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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 6

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Beit Habechirah - Chapter 6


The entire Temple complex was not built on flat ground, but rather on the incline1 of Mount [Moriah.] Thus, a person who entered from the Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount would proceed to the end of the chayl on one level.2

He would ascend from the chayl to the Woman's Courtyard on twelve steps. Each step was half a cubit high and half a cubit wide.3


הַמִּקְדָשׁ כֻּלּוֹ לֹא הָיָה בְּמִישׁוֹר אֶלָּא בְּמַעֲלֵה הָהָר. כְּשֶׁאָדָם נִכְנָס מִשַּׁעַר מִזְרָחִי שֶׁל הַר הַבַּיִת מְהַלֵּךְ עַד סוֹף הַחֵיל בְּשָׁוֶה. וְעוֹלֶה מִן הַחֵיל לְעֶזְרַת הַנָּשִׁים בִּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת רוּם כָּל מַעֲלָה חֲצִי אַמָּה וְשִׁלְחָהּ חֲצִי אַמָּה:


One proceeded through the entire Women's Courtyard4 on one level.5 From it, one ascended6 to the Courtyard of the Israelites, which is the beginning of the Temple Courtyard, using fifteen steps.7 Each step was half a cubit high and half a cubit wide.


וּמְהַלֵּךְ כָּל עֶזְרַת הַנָּשִׁים בְּשָׁוֶה. וְעוֹלֶה מִמֶּנָּה לְעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהוּא תְּחִלַּת הָעֲזָרָה בַּחֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת. רוּם כָּל מַעֲלָה חֲצִי אַמָּה וְשִׁלְחָהּ חֲצִי אַמָּה:


One would proceed through the entire Israelites' Courtyard on one level8 and ascend from it to the Priestly Courtyard [using] one step, one cubit high.9

Above [that step] was a platform of three steps.10 Each step was half a cubit high and half a cubit wide.11 Thus, the Priestly Courtyard was two and a half cubits higher than the Courtyard of the Israelites.


וּמְהַלֵּךְ כָּל עֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּשָׁוֶה וְעוֹלֶה מִמֶּנּוּ לְעֶזְרַת הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּמַעֲלָה גְּבוֹהָה אַמָּה וְעָלֶיהָ דּוּכָן יֵשׁ בּוֹ שָׁלֹשׁ מַעֲלוֹת. רוּם כָּל מַעְלָה חֲצִי אַמָּה וְשִׁלְחָהּ חֲצִי אַמָּה. נִמְצֵאת עֶזְרַת הַכֹּהֲנִים גְּבוֹהָה עַל שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁתֵּי אַמּוֹת וּמֶחֱצָה:


One would proceed through the entire Priestly Courtyard,12 [the area of] the Altar,13 and the space between the Entrance Hall and the Altar14 on one level. From there, one would ascend to the Entrance Hall using twelve steps.15 Each step was half a cubit high and half a cubit wide.16

The Entrance Hall and [the remainder of] the Temple building were both on the same level.17


וּמְהַלֵּךְ כָּל עֶזְרַת הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וּבֵין הָאוּלָם וְלַמִּזְבֵּחַ בְּשָׁוֶה. וְעוֹלֶה מִשָּׁם לָאוּלָם בִּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת. רוּם כָּל מַעְלָה חֲצִי אַמָּה וְשִׁלְחָהּ חֲצִי אַמָּה וְהָאוּלָם וְהַהֵיכָל כֻּלּוֹ בְּשָׁוֶה:


Thus, the ground [on which] the Temple building [was located] was 22 cubits higher than the ground [on which] the Eastern Gate [was located].18

The Eastern Gate was twenty cubits high.19 Accordingly, a person standing opposite the Eastern Gate could not see the Temple building.20 For this reason, the wall above this gate was low.21 Thus, the priest [who offered the Parah Adumah] could see the opening of the Temple when he sprinkled its blood,22 while standing on the Mount of Olives.23


נִמְצָא גֹּבַהּ קַרְקַע הַהֵיכָל עַל קַרְקַע שַׁעַר הַמִּזְרָח שֶׁל הַר הַבַּיִת שְׁתַּיִם וְעֶשְׂרִים אַמּוֹת. וְגֹבַהּ שַׁעַר הַר הַבַּיִת עֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה. לְפִיכָךְ הָעוֹמֵד כְּנֶגֶד שַׁעַר הַמִּזְרָח אֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה פֶּתַח הַהֵיכָל. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה עָשׂוּ כֹּתֶל שֶׁעַל גַּבֵּי שַׁעַר זֶה נָמוּךְ. כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא כֹּהֵן הָעוֹמֵד בְּהַר הַמִּשְׁחָה רוֹאֶה פֶּתַח הַהֵיכָל בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמַּזֶּה מִדַּם הַפָּרָה נֹכַח הַהֵיכָל:


There were chambers under the Courtyard of the Israelites opening up to the Women's Courtyard.24 There, the Levites stored their harps, lyres,25 cymbals, and other musical instruments.26

The Levites stood on the platform which ascends from the Courtyard of the Israelites to the Courtyard of the Priests, when they chanted songs over the sacrifices.27


