Monday, October 13, 2014

Did the Kohanim Eat in a Succah?

The Torah gives us a positive commandment to eat and sleep in a succah for seven days, but did this requirement apply to the Kohanim serving in the Temple as well? 

This question was posed to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky and he answered that, on the one hand, it makes sense that the Kohanim did keep this mitzvah while on duty. As for the prohibition against modifying the structure of the Temple, this would not be violated by building a succah there since a succah, by its very nature, is temporary, and the prohibition only applies to permanent changes in the design (Divrei Siach [Bnei Brak 5773], p.22).

If so, where would the Temple succah have been located? As far as eating goes, many of the offerings consumed by the Kohanim were kodshei kodashim [of higher sanctity] and were required to be eaten within the Courtyard proper. Any succah built within the Courtyard would have to be out of the way of the thousands of Jews who came daily to the Temple during Succos to offer sacrifices and observe the sacrificial service. The most likely place for such a succah would be in the areas north, south, and west of the Sanctuary Building where most visitors were normally prohibited from entering.

The Kohamim could not have used this same succah for sleeping in, as it is forbidden to sleep within the Courtyard, so just as the Kohanim slept in the Hall of the Fire which was located outside of the Courtyard, their sleeping succah would also have been located outside of the Courtyard. However, the areas to the north, south, and west of the Courtyard were not open to the sky (since the entire expanse of the Temple Mount was covered by a roof), so no succah could have been built there. This leaves the east, within the Women's Courtyard. Now, the majority of this courtyard was too crowded during the fesitval for a succah to survive there, although the smaller chambers located in the corners of the Women's Courtyard did offer some shelter from the public. Three of the four chambers actually saw increased use during the festival: The Chamber of Wood to keep the Altar fires burning; the Chamber of the Oils to provide oil, wine, and flour to the public; and the Chamber of the Metzoraim which housed a mikveh used by the public before entering the Courtyard. This leaves the Chamber of the Nazirites in the southeast corner as the most likely place for a succah. Having the Kohanim sleep here would require a bit of a change in their normal routine: Instead of waking up in the Hall of the Fire and walking directly into the Courtyard, they would have to walk across the Women's Courtyard and up the fifteen steps to the Nikanor Gate to enter the Courtyard.

See the Divrei Siach (cited above) for other opinions and more sources regarding this question of building a succah in the Temple.


  1. This is a gemarah in Erirachin 3:

  2. I remember a Rambam that talks about there was a succah at the Bais Hamikdash.

  3. Would eating korbon meat alone constitute acheelas keva and not acheelas arai?

    1. A possible consideration is the Gemara (Zevachim 28a) that says (במדבר יח, ח) למשחה לגדולה כדרך שהמלכים אוכלין
      I would like to think that if the korbanos are eaten in a manner representative of a royal banquet that it would be more kavua than arai.


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