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ב"ה

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 8

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Beit Habechirah - Chapter 8

1

There is a positive mitzvah to guard the Temple.1 [This mitzvah applies] even though there is no fear of enemies or thieves, for the guarding [of the Temple] is an expression of respect for it. A palace with guards is [much more impressive] than a palace without guards.2

א

שְׁמִירַת הַמִּקְדָּשׁ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם פַּחַד מֵאוֹיְבִים וְלֹא מִלִּסְטִים. שֶׁאֵין שְׁמִירָתוֹ אֶלָּא כָּבוֹד לוֹ. אֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה פַּלְטֵרִין שֶׁיֵּשׁ עָלָיו שׁוֹמְרִין לְפַלְטֵרִין שֶׁאֵין עָלָיו שׁוֹמְרִין:

2

The mitzvah of guarding [the Temple] applies throughout the night.3

The priests and Levites shall serve as guards,4 as [Numbers 18:2] states: "And you and your sons [shall be] before the tent of the testimony,"5 i.e., you shall keep watch over it. Also, [ibid. 18:4] states: "And they [the Levites] shall watch over the Tent of Meeting,"6 and [ibid. 3:38] states: "And Moses,7 Aharon, and his sons8 shall camp before the Sanctuary towards the east, and they will be the guardians of the holy watch."9

ב

וּשְׁמִירָה זוֹ מִצְוָתָהּ כָּל הַלַּיְלָה. וְהַשּׁוֹמְרִים הֵם הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יח ב) "וְאַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ אִתָּךְ לִפְנֵי אֹהֶל הָעֵדֻת". כְּלוֹמַר אַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ שׁוֹמְרִים לוֹ. וַהֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר (במדבר יח ד) "וְשָׁמְרוּ אֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד" וְנֶאֱמַר (במדבר ג לח) "וְהַחֹנִים קֵדְמָה לִפְנֵי אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד מִזְרָחָה משֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן וּבָנָיו שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁמֶרֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ":

3

Anyone who nullifies this watch transgress a negative commandment,10 as [Numbers 18:5] states: "And you shall take care to keep the Holy Watch." Any form of the verb, shemar, "take care," implies a warning against transgressing a negative command.11

Thus, guarding [the Temple fulfills] a positive command and nullifying its watch [represents the violation of] a negative command.

ג

וְאִם בִּטְּלוּ שְׁמִירָה עָבְרוּ בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יח ה) "וְשָׁמְרוּ אֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ". וּלְשׁוֹן שְׁמִירָה אַזְהָרָה הִיא הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁשְּׁמִירָתוֹ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה. וּבִטּוּל שְׁמִירָתוֹ מִצְוַת לֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה:

4

The mitzvah of guarding [the Temple] is [as follows:] The priests stood guard from the inside and the Levites from the outside.12 24 groups of guards stood watch over it continuously, each night, in 24 [different] places.13 The priests stood guard in three places14 and the Levites, in 21 places.15

ד

מִצְוַת שְׁמִירָתוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים שׁוֹמְרִים מִבִּפְנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם מִבַּחוּץ. וְכ''ד עֵדָה שׁוֹמְרִין אוֹתוֹ בְּכָל לַיְלָה תָּמִיד בְּכ''ד מָקוֹם. הַכֹּהֲנִים בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה מְקוֹמוֹת וְהַלְוִיִּם בְּכ''א מָקוֹם:

5

Where did they keep watch? The priests kept watch in the Chamber of Avtinas, the Chamber of the Spark, and the Chamber of the Hearth.16

The Chamber of Avtinas17 and the Chamber of the Spark18 were two-storey structures built at the sides of the gates of the Temple Courtyard.19 The young priests kept watch there.20

The Chamber of the Hearth was a large, domed structure,21 surrounded [on the inside] with projections of stone.22 The elders of the priestly watch of that day23 slept there24 with the keys to the Temple Courtyard25 in their hands.26