וּלְשָׁכוֹת הָיוּ שָׁם תַּחַת עֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל פְּתוּחוֹת לְעֶזְרַת הַנָּשִׁים. שֶׁשָּׁם הַלְוִיִּם נוֹתְנִין הַכִּנּוֹרוֹת וְהַנְּבָלִים וְהַמְּצִלְתַּיִם וְכָל כְּלֵי הַשִּׁיר. וְעַל הַדּוּכָן הָעוֹלֶה מֵעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְעֶזְרַת הַכֹּהֲנִים הָיוּ הַלְוִיִּם עוֹמְדִים בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאוֹמְרִים שִׁירָה עַל הַקָּרְבָּן:


[Regarding] the chambers that were built on consecrated ground, but which opened up to an area that was not consecrated:28 If [their roofs] were on the same level as the earth of the Courtyard, their inner space is not consecrated,29 but their roofs are consecrated.30

If they are not on the same level [as the Courtyard], their roofs are also not consecrated, for the roofs and the upper floors [of the structures in the Temple Courtyard] were not consecrated.31

Therefore, sacrifices of the highest degree of sanctity32 may not be eaten on these roofs,33 nor may sacrifices of a lesser degree of sanctity34 be slaughtered there.35


הַלְּשָׁכוֹת הַבְּנוּיוֹת בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וּפְתוּחוֹת לַחל אִם הָיוּ גַּגּוֹתֵיהֶן שָׁוִין עִם קַרְקַע הָעֲזָרָה תּוֹכָן חֹל וְגַגּוֹתֵיהֶן קֹדֶשׁ וְאִם אֵינָן שָׁוִין אַף גַּגּוֹתֵיהֶן חֹל שֶׁהַגַּגּוֹת וְהָעֲלִיּוֹת לֹא נִתְקַדְּשׁוּ. לְפִיכָךְ גַּגִּים אֵלּוּ אֵין אוֹכְלִין שָׁם קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים וְלֹא שׁוֹחֲטִין קָדָשִׁים קַלִּים:


[Regarding the chambers] which were built on unconsecrated ground, but were open to consecrated ground:36 Their inner space was considered consecrated when eating sacrifices of the most holy order.37 However, the sacrifices of a lesser degree of sanctity were not slaughtered there. [Similarly,] a person who enters while ritually impure is not required [to bring a sin offering].38

The roofs [of these chambers] are considered as unconsecrated ground in all respects.39


הָיוּ בְּנוּיוֹת לַחל וּפְתוּחוֹת לַקֹּדֶשׁ תּוֹכָן קֹדֶשׁ לַאֲכִילַת קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים אֲבָל אֵין שׁוֹחֲטִין שָׁם קָדָשִׁים קַלִּים וְהַנִּכְנָס לְשָׁם בְּטֻמְאָה פָּטוּר. וְגַגּוֹתֵיהֶן חֹל לְכָל דָּבָר:


The underground passageways which open to the Temple Courtyard40 are consecrated.41 Those that open to the Temple Mount [outside the Courtyard] are not consecrated.42

The windows43 and the width44 of the wall are considered within [the Courtyard] in regard to partaking of the sacrifices of the most holy order and [entering while] ritually impure.45


הַמְּחִלּוֹת הַפְּתוּחוֹת לָעֲזָרָה קֹדֶשׁ וְהַפְּתוּחוֹת לְהַר הַבַּיִת חֹל. הַחַלּוֹנוֹת וָעֳבִי הַחוֹמָה כִּלְפָנִים בֵּין לַאֲכִילַת קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים בֵּין לְטֻמְאָה:


If the Sanhedrin46 desires to add to [the city limits of] Jerusalem47 or the Temple Courtyard,48 they may.49 They may extend the Temple Courtyard to any place they desire on the Temple Mount.50 [Similarly, they may] extend the walls of Jerusalem to any place they desire.51


בֵּית דִּין שֶׁרָצוּ לְהוֹסִיף עַל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם אוֹ לְהוֹסִיף עַל הָעֲזָרָה מוֹסִיפִין. וְיֵשׁ לָהֶם לִמְשֹׁךְ הָעֲזָרָה עַד הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁיִּרְצוּ מֵהַר הַבַּיִת וְלִמְשֹׁךְ חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עַד מָקוֹם שֶׁיִּרְצוּ:


We may not expand [the limits] of the city [of Jerusalem] or of the Temple Courtyard52 unless receiving the consent of the king, a prophet,53 the Urim V'Tumim,54 and the Sanhedrin of 71 judges,55 as [Exodus 25:9] states: "According to all that I show you, [the design of the Sanctuary] shall you make it." [The latter phrase was interpreted by our sages to mean that the same conditions should apply in] future generations.

