Online Torah

Back to Shiurim List

Yom Kippur 5769

By: Rav Ari Shames

This week's shiur is a continuation of last year's worksheet dealing with the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. For your convenience I will begin by copying last year's shiur and we will take up a new point this year concerning the multiple entrances of the Kohen Gadol into the Kodesh HaKodashim.

Yom Kippur 5768-

The following is meant as a study guide for the Avodah section of Mussaf of Yom Kippur. I recommend printing it and using it to prepare before Yom Kippur, I hope that it will make this most important part of our Teffilot more meaningful. Rather than present you with (my) ideas, I will raise issues that I hope will provide you with hours of learning enjoyment in each of your attempts to resolve the problems and find the meaning behind the Avodah. May we be able to see the actual Avodah of the Kohen Gadol, and participate in the rejoicing upon his completion of the day's tasks.

In general it is a good idea to see the pesukim and Mishnayot that describe the Avodah of Yom Kippur. The pesukim are in Parshat Acharei Mot (Vayikra 16:1-34 and the Mishnayot are in Mesechet Yoma (Chapters 1-7

For those with more time I recommend seeing the Rambam in Hilchot Avodat Yom Hakippurim ( and a few contemporary sefarim that have in depth discussions of the Avodah, particularly "Pirkei Moadot" by Rav Breur, "Shiurei Hagrid- Avodat Yom Hakippurim" (Mosad Harav Kook) based on Rav Soloveichick's shiurim and Netiv Binah by Rav Yakovson Vol. 5.

The centerpiece of our Teffilat Mussaf contains a long poem (piyut) describing the Avodah. Nusach Askenaz generally uses the "Amitz Koach" (by Rav Meshulam Ben Kalunumus) while Nusach Sefarad generally uses "Ata Konanta". While there are differences between the two, they both follow the order set down by the Mishna and for our purposes are very similar. I will be following the Ashkenaz Nusach in this guide.

1- Garments and Tevilot-

The Kohen Gadol had two sets of clothes one known as the Golden Garments and the other known as the White Garments. The difference was not only in the materials that made up the garments but in their number as well (see Mishna Yoma 7:5). In general the Kohen Gadol wore the eight golden garments; it was only on Yom Kippur, or on part of Yom Kippur, that he wore the white set. The gemara in Rosh Hashana explains that the reason for the change is that the "prosecutor cannot be a defense lawyer" The gold is reminiscent of the sin of the golden calf and cannot be used to achieve forgiveness by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.

[Food for thought: Why is limited to Yom Kippur, why is the Kohen Gadol allowed to use the golden garments all year long? What is the connection between the Golden Calf and Yom Kippur?]

As we mentioned, the Kohen Gadol could use the golden garments for some of the Yom Kippur service. He was prohibited from doing so only while involved with a part of the service that entailed specialized "Yom Kippur Type" work. When he was busy bringing the standard tamid offering or seeing to any "every day" type work he wore his regular golden garments.

Keeping this rule in mind we can now draw an outline of the entire Avodah divided by the simple criteria of which clothes the Kohen was wearing. All items within the golden-garments-category are standard every day issues and those in the white-garment-category are Yom Kippur specific.

In order to make the task of finding the clothes changes a bit easier we can note that each and every time the Kohen Gadol changes his clothes he first goes to the Mikveh (and washes his hands and feet twice). The Kohen Gadol goes to the Mikveh 5 times on Yom Kippur.

Using the Mishna (or the piyut) find the five times he goes to the Mikveh, these will be our "Roman Numerals" in our outline. (At this stage, just skim the mishnayot. Later you will be able to go back and get a full understanding of all of the details).

Next we can go back and make a list of all of the actions that had to be performed in each section. Try to sum up in a simple line each of the things that the Kohen Gadol had to do. (I have prepared such an outline based on the piyut that you can download at If you have the time, please make your own -- it is much better than using mine).

[Food for thought: Why so many changes of clothes? Why not do the entire Avodah in the white garments? If, for whatever reason, he needed to do some in the golden garments why not do all of the items needed in gold together and then all the items that required white together?]

[More food for thought: What is the purpose of the tevilot in the mikveh? After all, Mikveh is used to purify the impure. Surely the Kohen Gadol was pure, especially given his week long stay in the Bet Hamikdash itself?]

2- Expanding Layers of Forgiveness

The Kohen Gadol said viduy (confession) three times on Yom Kippur. Find the three different confessions and notice what their purpose is.

After having done so you can note the beauty of the statement of the Gemara that "the innocent should atone for the guilty rather than the guilty atoning for the guilty". The layers of forgiveness represent a very important idea for Yom Kippur, as well as all year round. We must not focus only upon ourselves; we always look beyond in an attempt to help those around us. We begin with the immediate surroundings and then we reach beyond to all of Am Yisrael and to the entire world. However when doing so we must start with ourselves. It is infinitely easier to concentrate on fixing the world than on improving ourselves!!

