [a portion of a sacrifice outside the Temple Courtyard] and then offered another portion of it, he is liable for every individual limb.30 If he sprinkled its blood [outside the Temple Courtyard] and then offered its limbs, he is liable twice. For the Torah made a distinction between [offering blood and offering limbs as indicated by the two prooftexts] "Who will offer a burnt-offering" and "to offer it."31
If one offered a limb that was lacking [in substance], he is exempt,32 as [one can infer from the prooftext] "to offer it." [This indicates] that one is liable [only] for a complete [limb].
When two people slaughter [a sacrificial animal outside the Temple Courtyard], they are exempt.33 If two people hold a limb [from a sacrificial animal] and offer it outside the Temple Courtyard], they are liable. [The rationale is that the prooftext states] "Every man34 who will offer a burnt-offering." Implied is that even two people who offer [a sacrifice] are liable.
If a person makes several of the required sprinklings [of blood] outside [their appropriate place], he is liable.35 A person who receives the blood of a sin-offering36 in one cup and applies it to an altar outside [the Temple Courtyard] and then applies it to the altar inside [the Temple Courtyard],37 he is liable for the portion applied outside [the Temple Courtyard]. [The rationale is that] the entire amount was fit to be offered inside.38
If he applied it to [the altar] inside and then applied it outside, he is exempt, for [the blood he used] was merely remnants.39 If, however, he received the blood in two cups, he is liable whether he applied both of them outside [the Temple Courtyard], [the first] outside and the other inside, or [the first] inside and the other outside.40
When one offered a handful [of meal] or the frankincense from the meal offering41 outside [the Temple Courtyard] or offered one inside and the other outside, he is liable. Similarly, with regard to the two bowls of frankincense from the showbread,42 if one offered [the first] outside the [Temple Courtyard]43 or [the first] inside and the second outside, he is liable.
If a person slaughtered consecrated animals in the present era and offered them outside the Temple Courtyard, he is liable, because [the sacrifices] are fit to be offered inside. For it is permitted to offer sacrifices even though the Temple is not built, because [when the Temple was] consecrated originally, it was consecrated for the immediate time and for all future time.44
[A Jew] who slaughters sacrificial animals belonging to a gentile outside [the Temple Courtyard] is liable.45 Similarly, one who offers them outside [the Temple Courtyard is liable].
Gentiles are permitted to offer burnt offerings to God in all places,46 provided they sacrifice them on a raised structure that they build.47 It is forbidden to help them [offer these sacrifices] or act as agents for them, for we are forbidden to sacrifice outside [the Temple Courtyard]. It is permitted to instruct them and teach them how to sacrifice to the Almighty, blessed be He.
Blessed be the Merciful One who offers assistance.
This applies with regard to all sacrifices, even sacrifices of a lesser order of sanctity. Since these parts are offered on the altar in the Temple, one is liable for offering them outside the Temple (Radbaz).
The Radbaz and Kessef Mishneh maintain that one is liable for pouring water on an altar only during the holiday of Sukkos, for only then is water offered on the altar in the Temple. The Radbaz does clarify that this is not necessarily apparent from the Rambam's wording. Indeed, on the contrary, from the following halachah, one could infer the opposite.
I.e., the fundamental aspect of pouring the blood is the sprinkling of the blood on the altar - or in the Temple Building - each sacrifice according to its laws. Pouring out the remainder of the blood on the base of the altar is not of fundamental importance and the sacrifices are acceptable even if it is not performed. Hence, it is not considered as an act of significance for which one is liable.
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Zevachim 13:5), the Rambam explains that the rationale is that we follow the principles that two entities that are the same substance are never considered as intervening substances.
Radbaz notes that Zevachim 109a mentions sacrifices disqualified for other reasons. He explains that the Rambam does not mention them here, because here he is speaking in general terms. They are detailed in Hilchot Pesulei HaMukdashim where he discusses the particulars pertaining to these laws.
As explained in Hilchot Pesulei HaMukdashim, ch. 3, if sacrificial meat or blood was brought to the top of the altar after being disqualified for these reasons, it should be offered on the altar's pyre.
We have translated the text according to its straightforward meaning. Nevertheless, the Radbaz states that this ruling applies, not only to a burnt-offering and its own innards, but even one that is combined with the innards of another sacrifice. Thus he maintains that one is liable for combining the meat of a burnt-offering, not only with the innards of a burnt-offering, but also with the innards of a peace-offering.