[The presence of a king is required] because Moses, our teacher, was a king.56


אֵין מוֹסִיפִין עַל הָעִיר אוֹ עַל הָעֲזָרוֹת אֶלָּא עַל פִּי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְעַל פִּי נָבִיא וּבְאוּרִים וְתֻמִּים וְעַל פִּי סַנְהֶדְרִין שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד זְקֵנִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כה ט) "כְּכל אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מַרְאֶה אוֹתְךָ" וְכֵן תַּעֲשׂוּ לְדוֹרוֹת. וּמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ מֶלֶךְ הָיָה:


How do we extend [the limits of] the city?57 The Sanhedrin must offer two thanksgiving offerings.58 [Then, two priests]59 take the leavened breads from these offerings [and proceed]. The Sanhedrin would follow the thanksgiving offerings.60 The thanksgiving offerings [would not proceed together, but] one would follow the other.61

They would stand on each and every corner and every single stone in Jerusalem, [playing] harps, lyres, and cymbals, and reciting [Psalms 30]: "I exalt you, Lord, for You have uplifted me...."62

[They would proceed] until reaching the end of the place [which they desired to] consecrate. There, they would stand and eat one of the two thanksgiving offerings. The other was burnt. A prophet would determine which was eaten and which was burnt.63


וְכֵיצַד מוֹסִיפִין עַל הָעִיר. עוֹשִׂין בֵּית דִּין שְׁתֵּי תּוֹדוֹת וְלוֹקְחִין לֶחֶם חָמֵץ שֶׁבָּהֶם וְהוֹלְכִים בֵּית דִּין אַחַר שְׁתֵּי הַתּוֹדוֹת וּשְׁתֵּי הַתּוֹדוֹת זוֹ אַחַר זוֹ וְעוֹמְדִין בְּכִנּוֹרוֹת וּבִנְבָלִים וּבְצִלְצָל עַל כָּל פִּנָּה וּפִנָּה וְעַל כָּל אֶבֶן (וְאֶבֶן) שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם וְאוֹמֵר (תהילים ל ב) "אֲרוֹמִמְךָ ה' כִּי דִלִּיתָנִי" וְגוֹ'. עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִין לְסוֹף הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁמְּקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ וְעוֹמְדִין שָׁם. וְאוֹכְלִים שָׁם לֶחֶם תּוֹדָה אַחַת מִשְּׁתֵי הַתּוֹדוֹת וְהַשְּׁנִיָּה נִשְׂרֶפֶת. וְעַל פִּי הַנָּבִיא שׂוֹרְפִין אֶת זוֹ וְאוֹכְלִין אֶת זוֹ:


Similarly, [if the Sages desire] to extend the [limits of the] courtyard,64 they must consecrate it with the remaining portion of the meal offering. Just as the thanksgiving offering, which must be eaten inside Jerusalem consecrates it, so, too, the remaining portion of the meal offering, which may only be eaten inside the Temple Courtyard,65 consecrates it. It is to be eaten at the end of the space which they desire to consecrate.66


וְכֵן אִם הוֹסִיפוּ עַל הָעֲזָרָה מְקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתָהּ בִּשְׁיָרֵי הַמִּנְחָה. מַה יְּרוּשָׁלַיִם הַתּוֹדָה שֶׁנֶּאֱכֶלֶת בָּהּ מְקַדַּשְׁתָּהּ אַף הָעֲזָרָה שְׁיָרֵי הַמְּנָחוֹת שֶׁאֵין נֶאֱכָלִין אֶלָּא בָּהּ הֵן שֶׁמְּקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתָהּ בָּהֶן. וְאוֹכְלִין אוֹתָן בְּסוֹף הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁקִּדְּשׁוּ:


Any place which was not [consecrated] with all the above [elements] and according to the above procedure is not thoroughly consecrated.67 Though Ezra offered two thanksgiving offerings68 [to dedicate the city,] he merely carried out a testimonial act. The Sanctuary was not consecrated through his deeds, for neither a King nor the Urim V'Tumim69 were present there.70

[If so,] how was [the Second Temple] consecrated?71 With the first consecration performed by Solomon, for he consecrated the Temple Courtyard and Jerusalem, for that time and for eternity.72


כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁלֹּא נַעֲשָׂה בְּכָל אֵלּוּ וְכַסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה אֵין קָדוֹשׁ גָּמוּר. וְזֶה שֶׁעָשָׂה עֶזְרָא שְׁתֵּי תּוֹדוֹת זִכָּרוֹן הוּא שֶׁעָשָׂה לֹא בְּמַעֲשָׂיו נִתְקַדֵּשׁ הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה שָׁם לֹא מֶלֶךְ וְלֹא אוּרִים וְתֻמִּים. וּבְמַה נִּתְקַדְּשָׁה בִּקְדֻשָּׁה רִאשׁוֹנָה שֶׁקִּדְּשָׁהּ שְׁלֹמֹה שֶׁהוּא קִדֵּשׁ הָעֲזָרָה וִירוּשָׁלַיִם לִשְׁעָתָן וְקִדְּשָׁן לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא:


Therefore, we may offer all the sacrifices [on the Temple site], even though the Temple itself is not built.73 Similarly, sacrifices of the most holy order can be eaten in the entire [area of the] Courtyard, even though it is in ruin and not surrounded by a divider.74

We may also eat sacrifices of lesser sanctity and Ma'aser Sheni75 throughout Jerusalem,76 even though [it is not surrounded by] a wall, for through its original consecration, it was consecrated for that time and for eternity.