ה

וְהֵיכָן הָיוּ שׁוֹמְרִים. כֹּהֲנִים הָיוּ שׁוֹמְרִים בְּבֵית אַבְטִינַס וּבְבֵית הַנִּיצוֹץ וּבְבֵית הַמּוֹקֵד. בֵּית אַבְטִינַס וּבֵית הַנִּיצוֹץ הָיוּ עֲלִיּוֹת בְּנוּיוֹת בְּצַד שַׁעֲרֵי הָעֲזָרָה וְהָרוֹבִין הָיוּ שׁוֹמְרִים שָׁם. בֵּית הַמּוֹקֵד כִּפָּה וּבַיִת גָּדוֹל הָיָה מֻקָּף רְבָדִין שֶׁל אֶבֶן וְזִקְנֵי בֵּית אָב שֶׁל אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם הָיוּ יְשֵׁנִים שָׁם וּמַפְתְּחוֹת הָעֲזָרָה בְּיָדָם:

6

The priests on watch did not sleep27 in the priestly garments.28 Instead, they folded them, placed them at their heads,29 and wore their own clothes.

They slept on the ground. It is customary for all those who stand watch over the courtyards of kings not to sleep on beds.

ו

לֹא הָיוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים הַשּׁוֹמְרִים יְשֵׁנִים בְּבִגְדֵי כְּהֻנָּה אֶלָּא מְקַפְּלִין אוֹתָן וּמַנִּיחִין אוֹתָן כְּנֶגֶד רָאשֵׁיהֶן וְלוֹבְשִׁין בִּגְדֵי עַצְמָן וִישֵׁנִים עַל הָאָרֶץ. כְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל שׁוֹמְרֵי חַצְרוֹת הַמְּלָכִים שֶׁלֹּא יִישְׁנוּ עַל הַמִּטּוֹת:

7

If one of them had a seminal emission [in his sleep],30 he would proceed down the winding underground stairwell.31 [There was no prohibition involved], because the underground passageways that opened up to [the portion of] the Temple Mount [outside the Courtyard] were not consecrated.32

[There,] he would immerse himself. [He would then] return and sit among his fellow priests33 until the gates were opened in the morning. [At that time,] he would leave and proceed [to his own affairs].34

ז

אֵרַע קֶרִי לָאֶחָד מֵהֶן. הוֹלֵךְ בַּמְּסִבָּה שֶׁתַּחַת הַקַּרְקַע שֶׁהַמְּחִלּוֹת הַפְּתוּחוֹת לְהַר הַבַּיִת לֹא נִתְקַדְּשׁוּ וְטוֹבֵל וְחוֹזֵר וְיוֹשֵׁב אֵצֶל אֶחָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים עַד שֶׁנִּפְתָּחִין הַשְּׁעָרִים בַּבֹּקֶר יוֹצֵא וְהוֹלֵךְ לוֹ:

8

Where would the Levites stand watch?35

Inside the five gates to the Temple Mount;36

At its four corners [of the wall surrounding the Temple Mount] from the inside;

At the outside of four corners of the Temple Courtyard, for it is forbidden to sit in the Temple Courtyard;37

At the outside of five [of the seven] gates to the Temple Courtyard, for the priests stood watch at [the remaining two gates], the Chamber of the Hearth and the Gate of the Spark;38

a total of eighteen locations.

ח

וְהֵיכָן הָיוּ הַלְוִיִּם שׁוֹמְרִים. עַל חֲמִשָּׁה שַׁעֲרֵי הַר הַבַּיִת. וְעַל אַרְבַּע פִּנּוֹתָיו מִתּוֹכוֹ. וְעַל אַרְבַּע פִּנּוֹת הָעֲזָרָה מִבַּחוּץ שֶׁאָסוּר לֵישֵׁב בָּעֲזָרָה. וְעַל חֲמִשָּׁה שַׁעֲרֵי הָעֲזָרָה חוּץ לָעֲזָרָה שֶׁהֲרֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים שׁוֹמְרִים עַל שַׁעַר הַמּוֹקֵד וְעַל שַׁעַר הַנִּיצוֹץ. הֲרֵי שְׁמוֹנָה עָשָׂר מָקוֹם:

9

They also stood watch in the Chamber of the Sacrifices,39 the Chamber of the Parochet,40 and behind the Holy of Holies.41

