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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Klei Hamikdash - Chapter 2

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Klei Hamikdash - Chapter 2

1

The incense offering was prepared every year. Preparing it fulfills a positive commandment,1 as [Exodus 30:34] states: "And you take spices...." Four of the spices are explicitly mentioned in the Torah. They are balsam,2 onycha, storax, and frankincense. The others were communicated as a halachah communicated to Moses at Sinai.

א

הַקְטֹרֶת נַעֲשֵׂית בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה וַעֲשִׂיָּתוֹ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְאַתָּה קַח לְךָ סַמִּים וְגוֹ'. וְנִתְפָּרְשׁוּ בַּתּוֹרָה אַרְבָּעָה מִסַּמְמָנֶיהָ. וְהֵן (שמות ל לד) "נָטָף. וּשְׁחֵלֶת. וְחֶלְבְּנָה. וּלְבֹנָה". וּשְׁאָר סַמְמָנֶיהָ הֲלָכָה לְמשֶׁה מִסִּינַי:

2

[The requirement for] eleven spices was communicated to Moses at Sinai.3 They would prepare them with an exact weight and add to them - without weighing them: Salt of Sodom,4 Jordanian amber,5 and an herb that would produce smoke. Only select people would know its identity and that knowledge was conveyed as halachah from person to person.

ב

אַחַד עָשָׂר סַמְמָנִים נֶאֶמְרוּ לוֹ לְמשֶׁה מִסִּינַי. וְהֵם שֶׁעוֹשִׂין אוֹתָן בְּמִשְׁקָל מְכֻוָּן. וּמוֹסִיפִין עִמָּהֶן בְּלֹא מִשְׁקָל מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית וְכִפַּת הַיַּרְדֵּן. וְעֵשֶׂב אֶחָד שֶׁמַּעֲלֶה עָשָׁן. וְלֹא הָיוּ יוֹדְעִים אוֹתוֹ אֶלָּא אֲנָשִׁים יְדוּעִים וְהוּא הָיָה הֲלָכָה בְּיָדָם אִישׁ מִפִּי אִישׁ:

3

This is the weight of the eleven spices: balsam, onycha, storax, frankincense, 70 maneh from each one. A maneh is 100 dinarim,6musk, cassia, spikenard, and saffron, 16 maneh, costus, 12 maneh, cinnamon, 9 maneh, Ceylonese cinnamon 3 maneh. The weight of the entire mixture was 368 maneh.

The entire mixture was ground very thin. A fourth of a kab7 of the salt of Sodom and a small amount of Jordanian amber and the smoke raising herb were added. A maneh of it was burned every day8 on the golden altar. There were 365 maneh, corresponding to the 365 days of the year. The three remaining maneh were ground again on the day before Yom Kippur very finely for [the High Priest] to take a handful to offer on Yom Kippur.9 The remainder is the remainder of the incense that was mentioned in [Hilchot] Shekalim.10

ג

וְזֶהוּ מִשְׁקַל אַחַד עָשָׂר סַמָּנֶיהָ. נָטָף. וּשְׁחֵלֶת. וְחֶלְבְּנָה. וּלְבֹנָה. מִכָּל אֶחָד מִשְׁקַל שִׁבְעִים מָנֶה. וְהַמָּנֶה מֵאָה דִּינָרִין. וּמוֹר. וּקְצִיעָה. וְשִׁבּלֶת נֵרְדְּ. וְכַרְכֹּם. מִכָּל אֶחָד שִׁשָּׁה עָשָׂר מָנֶה. קֹשְׁטְ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר מָנֶה. קִנָּמוֹן תִּשְׁעָה מָנִים. קִלּוּפָה שְׁלֹשָׁה מָנִים. מִשְׁקַל הַכּל שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וְשִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁמוֹנָה מָנֶה. שְׁחוּקִין הַכּל הָדֵק. מוֹסִיפִין לָהּ רֹבַע הַקַּב מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית. וְכִפַּת הַיַּרְדֵּן וּמַעֲלֶה עָשָׁן כָּל שֶׁהוּא. וּמַקְטִיר מִמֶּנָּה בְּכָל יוֹם עַל מִזְבַּח הַזָּהָב מָנֶה. שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וְשִׁשִּׁים וַחֲמִשָּׁה מָנֶה כְּנֶגֶד יְמוֹת הַחַמָּה. וְהַשְּׁלֹשָׁה מָנִים הַנִּשְׁאָרִים שׁוֹחֵק אוֹתָם עֶרֶב יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים דַּקָּה מִן הַדַּקָּה עַד שֶׁמּוֹצִיא מִמֶּנָּה מָלֵא חָפְנָיו לְהַקְטִיר בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים. וְהַשְּׁאָר הוּא מוֹתַר הַקְּטֹרֶת שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ בִּשְׁקָלִים:

4

Nataf mentioned by the Torah are the balsam trees that produce balsam oil.11 Onycha is tziporen12 which people include in incense. Storax is like black honey and it produces a disagreeable odor. It comes from the sap of the trees grown in Greece. These are the names of the spices in Arabic: od balasan, atzpar tiv, miyah,13 lican,14 muski,15 ketziyah,16 sanbali alnaturin,17 saffron, kosht,18 od,19 kesser silica,20 and anber.21

ד

נָטָף הָאָמוּר בַּתּוֹרָה הוּא עֲצֵי הַקְּטָף שֶׁיּוֹצֵא מֵהֶן הַצֳּרִי. וְהַשְּׁחֵלֶת הִיא הַצִּפֹּרֶן שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין אוֹתָהּ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם בְּמֻגְמָרוֹת. וְהַחֶלְבְּנָה כְּמוֹ דְּבַשׁ שָׁחוֹר וְרֵיחוֹ קָשֶׁה וְהוּא שְׂרַף אִילָנוֹת בְּעָרֵי יָוָן. וְזֶהוּ שְׁמוֹת הַסַּמָּנִים בְּלָשׁוֹן עֲרָבִי. עוּד בְּלַסַאן וְאַצְפַאר טִיב. וּמִיעָה. וּלְכַאן. וּמוּסְקִי. וּקְצִיעָה. וְסַנְבְּלִי אַלְנַטוֹרִין. וְזַעֲפְרָן. וְקֹשְׁט. וְעוּד [הַיַּרְדִּי]. וְקַסַּר סְלִיכָה. וְעִנְבָּר:

5

How is the incense offering prepared? Nine kabbin of vetch lye are brought and the onycha is rubbed with it.22 Afterwards, the onycha is soaked in 21 kabbin of caper wine23 or a very strong, aged white wine. Afterwards each of the spices is ground very finely alone. While he is grinding, he should say: "Grind thoroughly. Grind thoroughly," for the entire time that he is grinding.24 Then he mixes them all together.

ה

כֵּיצַד מְפַטְּמִין אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת. מֵבִיא תִּשְׁעָה קַבִּין בֹּרִית כַּרְשִׁינָה וְשָׁף בָּהּ אֶת הַצִּפֹּרֶן וְאַחַר כָּךְ שׁוֹרֶה אֶת הַצִּפֹּרֶן בְּאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים קַב שֶׁל יֵין קַפְרִיסִין אוֹ יַיִן לָבָן יָשָׁן חָזָק בְּיוֹתֵר. וְאַחַר כָּךְ שׁוֹחֵק כָּל אֶחָד מִן הַסַּמָּנִים בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ הָדֵק. וּכְשֶׁהוּא שׁוֹחֵק אוֹמֵר הָדֵק הֵיטֵב הָדֵק הֵיטֵב כָּל זְמַן שֶׁשּׁוֹחֵק וּמְעָרֵב הַכּל:

6

All of the acts involved in its preparation are performed in the Sanctuary, in the Temple Courtyard, [using ingredients that] have been consecrated.25 When one prepares the incense offering from unconsecrated ingredients or in an unconsecrated utensil, it is unacceptable.

ו

וְכָל מַעֲשֶׂיהָ בַּקֹּדֶשׁ בְּתוֹךְ הָעֲזָרָה וּמִשֶּׁל הַקֹּדֶשׁ. וְהַמְפַטֵּם אֶת הַקְּטֹרֶת מִן הַחֻלִּין אוֹ בִּכְלִי שֶׁל חֻלִּין פְּסוּלָה:

7

Twice a year, the incense would be returned to the grinder.26 In the summer, it would be spread out so that it would not become musty. In the rainy season, it is stored away lest its fragrance be weakened.

ז

פַּעֲמַיִם בַּשָּׁנָה הָיוּ מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ לַמַּכְתֶּשֶׁת. בִּימוֹת הַחַמָּה הָיוּ מְפַזְּרִים אוֹתָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִּתְעַפֵּשׁ. וּבִימוֹת הַגְּשָׁמִים צוֹבְרִין אוֹתָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יָפוּג רֵיחָהּ:

8

If one included any honey in it, it is disqualified.27 If one omits any of its spices, he is liable for death, for it is considered as foreign incense. If one prepared it little by little in appropriate proportions, it is acceptable. Even if one prepared half [a maneh] in the morning and half in the afternoon, [it is acceptable].

ח

נָתַן לְתוֹכָהּ דְּבַשׁ כָּל שֶׁהוּא פְּסָלָהּ. חִסֵּר אֶחָד מִסַּמְמָנֶיהָ חַיָּב מִיתָה שֶׁהֲרֵי נַעֲשֵׂית קְטֹרֶת זָרָה. פִּטְּמָהּ מְעַט מְעַט בְּמַתְכֻּנְתָּהּ כְּשֵׁרָה אֲפִלּוּ פִּטֵּם פְּרָס בְּשַׁחֲרִית וּפְרָס בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם:

9

When a person prepares incense from these eleven spices according to these proportions to smell its fragrance, he is liable for karet for its preparation28if he prepared it willfully, even if he did not actually smell its fragrance. If he did so inadvertently, he is liable for a fixed sin offering. Even if he did not prepare the entire quantity [of 368 maneh], but merely a half or a third, since he prepared it according to the above proportions, he is liable for karet, as [Exodus 30:38] states: "You shall not make [incense] for yourselves according to its formula. Anyone who prepares [incense] like this to smell its fragrance shall be cut off from his people."

ט

הָעוֹשֶׂה קְטֹרֶת מֵאַחַד עָשָׂר סַמְמָנִין אֵלּוּ לְפִי מִשְׁקָלוֹת אֵלּוּ כְּדֵי לְהָרִיחַ בָּהּ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא הֵרִיחַ חַיָּב כָּרֵת עַל עֲשִׂיָּתָהּ אִם עָשָׂה מֵזִיד. וּבְשׁוֹגֵג מֵבִיא חַטָּאת קְבוּעָה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה הַמִּשְׁקָל כֻּלּוֹ אֶלָּא חֶצְיוֹ אוֹ שְׁלִישׁוֹ. הוֹאִיל וְעָשָׂה לְפִי מִשְׁקָלוֹת אֵלּוּ חַיָּב כָּרֵת. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ל לז) "בְּמַתְכֻּנְתָּהּ לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם" (שמות ל לח) "אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה כָמוֹהָ לְהָרִיחַ בָּהּ וְנִכְרַת מֵעַמָּיו":

10

If he prepared it to learn or with the intent of giving it to the community, he is not liable. If he smelled its fragrance, but did not prepare it, he is not liable for karet. Instead, he is bound by the laws applying to all of those who derive benefit from consecrated property.29 The Torah obligated a person for karet only when he prepared it according to its formula for the sake of smelling it.

י

עֲשָׂאָהּ לְהִתְלַמֵּד בָּהּ אוֹ לְמָסְרָהּ לַצִּבּוּר פָּטוּר. הֵרִיחַ בָּהּ וְלֹא עֲשָׂאָהּ אֵינוֹ חַיָּב כָּרֵת אֶלָּא דִּינוֹ כְּדִין כָּל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִן הַהֶקְדֵּשׁ. לֹא חִיְּבָה תּוֹרָה כָּרֵת אֶלָּא לָעוֹשֶׂה בְּמַתְכֻּנְתָּהּ לְהָרִיחַ בָּהּ:

11

The incense offering is offered on the Golden Altar in the Temple each day. No other entity is offered on it. If one offered any incense other than this or offered this incense, but it was donated by an individual or a group,30 or one offered a sacrifice on it,31 or poured a libation on it, one is liable for lashes,32 as [ibid.:9] states: "You shall not offer upon it foreign incense, a burnt offering, or a meal offering."

