כ״ז בכסלו ה׳תשע״א (December 4, 2010)

Zevahim 24a-b – Who sanctified the Temple courtyard?

As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page) it is essential that the kohen stand in the courtyard of the Temple while he performs that sacrificial service. On today’s daf, Rabbi Ammi tries to clarify what the requirements are for standing in the courtyard. Were one of the paving stones in the courtyard to become loosened, would standing on that stone still meet the requirements? Would it make a difference if it were to be removed or replaced? What if the stone was removed entirely and the kohen stood on the ground where the stone rested?

 

In an attempt to clarify the question, the Gemara first asks whether at issue is the depth of King David’s sanctification of the Temple courtyard. Could it be that he sanctified just the top level of stone? Or, perhaps, did he sanctify the entire area down to the depths of the earth? The Gemara concludes that it is clear that King David sanctified the area down to the depths of the earth, and the question was whether a kohen who was standing below the surface of the paving stones was still fulfilling Temple service in a normal way. The Gemara concludes with the word “teiku” indicating that no final decision was reached on this matter.

 

It is interesting to note that the Gemara discusses sanctification of the Temple as performed by King David, rather than by his son, King Solomon, who actually built the Temple. While Solomon built the Temple, had a tradition that it was King David who began the Temple, including sanctification of the courtyard area (see, for example, Divrei HaYamim I, or Chronicles I chapter 22, and the Jerusalem Talmud, 1:3). According to this approach, when King Solomon’s completion of the Temple courtyard is described in Sefer Melakhim I, or Kings I (8:64), it is understood to refer to the sanctification of the altar that stood there.