The Altar is [to be constructed] in a very precise location,1 which may never be changed,2 as it is said (II Chronicles 22:1): "This is the Altar for the burnt offerings of Israel."

Isaac was prepared as a sacrifice on the Temple's [future] site, as it is said (Genesis 22:2): "Go to the land of Moriah,"3 and in Chronicles (II 3:1), it is said: "Then, Solomon began to build the House of the Lord in Jerusalem, on Mt. Moriah, where [the Lord] appeared to David, his father, in the place that David had prepared,4 in the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite."


הַמִּזְבֵחַ מְקוֹמוֹ מְכֻוָּן בְּיוֹתֵר. וְאֵין מְשַׁנִּין אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לְעוֹלָם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברי הימים א כב א) "זֶה מִזְבַּח לְעוֹלָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל". וּבַמִּקְדָּשׁ נֶעֱקַד יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית כב ב) "וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה". וְנֶאֱמַר בְּדִבְרֵי הַיָּמִים (דברי הימים ב ג א) "וַיָּחֶל שְׁלֹמֹה לִבְנוֹת אֶת בֵּית ה' בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם בְּהַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה אֲשֶׁר נִרְאָה לְדָוִיד אָבִיהוּ אֲשֶׁר הֵכִין בִּמְקוֹם דָּוִיד בְּגֹרֶן אָרְנָן הַיְבוּסִי":


It is universally accepted5 that the place on which David and Solomon built the Altar,6 the threshing floor of Ornan, is the location where Abraham built the Altar on which he prepared Isaac for sacrifice.

Noah built [an altar] on that location when he left the ark.7 It was also [the place] of the Altar on which Cain and Abel brought sacrifices.8 [Similarly,] Adam, the first man, offered a sacrifice there and was created at that very spot,9 as our Sages said: "Man was created from the place where he [would find] atonement."10


וּמָסֹרֶת בְּיַד הַכּל שֶׁהַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ דָּוִד וּשְׁלֹמֹה הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בְּגֹרֶן אֲרַוְנָה הוּא הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ אַבְרָהָם הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְעָקַד עָלָיו יִצְחָק. וְהוּא הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ נֹחַ כְּשֶׁיָּצָא מִן הַתֵּבָה. וְהוּא הַמִּזְבֵּחַ שֶׁהִקְרִיב עָלָיו קַיִן וְהֶבֶל. וּבוֹ הִקְרִיב אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן קָרְבָּן כְּשֶׁנִּבְרָא וּמִשָּׁם נִבְרָא. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אָדָם מִמְּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא:


The dimensions of the Altar must be very precise. Its design has been passed down from one to another [over the course of the generations].

The altar built by the exiles [returning from Babylon] was constructed according to the design of the Altar to be built in the Messianic age.11 We may not increase or reduce its dimensions.12


מִדּוֹת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מְכֻוָּנוֹת הַרְבֵּה וְצוּרָתוֹ יְדוּעָה אִישׁ מֵאִישׁ. וּמִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁבָּנוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה כְּעֵין מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָתִיד לְהִבָּנוֹת עָשׂוּהוּ וְאֵין לְהוֹסִיף עַל מִדָּתוֹ וְלֹא לִגְרֹעַ מִמֶּנָּה:


Three prophets returned to [Eretz Yisrael] with the people:13 one attested to the site of the Altar;14 the second, to its dimensions;15 and the third attested to [the Halachah permitting] all sacrifices to be offered on that Altar, even though the Temple itself was not [built] there [yet].16


וּשְׁלֹשָׁה נְבִיאִים עָלוּ עִמָּהֶם מִן הַגּוֹלָה. אֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מְקוֹם הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מִדּוֹתָיו. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן שֶׁמַּקְרִיבִין עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַזֶּה כָּל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בַּיִת:


The Altar constructed by Moses, and, [similarly,] that built by Solomon, and that erected by the [returning] exiles, and that to be built [in the Messianic age] are all ten cubits high.17 Though the Torah states [Exodus 27:1]: "Its height will be three cubits," [that refers to] the surface on which the wood for the sacrifices was arranged.18

The length and breadth of the Altar built by the [returning] exiles and, similarly, the one to be built in the Messianic Age, is 32 cubits by 32 cubits.19


מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשָׂה משֶׁה וְשֶׁעָשָׂה שְׁלֹמֹה וְשֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְשֶׁעָתִיד לְהֵעָשׂוֹת כֻּלָּן עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת גֹּבַהּ כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן. וְזֶה הַכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כז א) "וְשָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת קוֹמָתוֹ" מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה בִּלְבַד. וּמִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְכֵן הֶעָתִיד לְהִבָּנוֹת מִדַּת אָרְכּוֹ וְרָחְבּוֹ ל''ב אַמּוֹת עַל ל''ב אַמּוֹת:

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 10 cubits of the Altar's height [were not measured in a consistent manner.]20 Sometimes the measure of a "cubit" was six handbreadths, while in other cases, the cubit's measure was five handbreadths.21 In all other cases, the cubits mentioned in the dimensions of the Temple are six handbreadths.