לְפִיכָךְ מַקְרִיבִין הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת כֻּלָּן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בַּיִת בָּנוּי. וְאוֹכְלִין קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים בְּכָל הָעֲזָרָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִיא חֲרֵבָה וְאֵינָהּ מֻקֶּפֶת בִּמְחִצָּה וְאוֹכְלִין קָדָשִׁים קַלִּים וּמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי בְּכָל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם חוֹמוֹת שֶׁהַקְּדֻשָּׁה רִאשׁוֹנָה קָדְשָׁה לִשְׁעָתָהּ וְקָדְשָׁה לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא:


77 Why do I say that the original consecration sanctified the Temple and Jerusalem for eternity,78 while in regard to the consecration of the remainder of Eretz Yisrael, in the context of the Sabbatical year, tithes, and other similar [agricultural] laws, [the original consecration] did not sanctify it for eternity?79

Because the sanctity of the Temple and Jerusalem stems from the Shechinah, and the Shechinah can never be nullified.80 Therefore, [Leviticus 26:31] states: "I will lay waste to your Sanctuaries." The Sages declared:81 "Even though they have been devastated, their sanctity remains."82

In contrast, the [original] obligation to keep the laws of the Sabbatical year and tithes on the Land stemmed from the fact that it was conquered by the [Jewish people, as a] community.83 Therefore, when the land was taken from their hands [by the Babylonians,] their [original] conquest was nullified. Thus, according to Torah law, the land was freed from the obligations of the Sabbatical year and of tithes because it was no longer Eretz Yisrael.84

When Ezra returned [to Eretz Yisrael] and consecrated it, it was not sanctified by means of conquest, but rather through Chazzakah.85 Therefore, every place which was repossessed by the [exiles returning from] Babylon and consecrated when Ezra consecrated [the land] the second time, is sacred today.

Thus, as explained in Hilchot Terumah, it is necessary to keep the laws of the Sabbatical years and the tithes [on this land] even though it was taken from [the Jewish people in later years].86


וְלָמָּה אֲנִי אוֹמֵר בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ וִירוּשָׁלַיִם קְדֻשָּׁה רִאשׁוֹנָה קָדְשָׁה לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא. וּבִקְדֻשַּׁת שְׁאָר אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְעִנְיַן שְׁבִיעִית וּמַעַשְׂרוֹת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן לֹא קָדְשָׁה לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא. לְפִי שֶׁקְּדֻשַּׁת הַמִּקְדָּשׁ וִירוּשָׁלַיִם מִפְּנֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה וּשְׁכִינָה אֵינָהּ בְּטֵלָה. וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (ויקרא כו לא) "וַהֲשִׁמּוֹתִי אֶת מִקְדְּשֵׁיכֶם" וְאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשּׁוֹמְמִין בִּקְדֻשָּׁתָן הֵן עוֹמְדִים אֲבָל חִיּוּב הָאָרֶץ בִּשְׁבִיעִית וּבְמַעַשְׂרוֹת אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא כִּבּוּשׁ רַבִּים וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּלְקְחָה הָאָרֶץ מִידֵיהֶם בָּטַל הַכִּבּוּשׁ וְנִפְטְרָה מִן הַתּוֹרָה מִמַּעַשְׂרוֹת וּמִשְּׁבִיעִית שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵינָהּ מִן אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁעָלָה עֶזְרָא וְקִדְּשָׁהּ לֹא קִדְּשָׁהּ בְּכִבּוּשׁ אֶלָּא בַּחֲזָקָה שֶׁהֶחְזִיקוּ בָּהּ וּלְפִיכָךְ כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁהֶחְזִיקוּ בָּהּ עוֹלֵי בָּבֶל וְנִתְקַדֵּשׁ בִּקְדֻשַּׁת עֶזְרָא הַשְּׁנִיָּה הוּא מְקֻדָּשׁ הַיּוֹם וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנִּלְקַח הָאָרֶץ מִמֶּנּוּ וְחַיָּב בִּשְׁבִיעִית וּבְמַעַשְׂרוֹת עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת תְּרוּמָה:

Test Yourself on This Chapter


This concept is explained in this and the following four halachot. Note the accompanying diagram.

There is a homiletic aspect to the placement of the Temple on the incline of a mountain. A Jew must realize that his advance in holy matters resembles the climbing of a mountain.

When ascending a mountain it is difficult to remain in one position. One must either climb further upward or descend. Similarly, a Jew must always strive to advance in his spiritual service. Otherwise, he is likely to fall to a lower level.


As explained in the commentary to Chapter 5, Halachah 6, a distance of approximately 213 cubits separated between the exterior wall surrounding the Temple Mount and the Eastern Wall of the Temple Courtyard. The Women's Courtyard was 135 cubits long. A thick wall surrounded it, leaving approximately 68 cubits between that wall and the exterior wall.

According to the Rambam's diagrams, see Chapter 5, Halachah 6, the ratio of space between the chayl and the exterior wall, and the space between the chayl and the Women's Courtyard, was approximately 3:1. Thus, the distance mentioned here was approximately 51 cubits.


Thus, he ascended six cubits when climbing these steps.

This was the size of all the steps in the Temple complex, except for the step dividing the Courtyard of the Israelites from the Priestly Courtyard.


135 cubits.


The steps leading to the Temple Courtyard did not take up the entire width of the Courtyard, and the area on both sides was on the same level as the remainder of the Courtyard.