יא

מִזְבַּח הַזָּהָב שֶׁבַּהֵיכָל עָלָיו מַקְטִירִין הַקְּטֹרֶת בְּכָל יוֹם. וְאֵין מַקְרִיבִין עָלָיו דָּבָר אַחֵר. וְאִם הִקְטִיר עָלָיו קְטֹרֶת אַחֶרֶת שֶׁאֵינָהּ כָּזוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁהִקְטִיר עָלָיו קְטֹרֶת כָּזוֹ שֶׁהִתְנַדֵּב אוֹתָהּ יָחִיד אוֹ רַבִּים. אוֹ הִקְרִיב עָלָיו קָרְבָּן. אוֹ הִסִּיךְ נֶסֶךְ. לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ל ט) "לֹא תַעֲלוּ עָלָיו קְטֹרֶת זָרָה וְעוֹלָה וּמִנְחָה" וְגוֹ':

12

When the ark is transported from place to place, it should not be transported on an animal or on a wagon. Instead, it is a mitzvah for it to be carried on one's shoulders.33 Since David forgot and had it transported on a wagon, there was an outbreak [of Divine anger] at Uzzah.34 Instead, it is a mitzvah to carry it on one's shoulders, as [Numbers 7:9] states: "For the holy task is their obligation. They shall carry it on their shoulders."

יב

בְּעֵת שֶׁמּוֹלִיכִין אֶת הָאָרוֹן מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם אֵין מוֹלִיכִין אוֹתוֹ לֹא עַל הַבְּהֵמָה וְלֹא עַל הָעֲגָלוֹת אֶלָּא מִצְוָה לְנָטְלוֹ עַל הַכָּתֵף. וּלְפִי שֶׁשָּׁכַח דָּוִד וּנְשָׂאוֹ עַל הָעֲגָלָה נִפְרַץ פֶּרֶץ בְּעֻזָּא. אֶלָּא מִצְוָה לְנָשְׂאוֹ עַל הַכָּתֵף שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר ז ט) "כִּי עֲבֹדַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ עֲלֵיהֶם בַּכָּתֵף יִשָּׂאוּ":

13

When [the Levites] carry the ark on their shoulders, they should carry it face to face, with their backs pointed outward and their faces inward.35 They must be careful that the staves of the ark are not removed from the rings. Anyone who removes one of the staves36 from the rings is liable for lashes,37 as [Exodus 25:15] states: "The staves shall be in the rings of the ark. They shall not be removed from it."

יג

כְּשֶׁנּוֹשְׂאִים אוֹתוֹ עַל הַכָּתֵף נוֹשְׂאִין פָּנִים כְּנֶגֶד פָּנִים וַאֲחוֹרֵיהֶם לַחוּץ וּפְנֵיהֶם לְפָנִים. וְנִזְהָרִים שֶׁלֹּא יִשָּׁמְטוּ הַבַּדִּים מִן הַטַּבָּעוֹת. שֶׁהַמֵּסִיר אֶחָד מִן הַבַּדִּים מִן הַטַּבָּעוֹת לוֹקֶה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כה טו) "בְּטַבְּעֹת הָאָרֹן יִהְיוּ הַבַּדִּים לֹא יָסֻרוּ מִמֶּנּוּ":

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Footnotes
1.

As the Radbaz states, the Rambam does not consider the preparation of the incense offering as a separate mitzvah. Indeed, in his Sefer HaMitzvos, General Principle 10, he explains that preparing the incense offering should not be considered as a separate mitzvah, for until it is actually offered it is an incomplete act. The mitzvah of bringing the incense offering is mentioned in Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 3:1.

2.

The Rambam defines the terms mentioned here in Halachah 4.

3.

I.e., through the principles of Biblical exegesis, our Sages (Keritot 8b) derived that the incense offering contained this number of spices.

4.

Although a measure of volume was mentioned for Salt of Sodom (see the following halachah), a measure of weight was not.

5.

Amber is the fossilized resin from ancient forests. The resin becomes buried and fossilized through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. Heating amber will soften it and eventually it will burn, producing a pleasant fragrance. Others identify kipat hayardein with roses. Living Torah refers to it as cycla men, an attractive flower that grows in the Mediterranean region.

6.

A dinar is 76.8 grams (81.6 grams according to a more stringent view) in modern measure.

7.

A measure of volume equal to 1376 cc according to Shiurei Torah, 2400 cc according to Chazon Ish.

8.