The fact that the Torah uses two prooftexts implies that two different prohibitions are involved. The prooftext "to offer it" refers to both the prohibitions against slaughter and against sprinkling the blood and the prooftext "who will offer it" refers to the prohibition against offering the limbs on the altar (Radbaz and Kessef Mishneh, thus resolving the questions raised by the Ra'avad).
The Ra'avad objects to this ruling, noting that the previous halachah stated that a person is liable if the combination of a portion of a limb and the portions of the innards offered on the altar equal an olive-sized portion. This indicates that a limb need not be whole. The Kessef Mishneh and others, however, justify the Rambam's ruling.
He is liable even if he does not apply the blood to the altar inside. The Rambam mentions the application of the blood inside only to emphasize that offering the blood properly does not remove the liability that was already established.
I.e., the offering was completed through the application of the blood to the altar inside. Although the remainder of the blood should also have been dashed on the altar, that is not an absolute requirement. Hence one is not liable for offering such blood outside the Temple Courtyard.
The Ra'avad takes issue with the Rambam regarding the latter point, explaining that Zevachim 112a states that one is exempt in the latter instance. Since the blood was first offered inside, the sacrifice is acceptable and the fact that later blood was also offered outside is not of consequence. The Radbaz explains that, according to the Rambam, that rationale applies when the blood was offered inside according to all of its specifications. In this instance, however, the Rambam is speaking about a situation where the applications of the blood to the Temple altar were not completed. Hence, the blood in the second cup is still significant.
See Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 6:15-16 for an explanation of these concepts. See also ibid. 2:4 which states that as long as the altar is built in its appropriate place sacrifices may be offered even though the Temple is destroyed. Based on Zevachim 59a, the Radbaz states that even if the altar is not built, sacrifices can be offered on its site. Indeed, he writes that it is only because the gentiles do not allow us that we do not offer communal sacrifices in the present age. (Communal sacrifices may be offered while ritually impure.)
Based on this rationale, after the conquest of Jerusalem in 5727 (1967), the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised his chassidim to leave the holy city on the day before Pesach. The rationale is that the Paschal sacrifice may also be brought while ritually impure. Now anyone who is close to Jerusalem on the day before Pesach and does not bring a Paschal sacrifice is liable for karet. Although many factors are involved and the Rebbe did not advise his followers to actually bring a sacrifice, he felt it necessary that precautions be taken so that they would not be held liable for not bringing the offering. This situation persisted for several years until the Rebbe felt that the Jewish control of the Temple Mount was weakened to the point that it would be impossible to bring an offering.
Zevachim 116b notes that the passage prohibiting the slaughter of sacrificial animals outside the Temple Courtyard begins: "Speak to the children of Israel," implying that the prohibition applies only to them.
It is a positive commandment to offer two lambs as burnt-offerings every day.1 They are called the continuous offering. One [should be brought] in the morning and one in the afternoon as [Numbers 28:3] states: "Two each day, a continuous offering."
When is the time at which they should be slaughtered? The morning one should be slaughtered before sunrise,2 when the entire eastern horizon becomes illuminated.3 Once there was a pressing situation for the community in [the era of] the Second Temple4 and they offered the daily morning sacrifice at four hours after daybreak.5
[The lamb for] the continuous offering of the afternoon should be slaughtered when the shadows have been extended6 and it is obvious to all that they have been extended.7 This is from six and a half hours of the day until the day's end. Every day, they would not slaughter it until eight and a half hours of the day and they would offer it at nine and a half hours.
Why would they delay [its slaughter] for two hours after the beginning of the time? Because of the sacrifices of individuals and those of the community.8 For it is forbidden to offer any sacrifice before the continuous offering of the morning and no sacrifice is offered after the continuous sacrifice of the afternoon9 with the exception of the Paschal sacrifice. [That leniency was granted, because] it is impossible for all of Israel to offer their Paschal sacrifices in two hours.
The Paschal sacrifice is slaughtered only after the continuous offering of the afternoon.10 Similarly, those individuals requiring atonement11 may offer their atonement offerings after the continuous offering of the afternoon on the fourteenth [of Nisan] so that they will be ritually pure and [and able] to partake of their Paschal offerings in the evening.12
When the day before Pesach falls during the week or on the Sabbath, the Afternoon Sacrifice would be slaughtered after seven and a half hours and offered after eight and a half hours so that [the people] would have time to slaughter their Paschal sacrifices.13 If the day before Pesach falls on Friday, [the Afternoon Sacrifice] would be slaughtered at six and a half hours, the beginning of the time allotted for it and offered at seven and a half hours, so that they would have ample time to roast [their sacrifices] before the commencement of the Sabath.14
Even though [no sacrificial animals] are slaughtered after the continuous offering of the afternoon,15 any entity that is fit to be offered on the altar's pyre is offered the entire day. And the limbs of the burnt-offerings and the eimorim16may be offered until midnight, as we explained in [Hilchot] Ma'aseh HaKorbanot.17
The limbs and the eimorim - whether from the continuous offerings or from other sacrifices - that were not consumed [by the fire] may be turned over18 throughout the entire night until the morning,19 as [Leviticus 6:2] states: "The entire night until the morning."