The height of the entire Altar22 was 58 handbreadths.23


עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת שֶׁל גֹּבַהּ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מֵהֶן בְּאַמָּה בַּת חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים וּמֵהֶן בְּאַמָּה בַּת שִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וּשְׁאָר כָּל אַמּוֹת הַבִּנְיָן בְּאַמָּה בַּת שִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וְגֹבַהּ כָּל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ נ''ח טְפָחִים:


The [Altar's] dimensions and design were as follows:24 Five handbreadths up and five handbreadths in25 [form a step called] the base. Thus, the [remaining area of the Altar] was 30 cubits and two handbreadths by 30 cubits and two handbreadths.26

Thirty handbreadths [further] up and 5 handbreadths [further] in is [called] the surrounding ledge.27

Thus, its area was 28 cubits and four handbreadths by 28 cubits and four handbreadths.28

Go up eighteen handbreadths, place a hollow, rectangular structure in each corner of this surface [thus, creating the Altar's] four horns.

The area encompassed by the horns was one cubit by one cubit on all sides.29 Similarly, the space for the priests to walk was a cubit on all sides.30

[Thus,] the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged31 was 24 cubits and four handbreadths by 24 cubits and four handbreadths.32


וְכָךְ הָיְתָה מִדָּתוֹ וְצוּרָתוֹ. עָלָה חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים וְכָנַס חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים זֶהוּ יְסוֹד. נִמְצָא רֹחַב שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה וּשְׁנֵי טְפָחִים עַל רֹחַב שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה וּשְׁנֵי טְפָחִים. עָלָה שְׁלֹשִׁים טְפָחִים וְכָנַס חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים זֶהוּ סוֹבֵב [עָלָה י''ח טְפָחִים זֶהוּ מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה] נִמְצָא רָחְבּוֹ שְׁמוֹנֶה וְעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים עַל שְׁמוֹנֶה וְעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים [עָלָה י''ח טְפָחִים וְכוֹנֵס לְקֶרֶן זָוִית שֶׁל הַי''ח בִּנְיָן חָלוּל מְרֻבָּע לְכָל אַרְבַּע קְרָנוֹת] וּמְקוֹם הַקְּרָנוֹת אַמָּה מִזֶּה וְאַמָּה מִזֶּה סָבִיב. וְכֵן מְקוֹם רַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים אַמָּה סָבִיב. נִמְצָא מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה רָחְבּוֹ עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים עַל עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים:


Each horn was five handbreadths high.33 The area of each horn was a cubit by a cubit. [All] four horns were hollow.34

Thus, the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged was 18 handbreadths above [the surrounding ledge.]

Half of the Altar's height [began] 6 handbreadths below the end of the surrounding ledge.35


גֹּבַהּ כָּל קֶרֶן וְקֶרֶן חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וְרִבּוּעַ כָּל קֶרֶן אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה. וְאַרְבַּע הַקְּרָנוֹת חֲלוּלוֹת הָיוּ מִתּוֹכָן. וְגֹבַהּ מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה י''ח טְפָחִים. נִמְצָא חֲצִי גֹּבַהּ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כ''ט טְפָחִים מִסּוֹף הַסּוֹבֵב וּלְמַטָּה:


A scarlet band36 is girded around the middle of the Altar six handbreadths below the surrounding ledge to separate between the blood [to be cast on] the upper [portion of the Altar]37 and the blood [to be sprinkled on] the lower [portion of the Altar].38

Thus, the distance from the earth to the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged was a handbreadth less than nine cubits.39


וְחוּט שֶׁל סִקְרָה הָיָה חוֹגֵר בְּאֶמְצַע הַמִּזְבֵּחַ [כְּשִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים מִסּוֹף הַסּוֹבֵב וּלְמַטָּה] לְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין דָּמִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לְדָמִים הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים. וְנִמְצָא גָּבְהוֹ מִן הָאָרֶץ עַד מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה תֵּשַׁע אַמּוֹת פָּחוֹת טֶפַח:


The ledge encircled the Altar on all four sides. The base did not.40 The base encompassed the entire northern41 and western42 sides [of the Altar], and consumed one cubit on the South side and one cubit on the east side.43[Thus,] the southeast corner [of the Altar] did not have a base.


