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


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:


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


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":


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.


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:


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


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:


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


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:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


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.


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:


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


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:


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.


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:


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


וְעוֹד שׁוֹמְרִים בְּלִשְׁכַּת הַקָּרְבָּן וּבְלִשְׁכַּת הַפָּרֹכֶת וַאֲחוֹרֵי בֵּית הַכַּפֹּרֶת:


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


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:


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


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:


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


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

בְּרִיךְ רַחֲמָנָא דְּסַיְּעָן

Blessed be God who grants assistance.