[The offering of] the limbs of the continuous offering on the altar's pyre [at night] supersedes [the prohibitions of] ritual impurity,20 but does not supersede the Sabbath [prohibitions]. Instead, all of the limbs of the continuous offerings offered on Friday are offered on the altar's pyre on Friday alone.21 For the initial [offering] of the continuous offering supersede the Sabbath [prohibitions],22 but its concluding aspects23do not.24 The fats of [the communal sacrifices offered on] the Sabbath are offered on a festival at night if the festival falls on Saturday night. [These fats] may not, however, be offered on the night of Yom Kippur [if it falls on Saturday night].25 [These concepts are derived from Numbers 28:10 which] states: "The burnt-offering of a Sabbath on its Sabbath." [This excludes the offering of] a burnt-offering of a Sabbath on another Sabbath.26 Nor may the burnt-offering of a weekday be offered on a festival.
When the fourteenth [of Nisan] falls on Sabbath, the fats of the Paschal sacrifice27 may be offered on the night of the festival,28 for they are considered as the fats of the Sabbath.29
There never should be less than six lambs that have been inspected30 in the Chamber of the Lambs.31 They should be prepared four days before their sacrifice.32 Even though they would be inspected beforehand, they would not slaughter the continuous offering until they inspect it again before its slaughter by the light of the torches.33 It was given water to drink from a golden cup34 so that it would be easier to skin.35
The continuous offering of the afternoon is offered in the same manner as the continuous offering of the morning. Everything follows the regimen for the offering of the burnt offering, as written in [Hilchot] Ma'aseh HaKorbanot.36 The lamb was not bound before its slaughter so as not to copy the practice of the heretics.37 Instead, they would hold its forefeet and its hindfeet by hand.38 It would be held in the following manner: Its head would be to the south and its face to the west.39
The continuous offering of the morning would be slaughtered in the northwest corner of the butchering area40 on the second ring41 and that of the afternoon would be slaughtered in the northeast corner on the second ring. [In this way,] they would be opposite the sun.42 The Received Tradition states that [these sacrificial animals] should be slaughtered opposite the sun.
If they erred and inadvertently - or even intentionally - failed to offer the continuous offering of the morning, that of the afternoon should be offered.
When does the above apply? After the altar has been dedicated. If, however, it is a new altar on which no sacrifices have been offered, the continuous offering of the afternoon should not be offered on it first. For the altar for burnt-offerings should be dedicated solely by [sacrificing] the continuous offering of the morning.43
Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 39) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 401) count this as one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot. The Ramban (at the conclusion to his Hosafos to the negative commandments) argues that they should be considered as two separate mitzvot.
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Ediot 6:1, based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 1:4), the Rambam explains that once during the Greek occupation of the Holy Land, the Temple was besieged. Each day, the priests would exchange two baskets of gold coins for two lambs. One day, however, the Greeks refused to make the exchange. The people were forlorn. Later that morning, they miraculously found two lambs in the Chamber of the Lambs and R. Yuda bar Bava ruled that the morning sacrifice could be offered if the fourth hour of the day had not passed.
The Radbaz derives two points from the Rambam's statements: a) only in a pressing situation may the offering of the sacrifice be delayed until after daybreak; b) even in a pressing situation, the sacrifice may not be offered after four hours of the day have passed.
The Radbaz asks: Why isn't its sacrifice delayed any longer? He responds that the Sages did not desire for there to be any time pressure at all regarding its offering. Also, they wanted - at least partially - to fulfill the charge (Pesachim 4a): "The eager hurry [to perform] mitzvot."
As stated in Hilchot Mechusrei Kapparah, ch. 1, this term refers to certain individuals - a zav, a zavah, a person afflicted with tzara'at, and a woman after childbirth - who are not permitted to partake of sacrifices until they offer certain sacrifices.
At all other times, the Paschal sacrifices could be roasted at night. Hence, as long as they were slaughtered before nightfall, there was no difficulty. The roasting of the Paschal sacrifices did not, however, supersede the prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath. Hence, the slaughter had to be performed earlier so that they could be roasted on time.
If there was no opportunity to offer the fats and the limbs on Friday, they should be brought up to the top of the altar on Friday night, but not offered on the pyre. On the top of the altar, they are not disqualified because of the passage of the night and they should be offered on Saturday night (Kessef Mishneh in the name of the Ritba).
According to the fixed calendar followed at present, Yom Kippur can never fall Saturday night. Moreover, even when the new moon was sanctified based on the testimony of witnesses, an effort was made not to have Yom Kippur fall directly after the Sabbath (Rosh HaShanah 20a). Nevertheless, it is possible for the two holy days to follow in succession. See Hilchot Eruvin 8:10.
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes that the source for this practice was the Paschal sacrifice brought by the Jews in Egypt. They were commanded to take the lambs four days before they were offered.
The commentaries note that the rationale the Rambam gives here is different from that which he initially gave in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Beitzah 5:6). Afterwards, he emended that text to include the rationale mentioned here (Rav Kappach's notes to that mishnah).
Tamid 31b states that the sacrifice would be bound like the binding of Isaac the son of Abraham. Although some commentaries explain that this means that one of the animals forefeet and one of its hindfeet would be bound, the Rambam does not accept that interpretation and maintains that none of the legs were bound. the Tosafot Yom Tov (Tamid 4:1) brings support for this interpretation, noting that our Sages state that the priest who would offer the limbs on the altar would hold them during the slaughter. Thus each of the limbs was held by a different priest.
There were rings implanted into the floor of the Temple Courtyard into which were inserted the legs of the sacrificial animals to hold them in place during the slaughter. See ibid.:14; the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Tamid 4:1). Others maintain that the animal's head was inserted into the rings.
The sun rises in the east. Hence if the sacrifice was slaughtered on the eastern corner in the morning, it is possible that the wall of the Temple Courtyard would block its rays. Conversely, since it sets in the west, the afternoon sacrifice was slaughtered in the east so that the sun's rays would not be blocked.
Note the contrast to the Golden Altar, as stated in Chapter 3, Halachah 1.
Temidin uMusafim - Chapter 2
It is a positive commandment for there to be fire continuously burning on the altar,1 as [Leviticus 6:6] states: "A continuous fire shall burn on the altar."2Although a fire descended from heaven,3 it is a mitzvah to bring from ordinary fire, as [ibid. 1:7] states: "And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall place fire on the altar."
In the morning, the wood was arranged.4 They would prepare a large array of fire at the top of the altar, as [ibid. 6:5] states: "And the priest shall burn on it wood each morning."5 Similarly, it is a mitzvah to bring two logs of wood6 [to the altar] together with the continuous offering of the morning, besides the wood of the arrangement. [This is also intimated by the same verse.]
Similarly, two logs of wood were added together with the continuous offering of the afternoon, as [implied by ibid. 1:7]: "And they shall arrange wood on the fire." According to the Oral Tradition,7 it was taught that the verse is speaking about the continuous offering of the afternoon.
The two logs brought in the afternoon are brought up [to the altar] by two priests, each one holding one log in his hand.8 This is derived from the fact that the term "and they shall arrange" used by the above prooftext is plural. Those of the morning, by contrast, are brought by one priest.9
Three arrays of fire would be prepared on the top of the altar each day:10The first was the large arrangement upon which were offered the continuous offering and the other sacrifices. The second was a small [arrangement] to its side from which fire was taken in a fire-pan to offer the incense offering each day.11 The third was not associated with any other purpose except to fulfill the mitzvah of burning fire, as [ibid. 6:6] states: "A continuous fire shall burn."12
According to the Oral Tradition,13 it was derived that [ibid.:2] which states: "On the pyre, on the altar" - refers to the large arrangement. "The fire of the altar shall burn upon it" [ibid.] - refers to the second arrangement for the incense offering. And "The fire of the altar shall burn upon it" [ibid.:5] - refers to the third arrangement for the maintenance of the fire. The limbs and the fats that were not consumed during the evening are placed on the side of the large arrangement.14
One who extinguished the fire of the altar is liable for lashes,15 as [ibid.:6] states:16 "It shall not be extinguished." Even one coal - even if it was removed from the altar - if one extinguishes it, he is liable for lashes.17 If, however, one extinguishes the fire of a fire-pan18 or the fire designated to kindle the Menorah19 that was kindled on the altar, even if he extinguishes it on the top of the altar, he is exempt. [The rationale is that] this fire has been allocated for another mitzvah and it is no longer called "the fire of the altar."
When one arrays the wood of the large arrangement, he should arrange it on the eastern portion of the altar. It should be made [in a manner that makes it apparent]20 that he began to arrange it from the east. There should be open space between the logs21 and the ends of the inner logs should touch the ashes that are in the center of the altar. It is called the ash-heap.22
After the large arrangement is arrayed, logs of high-quality fig wood23are selected and a second arrangement is made for [the fire for] the incense offering near the southwest corner,24 four cubits to the north of the corner.25 It would contain five se'ah26 of coals. On the Sabbath, it would contain about eight se'ah of coals, because on every Sabbath, the two bowls of frankincense from the showbread27 would be offered on it.
The third arrangement for the sake of the maintenance of the fire can be made on any place on the altar.28
The fire should be kindled on [the altar]. One should not kindle the fire on the ground and bring it up to the altar. Instead, it should be kindled on the altar itself, as [implied by] the verse: "The fire of the altar shall burn." This29 teaches that the kindling should be on the altar itself.
It is a positive commandment to remove the ashes from the altar each day,30 as [Leviticus 6:3] states: "And he shall remove the ashes." This is one of the services performed by the priests.31
The priestly garments32 [worn] when removing the ashes33 should be less valuable than those [worn] when performing the other aspects of Temple service, as [ibid.] continues: "He shall remove his garments and put on other garments and remove the ashes." The term "other" does not imply ordinary34 garments, but rather [priestly garments] that are less valuable than the first. [The rationale is that]35it is not proper conduct to serve a cup [of wine] to one's master in the same clothes as one cooked food for him.36
When should the ashes be removed from the altar each day? At dawn.37On the festivals, it should be carried out from the beginning of the middle third of the night.38 And on Yom Kippur, from midnight.39
How are [the ashes] removed? [The priest] who merited40 to remove the ashes would immerse [in the mikveh]41 and put on the clothes for the removal of the ashes.42 He would sanctify his hands and feet [from the basin].43 They would tell him:44 "Be careful lest you touch a sacred utensil before sanctify your hands and feet."
Afterwards, he would take a fire-pan - it was silver and would be placed in the corner between the ramp and the altar - to the west of the ramp.45 He would take the fire-pan and ascend to the top of the altar and scattered the coals this way and that. [With the fire-pan,] he would lift up some of the coals46 which were consumed by the heart of the fire and descend to the ground. He would turn his face to the north47 and walk on the ground at the east of the altar48 approximately ten cubits to the north.49He would gather the coals that he lifted up [from the altar, placing them] on the floor [of the Temple Courtyard] three handbreadths away from the ramp,50 in the place where they would place the innards of a fowl [brought as an offering],51 the ashes of the inner altar and the Menorah52
Picking up these coals with the fire-pan and bringing them to the floor near the altar is a commandment that must be performed each day.
After the person who [initially] removed ashes from the altar descended, his priestly brethren53 would run and sanctify their hands and feet quickly.54 They would take rakes and spits55 and ascend to the top of the altar. They would place all of the limbs of the burnt-offerings and the eimorim of the sacrifices that were not consumed [by the pyre] throughout the night on the side of the altar.56 If the sides of the altar could not contain [all the limbs], they would be arranged on the ramp57opposite [the altar's] surrounding ledge.58
Afterwards, they would use the rakes to rake the ashes from all the corners of the altar and make a pile on the ash-heap.59 This pile [of ashes] would be cleared away with a pasachiter.60 This is a large container that contains a letech.61It is taken down [to the floor of the Temple Courtyard]. On the festivals, they would not bring it down, but instead would leave a high pile in the center of the altar, because this beautifies the altar.
Any one of the priests who desired would collect the ashes that were brought down [from the altar] and take them outside the city to the ash depository.62 Taking the ashes outside [the Temple Mount] did not require a lottery. Instead, whoever desired [was allowed to do so]. None of the priests were ever lethargic about removing the ashes.63
Although removing [the ashes] outside [the Temple Mount] is not considered as service,64 it should not be performed by priests with disqualifying physical blemishes.
When it is removed outside the city, it is deposited in a place where the wind will not blow it powerfully and nor [rivers] would not flow into it.65 It should not be scattered there, as [Leviticus 6:3] states: "And you shall deposit it."66 [Implied is] that it should be placed down gently. It is forbidden to benefit from it.67
Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 29) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 132) count this as one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.