יְסוֹד הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא הָיָה מַקִּיף מֵאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹתָיו כְּמוֹ הַסּוֹבֵב. אֶלָּא הָיָה הַיְסוֹד מָשׁוּךְ כְּנֶגֶד כָּל רוּחַ צָפוֹן וּמַעֲרָבִי וְאוֹכֵל בַּדָּרוֹם אַמָּה אַחַת וּבַמִּזְרָח אַמָּה אַחַת. וְקֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית לֹא הָיָה לָהּ יְסוֹד:


There were two holes in the southwest corner [of the Altar's base],44 resembling two thin nostrils. They were called Shittin.45 The blood46 [which was poured onto the Altar] would run off through them and be mixed together in the drainage canal in that corner.47 From there, it would flow out to the Kidron River.48


וּבְקֶרֶן מַעֲרָבִית דְּרוֹמִית הָיוּ שְׁנֵי נְקָבִים כְּמִין שֵׁנִי חֳטָמִין דַּקִּין. וְהֵן הַנִּקְרָאִין שִׁיתִין שֶׁהַדָּמִים יוֹרְדִין בָּהֶן וּמִתְעָרְבִין בְּאוֹתָהּ הַקֶּרֶן בָּאַמָּה וְיוֹצְאִין לַנַּחַל קִדְרוֹן:


Below, in the floor of that corner of the Altar, was a place, a cubit by a cubit, [covered by] a block of marble, with a ring affixed to it.49 They would descend there to the Shittin and clean them.50


וּלְמַטָּה בָּרִצְפָּה בְּאוֹתוֹ הַקֶּרֶן הָיָה מְקוֹם אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה וְטַבְלָא שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ וְטַבַּעַת קְבוּעָה בָּהּ שֶׁבּוֹ יוֹרְדִין לַשִּׁיתִין וּמְנַקִּין אוֹתוֹ:


The ramp51 was constructed to the south of the Altar.52 Its length was 32 cubits, and its width, sixteen cubits. It consumed 30 cubits on the ground adjacent to the Altar, and extended [further, covering] one cubit of the base and one cubit of the surrounding ledge.53

There was a small space54 between the ramp and the Altar so that the limbs [of the sacrifices] would have to be tossed to reach the Altar.55

The height of the ramp was nine cubits minus a sixth of a cubit. It equaled that of [the surface on which the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged.56


וְכֶבֶשׁ הָיָה בָּנוּי לִדְרוֹמוֹ שֶׁל מִזְבֵּחַ. אָרְכּוֹ שְׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם אַמָּה עַל רֹחַב ט''ז אַמָּה וְהָיָה אוֹכֵל בָּאָרֶץ שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה מִצַּד הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וּפוֹרֵחַ מִמֶּנָּה אַמָּה עַל הַיְסוֹד וְאַמָּה עַל הַסּוֹבֵב. וַאֲוִיר מְעַט הָיָה מַפְסִיק בֵּין הַכֶּבֶשׁ לַמִּזְבֵּחַ כְּדֵי לִתֵּן הָאֵיבָרִים לַמִּזְבֵּחַ בִּזְרִיקָה. וְגֹבַהּ הַכֶּבֶשׁ תֵּשַׁע אַמּוֹת פָּחוֹת שְׁתוּת עַד כְּנֶגֶד הַמַּעֲרָכָה:


Two small ramps extended from it. One led to the base,57 and the other to the surrounding ledge.58 They were set off from the Altar by a hair's breadth.

There was an aperture on the west side59 of the ramp, a cubit by a cubit. It was called the Rivuvah.60 There, fowl that had been disqualified for use as sin offerings would be placed until their form decomposed, at which time they could be taken out to be burnt.61


וּשְׁנֵי כְּבָשִׁים קְטַנִּים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁבָּהֶם פּוֹנִים לַיְסוֹד וְלַסּוֹבֵב וּמֻבְדָּלִין מִן הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כִּמְלֹא נִימָא. וְחַלּוֹן הָיְתָה בְּמַעֲרָבוֹ שֶׁל כֶּבֶשׁ אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה וּרְבוּבָה הָיְתָה נִקְרֵאת. שֶׁבָּהּ נוֹתְנִין פְּסוּלֵי חַטַּאת הָעוֹף עַד שֶׁתַּעֲבֹר צוּרָתָהּ וְתֵצֵא לְבֵית הַשְּׂרֵפָה:


Two tables were [placed] on the left side of the ramp:

One of marble, on which the limbs [of the sacrifices to be offered on the Altar] were placed,62 and

One of silver, on which sacrificial vessels were placed.


