The phrase in Exo 30.16, “that it may be a memorial” is discussed in the “Pentateuch and Haftorahs” by Rabbi Joseph Hertz, p. 353, where it says it was a memorial “that the Lord would remember the children of Israel in grace and grant them atonement for the blood shed in battle. In later ages, the half-shekel became an annual tax devoted to maintaining the public services of the Temple; daily worship was thus carried on by the entire people and not by the gifts of a few donors. The fact the rich were not to give more, nor the poor less than a half-shekel taught that, ‘weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary’ (which is the literal meaning of ‘b’shekel ha kodesh’), differences of rank and wealth do not exist. The fact, furthermore, that only a half-shekel was to be paid, taught that an individual’s contribution to the community was but a fragment. For any complete work to be achieved on behalf of the Sanctuary, the efforts of all, high and low, rich or poor alike, are required.”
“The Jews outside Palestine were throughout the ancient world, as zealous in their contributions of this Temple tax as the inhabitants of Judea. Antisemites, in consequence, even raised the cry that the Jews were sending too much money out of the country. One of the Roman provincial governors, who seized these offerings, was defended by Cicero in an anti-Jewish speech. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jews of the empire were compelled to pay this contribution to the Temple of Jupiter in Rome. When this iniquitous tax was eventually abolished, the contribution from the Jews in the diaspora was used for the support of the rabbinical academies in Palestine.”
“At the present day, the memory of the half-shekel is still kept alive by the reading of Exodus 10.11-16 on the Sabbath before the month of Adar, with a special haftorah, Shekelim; and by donating half the value of a current silver coin to some worthy charitable cause on Purim. With the rise of the Jewish Nationalist Movement, the payment of the shekel of an amount roughly equivalent to it in some modern currency, was revived as a token of sympathy with the aims of the movement.”
The word “memorial” is the word “zikoron” and this word is important in Hebrew. We have a festival called “Yom Ha Zikaron” or Yom Teruah (Rosh Ha Shannah). We have a book that is mentioned in Mal 3.16 called “the Book of Remembrance (Sefer Ha Zikaron). It was written before the Lord “for those who fear the Lord and who esteem his name.” This is one of the books that are opened on Yom Teruah (Dan 7.10). Saying “memorial” in English does not have the same impact as “zikaron” in Hebrew. In Exo 17.14 it says, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” It carries the idea of not only something you are to remember, but it also means you are to remember “continually.”
Exo 30.17-21 talks about the Kior, or the bronze laver. The kior is a vast subject and very interesting, but we can only touch on a few things right now. The idea was, until recently, that in the Temple the Kior was to the left of the door leading into the Ulam (porch) of the Sanctuary. The water was emptied out of the Kior at night because leaving water in a brass container made it impure. Then it was lowered into a cistern overnight, and filled up every morning. Supposedly, a machine was made called the “Muchni.” It was developed by a man named Ben Kattin, who was a high priest. Ben Kattin added ten spigots to it, for a total of twelve. There are writings about this. We are going to read about the kior here and look at several issues.
In Exo 30.18, it says the kior is to be placed “between the tent of meeting (Ohel Moed) and the altar.” Now, reading that, it seems like the kior should be placed between the Mishkan and the altar (east and west). The Temple Institute has a picture of it there, as does most pictures of the Mishkan we will see by many artists. They were to put water in it because “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. SO they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they may not die and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations” (Exo 30.19-21).
If they did not wash their hands and feet with water, the penalty was death. The word for wash is “rachatz” and that is not a full immersion of the body here. That would be “taval” where we get the word “tevilah” from. You cannot “approach” the Ohel Moed without washing the hands and the feet first. This is also true of the altar. So, here is a question. What does it mean “to approach?” Does it mean stepping into a room, or getting close to it? If so, how close? We need to have this defined because their life depended on it. We need to know the boundaries so we need to go to the Mishnah.
In Kelim 1.6-9 it says there are levels of kedusha. The Mishnah is not making these up, it is telling us what they were. Most people have an incorrect concept of kedusha (holiness). The Temple is called the “Beit Ha Mikdash” or House of Kedusha. The previously mentioned book will help develop this concept correctly, but we will need to start over in our understanding if we want to understand the Mishkan and the Temple. The levels of kedusha are: the land of Israel, the walled cities at the time of Joshua, within the walls of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Chel, Court of the Women, Court of Israel, Court of the Priests, between the porch and the altar, the Heichal and the Holy of Holies.
Between the tent of meeting (ohel moed) and the altar is between the eastern side of the Mishkan and the eastern side of the altar. In the Temple, it was between the western wall of the Ulam (porch) and the eastern side of the altar. This area in the Temple was 77 cubits, or 147.8 feet wide. Priests went to the kior that was located in building in the southeast corner of the Azarah called Beit Avtinas. This building opened up to the Azarah and it was between the porch and the altar. None who had a blemish or “wild hair” (priests were to have short hair) may enter there (between the porch and the altar).
There are five things where the space between the porch and the altar would be equal to the Heichal because none may enter there that has a blemish, wild hair (long, uncut), has drunk wine, or has crushed hands and feet. Men must keep far from between the porch and the altar at the time of the burning of incense. The kior, according to our passage, must be between the porch and the tent of meeting and the altar. You cannot approach this area unless you washed your hands and feet.
In the Tosefta (additions to the Mishnah), Kelim 1.6, it says that those whose hands and feet are not washed cannot enter the area between the porch and the altar (R. Meir). The Sages say they do not enter. When it says, the Sages say” that means it was a ruling of the Sanhedrin. R. Shimon the Modest said before R. Eleazar that he entered the area between the porch and the altar without having washed his hands and feet. R. Eleazar said “who is more beloved, you or the high priest? Shimon was silent. He said that “you are ashamed that even the dog of the high priest is more beloved than you.” Shimon said “You have said it.” He said that even the high priest, who without washing hands and feet, enters the area without washing hands and feet, enters the area between the porch and the altar, they break his hands with clubs. He then asks what Shimon is going to do that the guards not find him. Anyway, this was a serious offense if one was ever negligent.
In Part 40, we will pick up here and pick up some additional information about the Kior from the Mishnah, Middot 3.6, where it says that “the kior stood between the porch and the altar, towards the south.” We will develop this statement then.