ט

וְעוֹד שׁוֹמְרִים בְּלִשְׁכַּת הַקָּרְבָּן וּבְלִשְׁכַּת הַפָּרֹכֶת וַאֲחוֹרֵי בֵּית הַכַּפֹּרֶת:

10

An overseer was appointed over all the watches of guards. He was called: "The officer of the Temple Mount."42

Throughout the night, he checked on all the watches. Torches were lit before him.43 If a guard did not stand before him and greet him: "Peace be unto you, officer of the Temple Mount," he would assume that he was sleeping, and would strike him with his staff.44 He was even granted permission to burn [a sleeping guard's] clothing.45

Thus, it was commonly said in Jerusalem: "What is the noise in the Temple Courtyard [at night]? It must be the voice of a Levite being beaten and his clothes burned because he slept on his watch."46

י

וּמַעֲמִידִין מְמֻנֶּה אֶחָד עַל כָּל מִשְׁמְרוֹת הַשּׁוֹמְרִים. וְאִישׁ הַר הַבַּיִת הָיָה נִקְרָא. וְהָיָה מְחַזֵּר עַל כָּל מִשְׁמָר וּמִשְׁמָר כָּל הַלַּיְלָה. וַאֲבוּקוֹת דְּלוּקוֹת לְפָנָיו. וְכָל מִשְׁמָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹמֵד וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ אִישׁ הַר הַבַּיִת שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ נִכָּר שֶׁהוּא יָשֵׁן חוֹבְטוֹ בְּמַקְּלוֹ. וּרְשׁוּת הָיָה לוֹ לִשְׂרֹף אֶת כְּסוּתוֹ עַד שֶׁהָיוּ אוֹמְרִין בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מַה קּוֹל בָּעֲזָרָה קוֹל בֶּן לֵוִי לוֹקֶה וּבְגָדָיו נִשְׂרָפִין שֶׁיָּשַׁן עַל מִשְׁמַרְתּוֹ:

11

In the morning, shortly before dawn,47 the overseer of the Sanctuary48 came49 and tapped50 to awaken the priests sleeping in the Chamber of the Hearth.51 [When] they opened [the gate] for him, he took the keys52 and opened the small gate leading from the Chamber of the Hearth to the Temple Courtyard.53

[Then] he entered the Courtyard, and the priests followed him. They held two torches of fire in their hands and divided into two groups. One proceeded eastward and the other, westward.54

They walked on, checking the entire Temple Courtyard.55 Both groups [met when they] reached the Chamber of the Bakers of the Chavitin.56 When both groups reached [that point], they declared: "Peace be unto you. Everything is at peace."57 [Afterwards,] they prompted the bakers of the Chavitin to begin their work.58

יא

בַּשַּׁחַר קֹדֶם שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשַּׁחַר סָמוּךְ לוֹ יָבוֹא הַמְמֻנֶּה שֶׁל מִקְדָּשׁ וְיִדְפֹּק עַל הַכֹּהֲנִים שֶׁבְּבֵית הַמּוֹקֵד וְהֵן פּוֹתְחִין לוֹ. נָטַל אֶת הַמַּפְתֵּחַ וּפָתַח אֶת הַשַּׁעַר הַקָּטָן שֶׁבֵּין בֵּית הַמּוֹקֵד וּבֵין הָעֲזָרָה וְנִכְנַס מִבֵּית הַמּוֹקֵד לָעֲזָרָה וְנִכְנְסוּ אַחֲרָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים וּשְׁתֵּי אֲבוּקוֹת שֶׁל אוּר בְּיָדָם וְנֶחְלְקוּ לִשְׁתֵּי כִּתּוֹת. כַּת הוֹלֶכֶת לְמִזְרָח וְכַת הוֹלֶכֶת לְמַעֲרָב. וְהָיוּ בּוֹדְקִין וְהוֹלְכִין אֶת כָּל הָעֲזָרָה עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעוּ שְׁתֵּי הַכִּתּוֹת לִמְקוֹם בֵּית עוֹשֵׂי חֲבִיתִין. הִגִּיעוּ אֵלּוּ וְאֵלּוּ אוֹמְרִין שָׁלוֹם הַכּל שָׁלוֹם. וְהֶעֱמִידוּ עוֹשֵׂי חֲבִיתִין לַעֲשׂוֹת חֲבִיתִין:

12

59 This pattern was followed each night except on Sabbath eve. [Then,] they did not hold torches in their hands.60 Rather, they checked by the light of the candles, which remained burning from the Sabbath eve.61

יב

כַּסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה עוֹשִׂין בְּכָל לַיְלָה וְלַיְלָה חוּץ מִלֵּילֵי שַׁבָּת שֶׁאֵין בְּיָדָם אוּר אֶלָּא בּוֹדְקִין בַּנֵּרוֹת הַדְּלוּקִין שָׁם מֵעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת:

Test Yourself on This Chapter

Footnotes
1.

The Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot, positive commandment 22) and the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 388) list this as one of the 613 commandments.

2.

The Kessef Mishneh mentions another reason for guarding the Temple: to prevent those who are forbidden to enter from entering.

The place where both the Mishnah and the Rambam describe the watch which the priests and the Levites kept over the Temple has aroused the attention of the commentaries: The Mishnah repeats its description of the watch in two places: at the beginning of the tractate of Tamid, which relates the order of the priests' service, and the beginning of the tractate of Middot, which defines the structure of the Temple. The Rambam describes this mitzvah in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah, which describes the construction of the Temple, but not the details of the priests' service.

On this basis, the commentaries explain, we can understand two dimensions implicit in this mitzvah:

a) The priests' responsibility to prevent those forbidden to enter from entering; and

b) The responsibility incumbent on the entire Jewish people to construct and maintain the Temple in the most fitting manner.

Since the presence of guards enhances the glory of the Sanctuary, the mitzvah of guarding the Sanctuary can be seen as an aspect of its very structure. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 13, p. 56-65.

3.

In his commentary to Tamid, the Ra'avad states that the priests and Levites also stood watch during the day. The Minchat Chinuch mentions that view, explaining that the Rambam explained that the reason for the priestly watch was to show deference to the Temple during the day as well. Just as a palace of an earthly king is guarded both at day and at night, so too, it is proper to keep watch over the Temple in this manner.

Nevertheless, the Tifferet Yisrael (Middot 1:1) explains that since the priests were involved in the Temple service throughout the entire day, that in itself is a clear sign of honor and respect to the Temple, and no further measures were necessary.

This view is supported by the commentary of the Rabbenu Asher at the beginning of the tractate of Tamid. He explains that the reason for keeping watch over the Temple was to have our attention focused on it at all times. That purpose is surely accomplished by the Temple service, and hence, watchmen are not required then.

Accordingly, it appears that the watch would be maintained until the service in the Temple began, with the removal of the Altar's ashes at dawn. Thus, we can understand the last halachah of this chapter, which deals with the preparation of the Sanctuary for the service of the following day, as describing the final aspects of the nightly watch. See Likkutei Sichot, loc. cit.

4.

The places where the priests and Levites kept watch are described in Halachot 4-9.

5.

This verse begins: "And the Lord said to Aaron," thus, indicating the responsibility of Aaron and his sons, the priests, to keep watch over the Sanctuary.

6.

Indicating that the Levites were also charged with that responsibility.

7.

A Levite.

8.

Priests.

9.

Thus, this verse indicates that the task was shared by the Priests and Levites together (Tamid 26a).

16It must be noted that, in order to emphasize the concept he wishes to communicate, the Rambam does not quote the latter verse exactly.

10.

T(Sefer HaMitzvot (negattive commandment 67) and the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 331) list this as one of the 613 commandments.

11.

See Menachot 36b.

12.

According to the simple meaning "inside" and "outside" refer to the Temple Courtyard. The Levites stood guard outside the Courtyard and the priests, inside. However, the Minchat Chinuch renders "inside" as within a building, and "outside" as in the open.

13.

Tamid 27a explains the derivation of this practice as I Chronicles (26:17-18), which states:

To the east there were six Levites, to the north, four..., to the south, four..., towards Assupin, two and two. At Parber to the west, there were four at the winding stairway and two at the Parber.

Thus, there were a total of twenty-four guard positions. Even though this verse describes the watch over the Sanctuary constructed in David's time, and not the Temple itself, the same basic pattern was followed in the later structure.

14.

As described in the following three Halachot.

Although the above verse specifically mentions Levites, the priests are sometimes (e.g., Ezekiel 44:15) referred to as Levites (Tamid, loc. cit.).

Tamid 26a offers two different explanations why the priests would be placed in three different positions. The first explains that the command to keep watch over the Sanctuary was originally given to Aharon and his sons, a total of three individuals. The second notes that the command to guard the Temple mentions the words "keep watch," three times in the same verse.

15.

As described in Halachot 8 and 9.

16.

See Tamid 1:1, Middot 1:1.

17.

This structure was located on the south side of the Temple Courtyard, adjacent to the Water Gate.

18.

This was the westernmost gate on the northern side of the Temple Courtyard. See Chapter 5, Halachah 4.

19.

The reason why these were two-floor structures can be explained in terms of the Rambam's words above, Chapter 6, Halachah 7. There, the Rambam writes that the roofs and upper floors of the structures in the Temple Courtyard were not consecrated. This is very significant, for were they to have been consecrated, it would have been forbidden for the priests to sit or lie there, as stated in Chapter 7, Halachah 6.

20.

According to Tamid 27a, the term, "young priests," refers to youth who were too young to participate in the Temple services. According to the Ra'avad, these youth were not even thirteen years of age.

The Mishneh LiMelech rejects that opinion, declaring that this Mitzvah would not be entrusted to children that young. He explains that until the age of twenty, priests were not granted the opportunity to take part in the Temple services. Thus, the "young priests" were youth below that age, but past majority. See also the Minchat Chinuch.

21.

13See Chapter 5, Halachot 10 and 11.

22.

As mentioned above, half of the Chamber of the Hearth was considered consecrated, while half was not. According to the principle that one could not lie or sit in the consecrated areas of the Courtyard, it would appear that only half of the chamber was surrounded by these projections.

23.

13As mentioned in the commentary to Chapter 7, Halachah 4, there were 24 priestly watches. Each served in the Temple for a week, and then another watch was given a chance to serve. There was a set pattern of rotation.

Within these watches, there were further subdivisions. Each weekly watch was broken down into six daily watches for each day of the week. On the Sabbath, all the priests of that watch served together.

24.

Tamid 26b explains that they slept on these protrusions, because it was disrespectful to bring beds into the Temple complex.

25.

The gates to the Temple Courtyard were locked at night.

26.

The Vilna Gaon renders this expression as "in their possession." This change is made on the basis of Middot 1:9, which states that the keys to the Temple Courtyard were kept on a special ring in the Chamber of the Hearth.

27.

From the Rambam's statements, it appears that the priests would be permitted to sleep while on guard duty. This is difficult to accept, for the following reasons:

a) The purpose for posting guards around the Temple was to show respect. That objective is not fulfilled by sleeping.

b) Halachah 10, which quotes Middot 1:2, states that the guards would be punished for sleeping while on duty. Although the Rambam and the Mishnah specifically mention "Levites," it is reasonable to assume that term was used because the majority of the guards were Levites.

For these reasons, the Mishneh LiMelech explains that all of the guards were not required to remain awake the entire night. Rather, at any particular time, there would be one or two guards awake at each station and the others were permitted to sleep.

28.

This refers to the four priestly garments which an ordinary priest was required to wear while serving in the Temple.

29.

The priests could not place their priestly garments under their heads to serve as pillows, for they were forbidden to derive benefit from them. See Yoma 69a.

In his commentary to Tamid, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1, the Rambam explains that this prohibition was instituted because the priestly garments contained Sha'atnez, a mixture of linen and wool. Hence, though a priest was permitted to use them during the Temple service, once that service was concluded, he was forbidden to do so. See also the Kessef Mishneh.

30.

Leviticus 15:16 explains that a man who has a seminal emission becomes ritually impure. To purify himself, he must immerse his entire body in a mikveh and wait until the end of the day.