וּשְׁנֵי שֻׁלְחָנוֹת הָיוּ בְּמַעֲרַב הַכֶּבֶשׁ אֶחָד שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עָלָיו אֶת הָאֵיבָרִים וְאֶחָד שֶׁל כֶּסֶף שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עָלָיו כְּלֵי הַשָּׁרֵת:


When we build the Altar, it must be made as one solid block, resembling a pillar. No empty cavity may be left at all.63

We must bring whole stones, both large and small.64 Then we must create a liquid with lime, pitch, and molten lead, and pour it [over the stones] into a large mold of its dimensions.65 We must build it in this manner, ascending [level by level].66

We must place a block of wood or stone in the southeast corner of the structure, equal to the measure of [the missing portion of the Altar's] base.67 Similarly, [blocks] must be placed in each horn until the building is completed.68 Then, the blocks may be removed from the structure, thus leaving the southeast corner without a base, and the horns, hollow.


כְּשֶׁבּוֹנִין הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בּוֹנִין אוֹתוֹ כֻּלּוֹ אָטוּם כְּמִין עַמּוּד וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין בּוֹ חָלָל כְּלָל. אֶלָּא מֵבִיא אֲבָנִים שְׁלֵמוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת וּקְטַנּוֹת וּמֵבִיא סִיד וְזֶפֶת וְקוּנְיָא וּמְמַחֶה וְשׁוֹפַךְ לְתוֹךְ מַלְבֵּן גָּדוֹל כְּמִדָּתוֹ וּבוֹנֶה וְעוֹלֶה. וְנוֹתֵן בְּתוֹךְ הַבִּנְיָן גּוּף שֶׁל עֵץ אוֹ אֶבֶן בְּקֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית כְּמִדַּת הַיְסוֹד. וְכֵן נוֹתֵן בְּתוֹךְ כָּל קֶרֶן וְקֶרֶן עַד שֶׁיַּשְׁלִים הַבִּנְיָן וְיָסִיר הַגּוּפִים שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ הַבִּנְיָן כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּשָּׁאֵר קֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית בְּלֹא יְסוֹד וְיִשָּׁאֲרוּ הַקְּרָנוֹת חֲלוּלִין:


The four horns, the base, and a square shape are absolute requirements for the Altar. Any Altar which lacks [either] a horn, a base, a ramp, or a square shape, is unfit for use, for these four are absolute requirements.69

However, the measures of length, width, and height, are not absolute requirements,70 provided they are not less than a cubit by a cubit [in area,] and three cubits high. [The latter were] the dimensions of the surface [on which the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged for the altar [in the Sanctuary that accompanied the Jews] in the desert.71


אַרְבַּע קְרָנוֹת שֶׁל מִזְבֵּחַ וִיסוֹדוֹ וְרִבּוּעוֹ מְעַכְּבִין. וְכָל מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֶרֶן יְסוֹד וְכֶבֶשׁ וְרִבּוּעַ הֲרֵי הוּא פָּסוּל שֶׁאַרְבַּעְתָּן מְעַכְּבִין. אֲבָל מִדַּת אָרְכּוֹ וּמִדַּת רָחְבּוֹ וּמִדַּת קוֹמָתוֹ אֵינָן מְעַכְּבִין. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִפְחֹת מֵאַמָּה עַל אַמָּה בְּרוּם שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת כְּשִׁעוּר מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה שֶׁל מִזְבַּח מִדְבָּר:


[The following laws apply when] the structure of the Altar is damaged. If a handbreadth of its structure is damaged, it is unfit for use.72 If less than a handbreadth [is damaged], it is acceptable,73 provided none of the remaining stones are damaged.74


מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁנִּפְגַּם מִבִּנְיָנוֹ אִם נִפְגַּם מִבִּנְיָנוֹ טֶפַח פָּסוּל פָּחוֹת מִטֶּפַח כָּשֵׁר וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה בַּנִּשְׁאָר אֶבֶן פְּגוּמָה: