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Segment 6 Esther Livingstone
The Continuously-Burning-Fire & Arranging the Pyres on the Mizbei’ach
It is a mitzvas aseh for there to be a fire continuously burning on the mizbei’ach, as it says אשׁ תּמיד תּוּקד על המזבּח
“A continuous fire shall burn on the mizbei’ach”(Vayikra 6:6).
1. How many pyres of fire were prepared on top of the mizbei’ach each day, and what was the function of each one?
2. From which chamber did the Kohanim take the logs that they brought up to the Mizbei’ach each day?
3. Where was this chamber located?
4. Who worked in this chamber, and what was their task?
5. From which 3 types of trees were the logs mainly taken from, and why from these trees?
6. Which pyre was arranged first, and who arranged it?
7. Where was this pyre located on the Mizbei’ach?
8. In what shape was the pyre formed?
9. What did the Kohen do after he finished arranging the logs for the large pyre?
10. Where was this pyre arranged on the mizbei’ach?
11. How much wood was placed on this second pyre daily, and on Shabbos?
12. Wood was then arranged on a 3rd pyre. What was the purpose of this pyre, and where was it located on the mizbei’ach?
13. What was the first thing done after the three pyres had been arranged?
14. From what fire were the three pyres lit?
15. What else was added to the ma’aracha gedola/the large pyre after it was lit and the korban tamid was on it?
16 In summation: The Radbaz says that there are 4 components of the mitzvah “a continuous fire shall burn on the mizbei’ach”-
Based on what we’ve now learnt, what do you think they are?
1. Three pyres were prepared each day. This because the Torah says:
הוא העלה על מוקדה על המזבח כּל הלילה- “...it is the olah/elevation offering (that stays) on the flame on the mizbei’ach throughout the night...” (Vayikra 6:2) Chazal say this refers to the large pyre, on which all the korbanos were offered. (Yoma 45a)
ואשׁ המזבּח תּוּקד בּוֹ- “...the fire of the mizbei’ach shall be kept burning on it.” (Vayikra 6:2)- Chazal say this refers to the second pyre, the ketores/incense pyre, from which coals were taken to offer the ketores twice daily. (Yoma 33a)
והאשׁ על המזבּח תּוּקד בּוֹ- “ The fire on the mizbei’ach shall be kept burning on it” (Vayikra 6:5) – Chazal say this refers to the third and smallest pyre, which was maintained merely in fulfilment of this mitzvah. (Yoma 45a) (*There are actually 3 opinions in the gemara on the number of pyres, ranging from 2-4. See Yoma 45b)
2. They took them from the Chamber of the Wood/ lishkas ha’eitzim, where wood used for the mizbei’ach was stored.
3. It was located in the northeast corner of the women’s courtyard / Ezras Nashim.
4. Kohanim who were disqualified from the daily avodah (due to a moom/physical deformity) worked here. They would check the wood for worms, and if a worm was found that wood was unfit for use. (Q 2,3,4- Hil Beis HaBechira 5:8).
5. Since wood for the pyres should be from the highest quality, it was mainly taken from branches of fig, nut, and fast burning/”oily” trees. These trees burn with a clear and beautiful flame, and produce very little smoke. However, all new wood was acceptable for the mizbei’ach. (They would not bring wood from olive trees or grape vines- as oil and wine are considered basic necessities.) (Hil Issurei Mizbei’ach 7:3 & 6:2)
6. The ma’aracha gedola/large pyre on which korbanos were placed was arranged first, and the kohen chosen for the terumas hadeshen did this.
7. It was located on the eastern side of the mizbei’ach, and thus was directly in front of anyone ascending the ramp, as the kohanim always ascended on the right side. (Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:7)
8. In the shape of a square, with one square built atop another, and with space between each log. (Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:7,12)
9. He would go select more logs and use them to arrange the second pyre.
10. It was arranged near the southwest corner of the mizbei’ach.
11. An approximated amount, but enough to produce 5 se’ah of coals daily; and on Shabbos, enough to produce 8 se’ah of coals. (Each sa’eh is slightly more than 8 litres – Shiurei Torah). (A: 9-10-11: Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:8) (Coals were taken from here twice daily for the ketores/incense offering; and on Shabbos, the frankincense from the lechem hapanim was offered on this pyre.)
12. This 3rd pyre was maintained for the fulfilment of the mitzvah “a continuous fire...”(Vayikra 6:6); and in the event that one of the fires on the other pyres was not burning properly, wood would be taken from this 3rd pyre and added to it. (Yoma 45a). This pyre didn’t have a specific location on the mizbei’ach. (Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:9)
13 The Kohanim would take the (leftover) limbs and fats that had been moved to the side of the mizbei’ach previously, and move them to the outer edges of the main pyre, where they could then become completely burned. (Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:5)
14 A flame was brought from the large fire that was inside the Beis Hamoked/Hall of Fire, and it was placed beneath the logs of the pyres (where small twigs had been placed). (Avodas Hakorbanos p.37) As the Torah says “The sons of Aharon, the Kohanim, shall place fire on the mizbei’ach.” (Vayikra 1:7). Thus they did so, and daily brought ordinary fire, despite the fact that a fire from heaven was always on the mizbei’ach throughout the existence of the Mishkan and both Batei Mikdash! (Vayikra 1:7 Rashi; Vayikra 9:24; and Yoma 21b)
15. Two smoothed blocks of wood, measuring an amah in length and in width, were added to the burning wood, one on each side of the pyre. This because the Torah says “...and the Kohen shall burn wood upon it each morning.” Vayikra 6:5. The same thing was also done during the afternoon korban tamid. (Hil Temidin U’Mussafin 2:2)
16. To have a fire continuously burning on the mizbe’ach; to arrange the pyres of wood; to offer two blocks of wood with the tamid offerings; and to bring/add ordinary fire with the daily sacrifices. Although each action is associated with a separate pasuk, since they all share one objective, they are counted as one mitzvah. ( Sefer Avodah-Moznaim- p 534)
Sources: Avodas Hakorbanos- by Rav Aharon HaKohen (Kagan ) Translation- Rabbi Moshe Weiss – Pub -Artscroll 2020
Sefer Ha’Avodah- Rambam- With commentary by Rav Eliyahu Touger- Pub-Moznaim -2007
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