31.

Which lead to a natural mikveh positioned under the Temple Courtyard.

32.

As explained in Chapter 6, Halachah 7. This passageway passed below the Courtyard. However, since it opened up to the portion of the Chamber of the Hearth that was not consecrated, there was no prohibition in entering while ritually impure.

33.

There was no prohibition against remaining in the non-consecrated portion of the Chamber of the Hearth. As stated in Chapter 6, Halachah 17, a person who has already immersed himself in the mikveh, but must wait for the day to pass before becoming ritually pure, may remain on the Temple Mount and proceed until the Women's Courtyard.

34.

Though there was no prohibition against him remaining in the Chamber of the Hearth, it was proper for him to leave so that no one would think that he was prepared to participate in the Temple services (Tifferet Yisrael, Tamid 1:1).

35.

This halachah is based on Middot 1:1.

36.

See Chapter 5, Halachah 2, for a description of the gates to the Temple Mount.

37.

See the commentary to Halachah 4.

38.

See the commentary to Chapter 5, Halachah 4.

39.

Tifferet Yisrael (Middot 1:1) explains that this refers to the Chamber of the Lambs, one of the four smaller chambers in the Chamber of the Hearth. See Chapter 5, Halachah 10.

40.

This chamber is not mentioned in Chapter 5, Halachah 17, as one of the chambers within the Temple Courtyard. Similarly, Tifferet Yisrael (op. cit.) states: "I do not know where it was located."

41.

As a sign of respect for the Shechinah.

42.

He was given the keys to all the gates of the Temple complex.

43.

Tifferet Yisrael (Middot 1:2) explains that the torches were not carried before him, but positioned as lights at the guard stations. Although there is no evidence that the Rambam accepts this view, a comparison with the following halachah indicates this possibility.

44.

Chapter 7, Halachah 2, states that it was forbidden to enter the Temple Mount with a staff. Nevertheless, an exception was made to allow "the officer of the Temple Mount" to perform his task (Yeriot Shlomo).

45.

Although generally, one may not destroy things of value (bal tashchit), an exception is made in this case to allow the Temple to be guarded properly.

The "officer of the Temple Mount" could be authorized to destroy private property on the basis of the principle: Hefker Beit Din, Hefker, i.e., a Jewish court may forfeit a person's ownership over an article (Rabbenu Asher, Commentary to Middot 1:1).

The Ezrat Kohanim does not accept this explanation because the prohibition against destroying things of value applies even in regard to ownerless articles.

Another possible explanation is that this step is taken for the watchmen's own good. A father or a teacher is allowed to hit a student to shape his character. Similarly, in this instance, "the officer of the Temple Mount" was entitled to burn a watchman's clothing so that he will perform his task more effectively (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 18, p.465).

46.

As mentioned in the commentary to Halachah 6, there is a debate among the Rabbis if the priests were allowed to sleep on their watch or not. Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura (Shekalim 5:1) states that both priests and Levites would be beaten for sleeping. However, the Tosafot Yom Tov argues that this punishment was only administered to Levites.

It would appear that the Rambam subscribes to the latter view. In Hilchot Klei HaMikdash (7:4), he writes: "The officer of the Temple Mount walked around, [checking on] the Levites..."

47.

The Temple services began with the removal of the ashes from the Altar. Generally, this was done at dawn.

The term dawn, alot hashachar, refers to the time before sunrise when the first rays of the sun begin to illuminate the horizon. This is more than an hour before sunrise.

48.

This does not refer to the "officer of the Temple Mount" mentioned above. In Hilchot Temidim U'Musafim 6:1, the Rambam describes this entire procedure a second time. There, he ascribes the waking of the priests to the priest responsible for delegating different sacrificial functions. See also Tamid 26a.

49.

From the chayl.

50.

On the external gate of the Chamber of the Hearth,

51.

As explained in Halachot 5 and 6.

52.

Middot 1:7 mentions that the keys to the Courtyard were hung on a ring in the Chamber of the Hearth. See also the notes to Halachah 5.

53.