Half a maneh in the morning and half in the afternoon.

9.

In the Holy of Holies. See Hilchot Avodat Yom HaKippurim 4:1.

10.

365 portions of incense were prepared although an ordinary lunar year has 353, 354, or 355 days. Hence, at the end of the year, there was a certain amount left over. In Hilchot Shekalim 4:12, the Rambam writes that on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the remainder of the incense was redeemed and then given to the craftsmen who prepared it. Afterwards, it was repurchased from them. Thus when a leap year was declared, there was enough incense.

11.

Balsam is an evergreen tree whose sap has a very pleasant fragrance.

12.

The claw or nail of the strombus or wing-shell, a shell-fish common in the Red Sea. When burned, they emit a strong fragrance.

13.

These terms refer to balsam, onycha, and storax.

14.

Frankincense is the gum resin of a tree found growing in tropical regions, a member of the Burseraceae family. This resin exudes as a milky liquid and hardens into yellowish droplets, known as frankincense tears. It gives off a warm, slightly citrine perfume.

15.

Musk, see Chapter 1, Halachah 3.

16.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Keritot 1:1), the Rambam states that this is an herb that he cannot identify. Some have identified it with cassia, an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon, but differing in strength and quality.

17.

Spikenard is obtained from an Indian plant, found in the Himalaya mountains, the Nardostachys jatamansi.

18.

Costus, see Chapter 1, Halachah 3.

19.

Cinnamon.

20.

Ceylonese cinnamon.

21.

Jordanian amber.

22.

This cleanses it thoroughly and improves its appearance.

23.

Alternatively, wine from Cyprus.

24.

For the chanting improves the spices (Keritot 6b).

25.

Keritot 6b derives this concept from the description of the anointment oil in Exodus 30:32: "It is holy; it shall be holy for you." The repetition of the term "holy" implies that all of the activity to prepare it must be performed with entities that are consecrated. An equation is established between that oil and the incense offering.

26.

To grind it again, lest it have solidified.

27.

Although this would greatly improve its fragrance, there is an explicit Biblical prohibition (Leviticus 2:11; Hilchot Issurei Mizbeiach 5:2) against burning any such incense.

28.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 85) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 110) consider the prohibition against preparing incense for its fragrance as one of the Torah's 613 commandments.

29.

This is speaking about a person who smells the fragrance of the communal incense offering. A person who smells the incense of a private individual who copied the formula of the incense offering is not liable.

See Hilchot Meilah 1:2 for the details of one's liability. See also ibid. 5:16 which states that this applies only when the column of smoke from the incense is rising. Once it has already risen, the prohibition no longer applies.

30.

But not to the community as a whole.

The Radbaz quotes Rashi (Keritot 6a) which states that one is liable for death at the hand of heaven for bringing such an incense offering. (The death of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, are cited as proof for this thesis.)

31.

The blood of certain sacrifices is, however, sprinkled on it, as stated in Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 5:13; Hilchot Avodat Yom HaKippurim 4:2.

32.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 82) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 104) consider the prohibition against making such offerings on this altar as one of the Torah's 613 commandments.

33.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 34) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 379) consider this mitzvah as one of the Torah's 613 commandments.

The prooftext cited by the Rambam refers to the ark being carried by the Levites, the descendants of the family of Kehot. In Sefer HaMitzvot, however, the Rambam writes that the mitzvah for all time was to have the ark carried by the priests and not the Levites. Indeed, the narrative of the ark being carried in Joshua 3:6 and II Samuel 15:25 corroborates this thesis. (The Ramban explains that this does not contradict the Biblical command, because the priests are also descendants of Kehot.) The reason the mitzvah was fulfilled by the Levites while the Jews journeyed through the desert is because there were not enough priests to carry the ark at that time.

34.

As the Bible relates, II Samuel, ch. 6, God vented His anger for the transgression on Uzzah, causing his death.

35.

Thus those in the front will be walking backwards. This is necessary so that they will not be turning their backs to the ark (Bamidbar Rabbah, ch. 5).

36.

Although the prooftext quoted by the Rambam speaks of the staves, using the plural term, he understands the prohibition as applying even to one of them. See the Minchat Chinuch (mitzvah 96) which discusses this issue.

37.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 86) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 96) consider the prohibition against removing the staves as one of the Torah's 613 commandments.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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