The Radbaz explains that this mitzvah has four components: a) to have a fire continuously burning on the altar; b) to bring ordinary fire with each sacrifice; c) to arrange the array of wood on the altar; and d) to offer two logs with the continuous offering. Although this different actions are each associated with a separate verse, since they all share one objective: to have fire burn on the altar, they are considered as one mitzvah.
As Leviticus 9:24 states: "And fire emerged from before God and it... consumed the burnt-offering." This fire remained on the altar throughout the entire existence of the Sanctuary. Yoma 21b relates that in the First and Second Temples, fire also descended from heaven and burned on the altar.
Yoma 26b derives this concept from a different prooftext. It is questionable why the Rambam deviates from that source, since by doing so, he is forced to derive two different concepts from the same verse.
We have cited this reference because it is the one the Rambam refers to in Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit. Others cite Leviticus 6:5. And in his commentary on the Torah, Rashi states that there are two negative commandments involved.
See Halachah 13. From the Rambam's statements here and in his Commentary to the Mishnah (op. cit.:2), it would appear that the top surface of the altar was flat and the name tapuach (literally, "bulging") was given because of the ash-pile made there. The Ra'avad differs and maintains that there was a bulge in the center of the surface of the altar itself. See also the Meiri in his commentary to Tamid who maintains that the term refers to a concave curve on the altar's surface. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh support the Rambam's interpretation.
For in this way, he will be fulfilling the directive of Leviticus 16:12: "And he shall take... flaming coals from the altar, before God." Yoma 45b explains that this refers to the outer altar which has a portion that is "before God," opposite the Holy of Holies. The second arrangement of fire was arrayed exactly in this position. Although the above verse speaks about the incense offering of Yom Kippur, our Sages also applied the concept to the incense offering brought each day.
I.e., its description as "the fire of the altar. The Radbaz notes that Yoma 45b derives this concept from a different verse and explains that this is a characteristic practice of the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah: to interpret the Torah's verses according to their simple meaning even though different interpretations are offered in prior Rabbinic sources.
In contrast to other commentaries, according to the Rambam, these clothes are worn when removing the ashes from the altar and not when taking them out of the Temple Courtyard, for, as he states in Halachah 15, taking them out of the Temple Courtyard is not considered as priestly service.
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam explains that the reason they prepared clothes of lesser value is not because they did not wish to undertake the expense, because in the Temple, no such considerations were made. As our Sages state (Tamid 3:4), "Poverty is inappropriate in a place of wealth."
On Yom Kippur, all of the elements of the Temple service were performed by the High Priest. Lest he become tired, the different elements of the Temple service were spaced out as far as possible. Hence, this activity was performed earlier in the night.
From Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 5:4 and Tamid 26a, it appears that the intent is that a person who enters the lottery for the right to remove the ashes would immerse beforehand. See Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 5:9.
Chapter 4, Halachah 1, states that the priests would come to the lottery wearing their priestly garments. Thus the one who was chosen would remove his ordinary priestly garments and put on the garments for the removal of the ashes.
As the Rambam writes in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Tamid 1:4), a priest should not approach the altar for any aspect of the Temple service, as implied by Exodus 30:20. See Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 5:1.
As opposed to the other services in the Temple, there was no lottery made for this service. In his gloss, the Radbaz first explains that since many priests were required, there was no need to make a selection. Anyone who desired could participate. The Radbaz appreciates the apparent question that arises from the comparison to the following halachah and hence offers another explanation: that the priest who was selected to remove the ashes initially was responsible for gathering several of his priestly brethren to help complete the task.
The mishnah (Tamid 2:1) states that this pile would at times reach 300 kor (every kor being 2 letechim, see below). Although the Rambam states that this is an exaggeration, we can be certain that the size of the ash-heap was significant.
Leviticus 6:4 speaks of taking the ashes "outside the camp." For future generations, that was interpreted as meaning "outside of Jerusalem." In the same place the bull brought by the High Priest as a sin-offering would be burnt as required by Leviticus 4:12. See Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 7:4.
The Ra'avad questions the Rambam's statements, noting that the prooftext he cites refers to the removal of the ashes from the altar and not depositing them outside of Jerusalem. As the Radbaz explains, the Rambam does not differentiate between the two.
See Hilchot Pesulei HaMukdashim 19:13 which mentions this prohibition. The Radbaz maintains that not only is a prohibition is involved, a person is liable for meilah, unauthorized use of sacred property, as stated in Hilchot Meilah 2:14.
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