Tamid 28a relates that there was a small wicket next to the large gate leading from the Chamber of the Hearth to the Temple Courtyard. The large gate would not be opened until dawn. Therefore, the priests entered through the wicket to prepare the Courtyard for the service of the coming day.

54.

As explained in Chapter 5, the Chamber of the Hearth was positioned on the north side of the Temple Courtyard, slightly beyond the entrance of the Temple building. From this point, one group would proceed westward, towards the western end of the Courtyard. The other group walked towards the east, in the direction of the Gate of Nicanor, the major entrance to the Courtyard. Both groups walked near the walls, so that they would make a complete circuit around the Courtyard.

55.

To make sure all of the sacred utensils were in their proper places.

56.

See Chapter 5, Halachah 17, where this chamber is described.

The Chamber of the Bakers of the Chavitin was located on the southern side of the Courtyard's eastern wall. Thus, the group of priests who turned westward had a much longer route than those who proceeded to the east.

57.

The Ra'avad in his commentary to Tamid 28a explains that each group would greet the other in this manner.

58.

The Chavitin was offered each day by the High Priest shortly after the morning sacrifice.

A general question may be asked concerning this and the following halachah: Why did the Rambam include them in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah which describes the construction of the Temple? It would appear more appropriate to mention them in Hilchot Temidim UMusafim, where the laws governing the daily service in the Temple are described. Indeed, we find that these laws are repeated there.

The reason is based on the explanation of Halachah 1. There, the Rambam states that the watch kept over the Temple was an act of deference, enhancing the glory of the Temple. Thus, maintaining that watch is part of the responsibility of the entire Jewish people to construct and maintain the Temple in the most fitting manner.

16A similar principle can be explained in regard to this inspection of the Courtyard. Over and above the need for checking to see that all the sacred utensils were in there appropriate positions, this inspection was an act of deference and honor which enhanced the importance of the Temple (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 18, p. 244-249).

59.

This is the final halachah of Hilchot Beit HaBechirah. There are a total of 7 halachot in the text. The latter figure matches the age of Levi when he passed away. Levi was the ancestor of the priests and the Levites who served in the Temple.

60.

Because it is forbidden to carry a flame on the Sabbath.

61.

The Kessef Mishnah, Tosafot Yom Tov, and other commentaries, question why they were not permitted to carry the torches with them. Although carrying fire is prohibited on the Sabbath, the prohibition is only Rabbinic in origin in the category of shvut. The Rambam states (Hilchot Shabbat 21:27) that all Rabbinic prohibitions of this nature were suspended in the Temple.

Among the explanations offered are: Since it was possible to use candles which were lit before the Sabbath, there is no need to violate even a Rabbinic prohibition. Alternatively, this inspection was carried out in preparation for the service of the entire day to follow and, as above, it was an act of deference to the Temple. Therefore, to emphasize the holiness of the Temple, it was proper that it be carried out without violating any prohibition whatsoever.

The structure of the final chapter of Hilchot Beit HaBechirah can be explained homiletically: It begins with the obligation to guard the Temple at night, and concludes with the preparations for the Temple services at dawn.

As mentioned above (Halachah 2), the commentaries explain that the mitzvah of guarding the Temple was instituted so that the Temple would be prominent in our minds at all times. Thus, during the day, there was no necessity to stand guard, for that purpose was accomplished by the Temple service. However, at night, when there was no service, we were required to keep a watch around the Temple.

The period of exile is often described as night and the advent of the Messianic era, as dawn. By guarding the Temple at night, and studying the laws of its construction during the exile, we will merit the coming of the dawn, the coming of Mashiach.

A similar idea can be seen in the last halachah, which deals with the priests' procedure on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is described as me'ein olam haba'ah, a microcosm of the world to come, and the time of the coming of the Mashiach. On the Sabbath, in the Messianic age, the preparations for the Temple service will be carried out with the light kindled on the Sabbath eve, representing the present age - and before the coming of the Mashiach. Our service at present generates spiritual light. We will use that light to prepare for the sacrifices to be offered in the Third Temple.

May we merit the Messianic redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple speedily, and in our days. 47Then, shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to God, as in days of old and former years 48 (Malachi 3:4).

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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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