intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
When Kohanim Ate Kodshei
Because the eating is connected with the Kapara to be attained, the eating itself must be regarded as the continuation and conclusion of the atonement process. Since the eating of the Kodshei Kodashim by the Kohanim was an integral part of the atonement process, it was considered a "quasi-Avoda". For this reason, when Kohanim ate Kodshei Kodashim, they wore their priestly garb. But first they immersed their hands in a valid Mikveh (Chagiga 5:2). Bartenura explains, "To eat Shelamim, Chatot, and Ashamot more is needed than simply washing, the hands must be immersed in 40 Se'ah" (i.e. a valid Mikveh). One authority postulates that since eating of Kodshei Kodashim was a "quasi- Avoda", the Kohanim had to eat standing up. In contrast to Zerikat HaDam of the Olah, where the blood application on the Mizbei'ach (together with Teshuva - repentance) was sufficient to effectuate atonement, the "atonement process" embodied in a Korban Chatat or Asham had two essentials, Zerikat HaDam and the Kohanim eating sacrificial meat.
The minimum amount that the Kohanim were required to eat to fulfill the Mitzva, was a Kazayit. If there was not enough sacrificial meat available to satiate the Kohanim, they were permitted to add food that was Teruma ("priests-due") or even Chulin ("ordinary" food as opposed to "consecrated" food). All sacrificial meat, whether Kodshei Kodashim or Kodashim Kalim (sacrifices of a lower level of sanctity), whether eaten only by the Kohanim in the Azara as in the case of Kodshei Kodashim, or by "anyone anywhere in the City (of Jerusalem)" as in the case of Kodashim Kalim, could be prepared in any manner; roasted, cooked, boiled, fried etc. There was one significant exception and that was the Korban Pesach which could be only eaten roasted. The Kohanim could eat the meat of the Chatot and Ashamot only "during that day (of sacrifice) and (the following) night until midnight" (Zevachim 5:3,5). The very first Mishna (Berachot 1:1) explains, "…wheresoever the Sages prescribe "until midnight", the duty of fulfillment lasts until the coming up of dawn (Olot HaShachar). Why did the Sages say: Until midnight? To keep the person far from transgression." Rambam writes, "The eating of the meat of the Chatat and Asham (by the Kohanim) is a Mitzvat Asei as it is written, "They - who received atonement through them - shall eat them…" (Shemot 29:33). Uneaten remnants of sacrificial meat left over beyond the prescribed time are called Notar and had to be burnt. If someone intentionally ate Notar, he was subject to the penalty of Kareit; inadvertently, he was required to bring a Chatat to atone for his transgression. The Mishneh Lemelech comments, "It is obvious that a Kohein would say (before eating Kodshei Kodashim meat), "…Asher Kideshanu Bekedushato Shel Aharon Vetzivanu…' Who has sanctified us (the Kohanim) with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to eat Chatat or Asham.' The Mishneh Lemelech elucidates, "And all this is explained by our master (the Rambam) in what he wrote in the end of Hil. Trumot, 'Anyone (any Kohein that is) who eats Teruma (or any other "Kohanic" portion such as meat from the Chatat or Asham) first recites the Beracha on that particular food and then "…who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and has commanded us to…'" (We are familiar with the phrase "…Asher Kideshanu Bekedushato Shel Aharon Vetzivanu… from the Beracha recited before Birkat Kohanim during the repetition of the Amida. In the Mikdash, that phrase was added to all Berachot which were unique to Kohanim.
Another example is the Beracha that was recited by the Kohanim before performing the Mitzva of Kiddush Yada'yim VeRaglayim - the ritual washing ("sanctification") of their hands and feet before Avoda (Sefer Hamitzvot, Mitzvat Asei 24). "…Asher Kideshanu Bekedushato Shel Aharon Vetzivanu Al Kiddush Yada'yim Veragla'yim" (Sefer Torat Habayit III, 7:17). There was a whole gamut of "Mikdash Berachot" which are almost totally unfamiliar to us today. Skim through the first Mishneh Lemelech of Ma'aseh HaKorbanot and then note Shoresh 12 of Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvot! Read the cogent comments of Ramban and be amazed! And, as we recall from our recitations of the Avoda on Yom Kippur, the response after a Beracha in the Mikdash was not "Amen", it was Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuto Le'olam Va'ed.
Where exactly in the Mikdash complex did the Kohanim eat their Kodshei Kodashim? The Mishna in Zevachim 5:3 notes that the "male priests" ate their Kodshei Kodashim "within the curtains." Tif'eret Yisrael explains the difference between "within the curtains" and "anywhere in the Azara". Tif'eret Yisrael defines (ibid. note24) "within the curtains" as the area enclosed within the curtains of the Mishkan. In the Mikdash, "within the curtains" was equivalent to the areas of the Ezrat Yisrael and Ezrat Kohanim further to the west. It also included adjoining chambers which were built in a non-sacred area and opened onto the Azara as well as the Bayit itself. Therefore, theoretically, the Kohanim were permitted to eat Kodshei Kodashim inside the Bayit! So why was the expression "within the curtains" used and not "anywhere within the Azara"? Because it was necessary to emphasize that any place in the Mikdash which was within the perimeter of the "curtains",i.e. within the walls of the Azara, was not necessarily identical with the actual Azara. Kodshei Kodashim were permitted to be eaten in the adjoining chambers and the Bayit, however when the Mishna says that Kodashim Kalim "may be slaughtered anywhere in the Azara", it means they could be slaughtered only in the Azara and nowhere else. Kodashim Kalim could not be slaughtered in the Bayit (except possibly possibly ex-post facto) nor in the adjacent chambers even if their entrances opened out on to the Azara. The Gemara rules, "One may not slaughter (in a chamber) because they are not sanctified in this regard (Zevachim 56a).
Catriel's book in progress: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service