Seven and a half cubits.


Middot 2:5 relates that the steps were semicircular in shape. In the Simchat Beit HaShoevah celebrations, during the holiday of Sukkot, the Levites stood on these steps, sang, and played music.


A distance of eleven cubits.


This step departed from the standard height of half a cubit. It served as a clear line of demarcation between the two regions.


On which the Levites would stand and chant while sacrifices were being offered, as described in Halachah 6.


Thus, the height of the platform was 3 x 1/2, for a total height of one and a half cubits.


The Priestly Courtyard was eleven cubits long. However, one and a half cubits were taken up by the Levites' platform.


32 cubits in length. See Chapter 5, Halachah 12.


22 cubits in length,


See the commentary to Chapter 4, Halachah 9.


The Kessef Mishneh questions this statement. It appears to contradict two explicit statements of the Mishnah. Middot 2:3 states: "All the steps there [in the Temple complex] were half a cubit high and half a cubit wide, except for the steps of the Entrance Hall."

Similarly, Middot 2:6 states: "Twelve steps [led to the Entrance Hall]. They were half a cubit high and a cubit wide."

However, Yoma 16a quotes the latter mishnah, using the same text as the Rambam uses in this halachah.


The commentaries explain that the differing heights of the various sections of the Temple Mount reflected their levels of holiness. Each level which was more sacred was actually physically higher than the preceding level. Since, as stated in the commentary to Chapter 1, Halachah 5, the Entrance Hall and the two inner chambers of the Sanctuary were considered one integral unit, there was no difference in altitude between them.


The 22 cubits can be broken down as follows:

The steps leading to the Woman's Courtyard, 6 cubits

The steps leading to the Temple Courtyard, 7.5 cubits

The steps leading to the Priestly Courtyard, 2.5 cubits

The steps leading to the Entrance Hall, 6 cubits


The standard height of the gates in the Temple complex.


Five gates were placed in a straight line:

the Eastern Gate,

the gate to the chayl,

the gate to the Women's Courtyard,

the gate of Nicanor, and

the gate of the Entrance Hall.

Thus, had the Temple been built on flat ground, one would have been able to see through all the gates at once. However, because the person would be looking through the gates on an upward incline, he would only be able to see the steps leading to the Entrance Hall.


All the other walls to the Temple Mount were very high. However, the eastern wall was only six cubits higher than the gate (Tifferet Yisrael, Middot 2:4).


The Parah Adumah [Red Heifer] was necessary to purify those who had come in contact with a human corpse. Regarding its slaughter, Numbers 19:3-4 commands: "He shall take it outside the camp and ... take from the blood of the heifer and sprinkle it opposite the front of the Tent of Meeting." Similarly, in later generations, the Parah Adumah had to be sacrificed outside the Temple premises, but in view of the Sanctuary. Therefore, it was slaughtered on the Mount of Olives.


The Mount of Olives is situated directly behind the Temple Mount, with the Kidron Valley in between. The priest stood on the Mount of Olives looking toward the Temple.


As mentioned above, the mountain rose seven and a half cubits at this point. Thus, there was ample room to create storage chambers in the wall.


The Sages explain that a harp and a lyre were similar in appearance, but the lyre had more strings.


The Levites chanted Psalms while the daily communal sacrifices were offered and accompanied these songs with music. Also, on special occasions like the Simchat Beit HaShoevah celebrations, they played music for the people. See Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash 3:2.


The Har HaMoriah noted that in a number of places the Talmud states that this platform was used by the Levites in the manner described above (e.g., Yoma 20a and 53a, Arichin 13b). Nevertheless, the platform was also used for other purposes. Chagigah 16a and Rosh Hashanah 31b relate that the priests stood on this platform when they blessed the people. Indeed, the Hebrew name for the platform, Duchan, has become synonymous with the priestly blessing. (It must be noted that in Hilchot Nesiat Kapaim 14:14, the Rambam writes that the priests would stand on the steps before the Entrance Hall when they blessed the people.)


In this and the following two Halachot, the Rambam defines which structures of the Temple Courtyard share the sanctity of the area. This determination is significant in regard to three matters:

a) Sacrifices of the highest holy order of sanctity must be eaten within the Temple Courtyard.

b) Sacrifices of lesser degree of sanctity must be slaughtered within the Temple Courtyard.

c) Entry to the Temple Courtyard is forbidden when ritually impure.

See the Rambam's Commentary to Ma'aser Sheni 3:8.


And does not share the sanctity of the Courtyard.


And shares that level of holiness.


Pesachim 86a explains that an exception to the latter principle was made regarding the upper storey of the Temple building itself.

I Chronicles 28:11 states: "Then David gave Solomon his son the design of the Entrance Hall, its houses, its treasure stores, its upper storeys, its inner chambers, and the place for the ark," implying that the upper storey shared the same level of holiness as the remainder of the Temple building.


Sin offerings, guilt offerings, and communal peace offerings.


Leviticus 6:6 requires the guilt offering to be eaten "in a sacred place," i.e. within the Temple courtyard. The same ruling applies to the other sacrifices of similar status.


for example, individual peace offerings, thanksgiving offerings, or the Passover sacrifice.


Leviticus 3:8 states that individual peace offerings must be slaughtered "before the tent of meeting." In the Temple, that phrase refers to the Temple Courtyard. The same ruling applies to other sacrifices of similar status (Zevachim 55a).


Among the chambers included in this category were those on the southern side of the Chamber of the Hearth. Though the latter was positioned outside the Temple Courtyard, these chambers were open to it. See Chapter 5, Halachah 10.


Zevachim 56a explains that these chambers are by nature unconsecrated. However, the Torah made an exception in regard to the consumption of these sacrifices.


Though there is no Scriptural prohibition against entering these chambers while ritually impure, the Sages forbade such an act.


There is not even a Rabbinic prohibition against one who is ritually impure ascending to them.


As mentioned above, many underground passageways were constructed on the Temple Mount.


And all the laws applying to the Courtyard apply to them.


Therefore, a ritually impure individual may enter them, as described in Chapter 5, Halachah 11.


I.e., the apertures in the wall.


I.e., the upper surface.


The Ra'avad and the Kessef Mishneh question these statements. Pesachim 86a states that the wall's upper surface is only considered an extension of the Courtyard when it is on the same level as the Courtyard (as the roofs of the chambers mentioned in Halachah 7.) If the wall is higher than the Courtyard, it is not considered consecrated.

The following explanation may be offered for the decision rendered by the Rambam: Rashi (Pesachim, loc. cit.) relates that the chayl was the major wall around the inner Temple complex and the wall of the Courtyard itself was not high. Since the Temple was built on an incline, it was possible that the latter wall would be on the same level as the floor of the Courtyard, even though the Courtyard wall was raised above the ground in front of it.

However, the Rambam himself definitely cannot accept such an interpretation. He already stated (Chapter 5, Halachah 3) that the chayl was only 10 cubits high. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that it would be the major wall surrounding the inner Temple complex. That likelihood is further reduced by the fact that the chayl was set off from the Temple Courtyard by a considerable distance, especially on the northern and southern sides. See also Tosefot Yom Tov, Middot 2:3.

The above three halachot also apply to the city of Jerusalem as a whole. As stated above, the sacrifices of the most holy order could only be eaten within the Temple Courtyard. Similarly, a limitation was placed on where the sacrifices of lesser sanctity could be eaten. One could only partake of those offerings within the confines of the city of Jerusalem, and the definition of the city's limits were therefore of consequence. The particular decisions regarding the Courtyard's chambers, underground passageways, and upper surfaces of the wall, refer to the counterparts of these structures at the city's outer wall.


This decision can only be made by the Supreme Sanhedrin, the court of 71 judges who were seated in the Chamber of Hewn Stone.


And thus, extend the area in which sacrifices of lesser sanctity may be eaten.


And thus, extend the area to which the three mitzvot mentioned in the notes to Halachah 7 apply.


Tosafot (Zevachim 33a) explains that since the design for the Temple was conveyed by Ruach HaKodesh, Divine inspiration, even the Sanhedrin could not add to the limits of the Courtyard unless they could find a verse in the Tanach to support their decision.

The passage cited in Zevachim and similarly, Sukkot 51b, reinforce the position of the Tosafot. However, the Yeriot Shlomo and other commentaries question whether the Rambam accepts that principle


The Or Sameiach cites allusions from the Tanach which appear to limit the size of the Courtyard to the Temple Mount. Isaiah 2:3, Zechariah 8:3, and other prophets frequently referred to "the mountain of God," implying that the Temple could only be situated on that peak.


Here, no restrictions are placed. Indeed, the Midrash relates that in the Messianic age, Jerusalem will encompass all of Eretz Yisrael, extending until Damascus.


As the Rambam explains, the construction of the Temple and the establishment of its limits must conform to the pattern followed in the construction of the Shechinah's first resting place, the Sanctuary in the desert. See Sh'vuot 14a,b. Therefore, the expansion cannot take place unless the conditions mentioned by the Rambam are met.


Moses was the master of all prophets.


The stones of the breastplate of the High Priest. They served as oracles, and were consulted on all matters of national importance. See the commentary to Chapter 4, Halachah 1.

Tosafot (Sh'vuot 15a) questions the necessity for the Urim V'Tumim to be used in the establishment of the Courtyard's limits. Aharon, the High Priest, did not don the Urim V'Tumim until after the Sanctuary was constructed and its limits established. Since these requirements were set on the basis of the pattern followed when dedicating the Sanctuary, the Urim V'Tumim should not be required for dedicating future Sanctuaries.

Among the answers given to that question are that until Aharon's installation as High Priest, Moses served in that capacity and wore al the priestly garments (Ritbah).


Some authorities maintain that the Sanhedrin was established before the Sanctuary was built. Other opinions maintain that the Sanhedrin was only established later. Nevertheless, Moses' participation is considered equivalent to that of the Sanhedrin.


The commentaries explain that Deuteronomy 33:5: "And he was a king in Yeshurun," refers to Moses.


The entire procession described by the Rambam is described in detail in Sh'vuot 15a-16a.

The source for these practices is the description of the dedication of Jerusalem in Nechemiah 12:27-44. There, it is related that:

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sought bring them to Jerusalem to carry out the dedication with joy and thanksgiving, with songs, with cymbals, with harps, and with lyres....Then, I asked the princes of Judah to ascend the wall, and I brought up the greater portion of two thanksgiving offerings....They ascended to the wall by the stairs of the city of David....They offered great sacrifices that day, for God had made them rejoice with great joy....and the joy of Jerusalem was heard from far away.


A thanksgiving offering includes three elements: the leavened breads, an animal which is sacrificed and loaves of unleavened bread.

Sh'vuot, loc. cit., explains that the leavened breads were chosen because Nechemiah's description of Jerusalem's dedication relates that he "brought up the greater portion of two thanksgiving offerings." That phrase alludes to the leavened breads of the thanksgiving offerings which rose, and thus, were more substantial than the unleavened breads.


The bracketed addition was made on the basis of Rashi's commentary, Sh'vuot 16b.


Sh'vuot, loc. cit. relates that the leaders of the people, the Sanhedrin, followed the thanksgiving offerings when Ezra and Nechemiah dedicated the city of Jerusalem.

This halachah is taken from the Mishnah, Sh'vuot 2:2. Many versions of that mishnah, including the one quoted in the Talmud, add the phrase: "And all of Israel followed after them." However, the Rambam's version of the text omits that phrase. Hence, it is also not included in this halachah.


Similarly, in Nechemiah's narrative, the two offerings were separated.


Psalm 30 is called "the song of the dedication of the House." Hence, it is appropriate for this occasion.

Sh'vuot, loc. cit., also relates that other Psalms, including 3, 91, and 100, were recited.


This procedure was carried out at Nechemiah's dedication of Jerusalem. The prophets Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi participated in that dedication, and advised Nechemiah of the procedure to follow.


There is no record of this practice ever being carried out. Rather, the Temple Courtyard remained the same size from the time it was dedicated by Ezra.


Leviticus 2:1-3 states: "When a man offers a meal offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour....the priest shall burn the memorial part of it on the Altar....and the remnant of the meal offering shall be Aharon's and his sons. It is of the sacrifices of the highest order of holiness." Hence it must be eaten in the Temple Courtyard.


Ri Migash, the Rambam's teacher, commenting on Sh'vuot, loc. cit., emphasizes that eating the offerings are not merely signs that the consecration of the city or the Courtyard had been carried out, but rather, the consecration becomes effective by eating of these offerings. The Rambam's statements here appear to be based on that principle.


The expression used "not thoroughly consecrated" is somewhat problematic. The Maharit explains that this expression can be understood within the context of the Mishnah's statements (Sh'vuot, loc. cit.): "[In regard to] any place [in the Temple Courtyard] which was not consecrated with all of these [i.e., a king, a prophet, etc.], one who enters [while ritually impure] is not liable [for a sin offering]."

Generally, throughout the Talmud, such an expression implies that though a sin offering is not required, the act is forbidden. Similarly, in this context, a consecration which lacks all the elements listed previously in the Mishnah is not totally effective. Therefore, entering the portion of the Courtyard consecrated in this manner does not obligate an impure individual to bring a sacrifice. Nevertheless, there is a Rabbinic prohibition against entering that area.


As described in the passage from Nechemiah quoted above


See Chapter 4, Halachah 1.


Although the dedication procedure carried out by Ezra and Nechemiah was merely a testimonial act, having no Halachic significance, we are forced to say that the testimonial was carried out in precise detail as if the city was actually being consecrated. Therefore, the description of their procedure can demonstrate the process necessary to actually dedicate the city.


Since all sacrifices were offered there, we must conclude that it was indeed consecrated.


This concept is the subject of a debate in the Talmud (Sh'vuot 16a, Makkot 19a, Megillah 10a) and is discussed by the Rambam in the following two halachot.


See the commentary to Chapter 2, Halachah 4 which explains that the exiles who returned from Babylon built an Altar before they completed the construction of the Second Temple. The prophets assured them that "all sacrifices could be offered on that Altar, even though the Temple itself was not [built] there [yet.]" The construction of the Temple took another twenty two years to complete.

Even in later generations, our spiritual leaders have desired to offer sacrifices on the Temple Mount. In the Middle Ages, the Sage, Rabbi Chayim (according to other sources, Rabbi Yechiel) of Paris made Aliyah and settled in Jerusalem. He was prepared to offer sacrifices on the Temple site and refrained from doing so only after his colleagues explained that sacrifices could not be offered because they were unaware of the proper location, size, and dimensions of the Altar.


Twenty two years passed between the time that the exiles return to Jerusalem and the completion of the Second Temple. During that time, all the sacrifices were offered and eaten even though the walls of the Temple and the Courtyard were not built.


The second tithe. After the first tithe was separated, a second tithe also had to be set aside. In four years out of the seven year agricultural cycle, Ma'aser Sheni was brought to Jerusalem and eaten there. See Deuteronomy:22-26, Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni.


This statement is extremely problematic. In Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 2:1, the Rambam himself writes that "Ma'aser Sheni is only eaten in Jerusalem while the Temple is standing." Though some authorities have explained that the statement in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah refers to the time when the Altar is standing, there is no indication in the Rambam's words to that effect. Furthermore, there are other inconsistencies between the Rambam's statements here and in Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni.

Even according to the Rambam's statements here, we are now prohibited from eating Ma'aser Sheni in Jerusalem. We are all ritually impure, and Ma'aser Sheni must be eaten in a state of ritual purity.


In the previous halachot, the Rambam stated that the sanctity of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem would remain for eternity, because of the initial consecration by David and Solomon. Thus, when Ezra rededicated Jerusalem, as described in the Book of Nechemiah, his act was merely testimonial in nature. There was no need to reconsecrate the Temple, because its original holiness had never been nullified.

This seemingly contradicts the Rambam's statements in Sefer Zeraim, the portion of the Mishneh Torah which deals with the agricultural laws to be observed in Eretz Yisrael. There, the Rambam states that the original consecration of Eretz Yisrael was nullified after the Babylonian conquest. When Ezra returned from Babylon, he reconsecrated the Land, causing the various agricultural laws to be in effect again, though only M'd'Rabbanen, according to Rabbinic decree.

The portion he consecrated was considerably smaller than the original boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, his consecration remained in effect even after the Gentiles' subsequent conquests. Indeed, on the basis of that consecration, these agricultural laws must be observed in Eretz Yisrael today.

To resolve that contradiction, the Rambam explains that the "consecration" of Jerusalem and of the Temple differs from the "consecration" of Eretz Yisrael as a whole. Jerusalem and the Temple were consecrated by the revelation of the Shechinah in the Temple. That Divine act can never be nullified by man's deeds. In contrast, the consecration of Eretz Yisrael as a whole was brought about by the Jewish people. It can thus be nullified by the Gentiles.


As stated above in Halachot 14 and 15.


In Hilchot Terumah (1:5), the Rambam states:

Every [place] which those ascending from Egypt took possession of was consecrated in the initial consecration. When [the Jewish people] were exiled, that sanctity was nullified. The first consecration... sanctified the land for that time, but not for eternity.


See the commentary to Chapter 4, Halachah 1.


Megillah 28a.


Support for this statement can be brought from God's response to King Solomon, II Chronicles 7:15: "For now, I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My Name be there for eternity, and My eyes and My heart will be there forever."

Similarly, Sh'vuot 16b states that the Temple was consecrated forever.

Nevertheless, that statement is not accepted by all Halachic authorities. Both Rashi and the Tosafot interpret the Talmud's statements in Sh'vuot in a manner which indicates that they do not accept its simple meaning.

Similarly, commenting on this and the above halachot, the Ra'avad writes:

This is [the Rambam's] opinion. I am not aware of his source... According to the opinion in the Talmud which states that it was not originally consecrated for eternity, no differentiation was made between the Temple, Jerusalem, and the remainder of Eretz Yisrael...

Even R. Yossi who maintains that the second consecration consecrated the land for eternity made that statement only in regard to the remainder of Eretz Yisrael and not in regard to the Temple and Jerusalem.

Ezra knew that ultimately [the status] of the Temple and Jerusalem would ultimately change and that they would be eternally consecrated by God's glory [in the Messianic age]. Hence, he did not consecrate it when consecrating the remainder of Eretz Yisrael.

The above was revealed to me, [as it is said:] "The secrets of God [are conveyed] to those who fear Him."


In contrast, lands that were conquered by only a certain portion of the Jewish community, for example, Syria, were not bound by these laws.


After the Babylonians conquered Eretz Yisrael and exiled the people, the sanctity of the land was nullified. There was no obligation to keep any of the agricultural laws that apply in Eretz Yisrael during the seventy years of the Babylonian exile.


Chazzakah is a manifestation of ownership. It is accepted by Torah law as one of the certain formal acts of contract which acknowledge the transfer of property from one person to another.


The Kessef Mishnah finds these statements difficult to accept because of the following questions:

a) On what basis is Chazzakah considered a more effective means of acquisition than conquest?

b) After the initial conquest of Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish people manifested their ownership over it and thus, effected a Chazzakah. If so, why is Ezra's Chazzakah, which was not preceded by conquest, more effective than the Chazzakah which followed the original conquest? Why should the conquest detract from the consecration of the land?

These questions can be explained as follows: The Jerusalem Talmud (Challah 5:1) interprets Genesis 15:18: "I have given this land to your seed to mean that from Abraham's time onward Eretz Yisrael became the property of the Jewish people. Though the land was still possessed by the Canaanites, the Jews were already its legal owners. See Bava Batra 119b.

Despite this claim of ownership, the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael came about only after the Jewish people entered the land, after the redemption from Egypt. At that time, they were commanded to conquer the land and take it forcefully from the Gentiles (See Numbers 32:29, Deuteronomy 3:21, etc.) Since God made the consecration of the land dependent on its conquest by Israel, it follows that conquest by a Gentile nation can nullify that holiness.

In contrast, Ezra was not commanded to reconquer Eretz Yisrael, but to settle it. In this instance, God made the sanctity of the land dependent on the Jewish people manifesting their ownership over the land which had been given to them as an eternal inheritance. Since Eretz Yisrael remains our land, regardless of how many times it has been conquered by Gentiles, the sanctity effected by that manifestation of ownership is also eternal. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 15, 102-109.

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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.
Download Rambam Study Schedules: 3 Chapters | 1 Chapter | Daily Mitzvah