- The Kiyor (Laver)

The Kiyor (Laver)

Home Education Beis Hamikdosh

The Kiyor (Laver)

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Segment 4                                                                                                                                                 Esther Livingstone
The Kiyor (Laver) & The Sanctification of The Hands and Feet of the Kohanim

It is a mitzvat aseh that a Kohen coming to perform the avodah, or entering the area of the heichal must first sanctify his hands and feet from the kiyor/laver. We learn this from: “From it, Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet.  Whenever they come to the Ohel Moed... or when they approach the mizbei’ach to serve...” (Shemos 30:19-20).  Therefore all the Kohanim serving had to wash from the kiyor each morning, thus sanctifying their hands and feet.  
(It is from this mitzvah, that Chazal learn that a person should wash his hands before davening.)


1.    How much water did the kiyor/laver need to hold minimally?
2.    How many spigots did the kiyor have, and why was this the case?
3.    Of what material was the kiyor made and where was it located?
4.    Were the Kohanim’s hands and feet washed together or separately?
5.    How was the washing performed?
6.    Could a Kohen sanctify his hands and feet white sitting down, and why is this the case?
7.    What was the status of avodah performed by a Kohen who did not wash/sanctify his hands and feet?
8.    Under what 4 conditions would a Kohen be obligated to sanctify his hands and feet again during the day? 
9.    Was the laver all prepared and ready each morning, or did the first Kohen washing from it need to do something to it first?
10.    If a Kohen did not sleep one night, would he still need to sanctify his hands/feet the next day?
11.    What else did all Kohanim need to do daily before engaging in any avodah or before entering the azarah?
12.    The Kohen who merited the terumas hadeshen/lifting of the ashes would sanctify his hands/feet before sunrise. Did he need to repeat this after sunrise?
13.    If a Kohen sanctified his hands/feet not from the kiyor, but from one of the klei hashares/ sanctified vessels used in the Beis HaMikdash, was this valid?
14.     What did a Kohen need to be standing on when performing any avodah?


1.    It had to contain enough water for at least 4  Kohanim to sanctify their hands and feet.  (Shemos 40:31 “Moshe, Aharon and his sons would wash from it, their hands and their feet.”= 4 people.) (Hil Bi’as Hamikdash 5:13)
2.    It originally had 2 spigots, but later on had 12, so that all the Kohanim involved in the Korban Tamid could sanctify themselves simultaneously. Only the shochet did not need to do so.  (Hil Beis Habechira 3:18). The Kohen Gadol Ben Katin increased the number of spigots from 2 to 12 in the time of the Bayis Sheni. (Yoma 37 a)
3.    It was made of copper and was located outside, between the heichal and the mizbei’ach, in the azarah.
4.    They were washed together. 
5.     The Kohen would open the spigot, place his right hand on his right foot and wash them, place his left hand on his left foot and wash them, all while bent over.  This due to the passuk  in Shemos  30:19 saying “...shall wash from it, their hands and (v’et)/together with their feet.” (Rashi- Zevachim 19b). (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:16)
6.    No, because this washing/sanctifying is also an avodah, and all avodah could only be performed standing, as it says in Devarim 18:5 “la’amod le’sharet”-“to stand and to serve.” (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:16)
7.    His service was passul/invalid- (“chok olam, lo ulezaro”-  Shemos 30:21).  (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:2).
8.    If he left the confines of the Beis Hamikdash, took a nap, relieved himself, or had hesech da’as /diversion from his task by thoughts other than those relating to his duties. (Hil Bias haMikdash 5:3) 
9.    The Kohen needed to raise it -via a pulley- from the well into which it had been submerged overnight.  Because any water left in it overnight would be unfit to be used (linah), the Kohen Gadol Ben Katin, in the era of the Bayis Sheni, designed a pulley system to avoid disqualifying the water each morning, which he felt was disrespectful.  If the kiyor was not submerged overnight, it would need to be emptied and refilled anew each morning. (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:14 & Avodas Hakorbanos  p24-25).
10.    Yes, as the sanctifying was only valid for the day on which it was done.  (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:8).
11.    They needed to immerse in a mikveh. (Hil Bias haMikdash 5:4)
12.    No, because he had done the sanctifying at the start of the avodah for that day, albeit it was before sunrise. (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:9)
13.    Yes. (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:10).
14.    Only on the floor, without any intervening object between his foot and the floor, otherwise the avodah was invalid.  (Hil Bias HaMikdash 5:17)

*Ramban (Shemos 30:19): The hands and feet represent the upper and lower extremities of the human body.  By sanctifying them, servants of Hashem symbolize their total dedication to the service they are about to perform.  For this same reason, Chazal instituted that we should wash our hands before davening.

Sefer Avodah- Rambam-  With comments. Editor- Yockai Makbili-  Pub- Mishne Torah Project and Machon HaMikdash-2012. 
Avodas Hakorbanos-  by Rav Aharon HaKohen (Kagan ) Translation- Rabbi Moshe Weiss – Pub -Artscroll  2020
The Yom Kippur Avodah - by Menashe Moshe Oppen –CIS Publications/ M’chon Harbotzas Torah -1988
 The Taryag Mitzvos- Rabbi A.Y. Kahan- Keser Torah Publications- 1988
The Mitzvot-  Rabbi Abraham Chill-Keter Books -1974
Artscroll  (Stone) Chumash- Editors- Rabbis Scherman and Zlotowitz.

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