Thursday, March 7, 2024

Yoma 69a – 71a: The Kodesh Hakodashim

As the sun prepares to set on the day of Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodashim one final time to retrieve the empty Ketores ladle and shovel of coals. The room must have been quite dark since the Kohen Gadol carried no lamp with him, and the glowing coals in the shovel had long since expired, and the flames of the nearby Menorah were blocked from view by the curtains of the amah traksin.

There were, however, windows. Now, it was common at the time to construct windows with narrow outer openings and wide inner openings, both for security purposes and to allow more light to enter the room. The windows of the Heychal, on the other hand, were designed with the narrow openings on the inside and the wide openings on the outside to symbolize that the Mikdash, far from needing light, was the source of light for the world. Even so, such windows do not allow very much natural light into the building.

Notwithstanding the above, the interior of the room was well-lit. Malbim to I Melachim 6:4 writes that while the narrow windows blocked out natural light, the presence of the Shechinah was so palpable that it created physical light of such brilliance that it illuminated the interior of the Heychal. By this light, the Kohen Gadol would be able to take in the floor-to-ceiling gold tiles that were carved with intricate designs (and perhaps even note if any were in need of repair). He would also see the Even Hashesiah, the bedrock of Mount Moriah, protruding out of the floor where, during the times of the First Beis Hamikdash, the Aron would have rested. According to some opinions, the Aron was concealed in a secret tunnel right beneath his feet and is still there to this day. 

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  1. the Yerushalmi (Yoma 5:3) writes that in the first beis Hamikdash, he walked by the light of the aron, and in the second beis hamikdash he felt his way in the dark.

  2. No doubt by the end of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash era the spiritual light of the Shechinah was, b'avonoseinu harabim, not too bright!


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