3- Bowing

One of the unique elements of our Yom Kippur teffilot is the bowing. This type of service is reserved for the Mikdash only and on Yom Kippur (and slightly on Rosh Hashana) we imitate the bowing of the Mikdash. (Keep in mind that his is not the real thing and therefore one may not bow directly on the floor if it is stone, this can only be done in the Mikdash (Har Habayit) itself. The custom is to place paper or the like between ones head and the floor). For a general discussion of this issue and it's relation to the Mikdash see our shiur at

Before we can figure out the reason that we bow we need to first work out a sticky issue as to when we bow. In the piyut "Amitz Koach" we find three bowings, these take place at each of the three confessions that we talked about above. In the piyut "Ata Konanta" we find a fourth instance of bowing. When the Kohen Gadol would conduct the lottery with the two goats, he held one lot on the head of the scapegoat and one on the head of the goat to be sacrificed in the Mikdash. This second goat was declared to be "L'Hashem Chatat" a sin offering to Hashem. After the declaration the people bowed again.

If we examine the Mishna we find an interesting thing. In most standard mishnayot (take Kehati for example) we have no bowing at the first confession (3:8 or 3:9), no bowing at the lottery (4:1), no bowing at the second confession (4:2)and it is only at the third confession that we find the one and only instance of bowing (6:2). Other mishnayot have bowings at all of the three confessions as we saw in the "Amitz Koach". I found it interesting that in the version that I sent you to on line in Mishna 3:9 the bowing appears, however it does not appear in any of the other instances. (It is interesting to note that checking the manuscripts is not of much help as the scribes took a shortcut and simply wrote "etc." from the middle of the vidui on, not leaving us any indication as to the continuation of the text, for an example see ).

What stands at the base of the debate is the purpose of bowing. One position sees the purpose as showing respect upon hearing the special name of Hashem pronounced in its full form. The recitation of "baruch shem kevod etc." seems to indicate this direction of thought. If this be the case we would expect the bowing to take place each and every time the name is uttered. This indeed is the position of the Rambam who lists ten different instances of bowing on Yom Kippur, three for each vidui and once during the lottery (see 2:13-14 This as well seems to be the idea behind both the "Ata Konanta" and the "Amitz Koach" who simply combined all of the three at each vidui into one each.

The view that had the bowing only once, at the very last vidui, has a very different concept of bowing. The purpose is not to show respect but rather was the moment of each individual's recitation of his own personal vidui. This, of course, was done only upon the last vidui which was the one said on behalf of all of Am Yisrael. It seems that this is the position of Rashi in his comments on Pirkei Avot. The mishna lists the miraculous events that took place in the Mikdash and notes that they "stood crushed together yet they were able to bow with comfort". Rashi explains that the need to bow "with comfort" was need in order to allow each individual the ability to confess their own sins without being heard by his neighbor. Clearly Rashi identifies the bowing process with confession and not merely respect for the name of Hashem.

There are many more issues that we will cover in future years BEH. I hope that we will have a better understanding of the entire process after we see the actual Avodah preformed in the Bet Hamikdash.

Gmar Chatima Tova
Rav Shames

Yom Kippur 5769- The Multiple Entrances

The Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh HaKodashim four times during the day of Yom Kippur. The primary purpose of his entries is to sprinkle the blood of the two sin offerings inside this most holy venue. The two offerings are the bull that was offered as atonement for the Kohen Gadol's sins along with the sins of the other Kohanim and the goat that was brought on behalf of all of Am Yisrael. It is therefore quite natural for us to find him entering the Kodesh HaKodashim twice, once for each Korban. The other two entrances revolve around the incense, which was a necessary prerequisite for his being authorized to enter the Kodesh HaKodashim. The pasukim state quite clearly that only with the cloud of the incense was the Kohen Gadol allowed in. As a matter of fact a major debate took place as to whether he should place the incense on the coals in the Kodesh HaKodashim itself or possibly he should light them prior to entering. The debate was so fierce that the Kohen was made to swear that he would do exactly as instructed by the Rabbis and would not deviate to follow the Tziduki tradition.

Given all that we have stated above it seems natural to expect three entrances:
The placing of the incense.
The sprinkling of the blood of the bull.
The sprinkling of the blood of the goat.

What was the fourth one about? In a most incredible description we are told that the fourth entrance is to remove the used materials of the incense!! I find this intriguing in that surely we could come up with a simple solution to solve this problem. Did the Kohen Gadol really have to risk his life to reenter the Kodesh HaKodashim for housekeeping reasons?

Rav Breuer offers an alternative explanation; he suggests that the final entrance of the Kohen Gadol was not simply for house keeping but rather it was to bid farewell (so to speak). He draws a parallel to the pessukim concerning the inauguration of the mishkan where we read what seems to be a very strange passuk (Vayikra 9:23) "And Moshe and Aharon entered the Ohel Moed and they exited and they blessed the people" they went in and they went out- why? What did they do while they were in the Ohel Moed? Rashi and the other commentaries grapple with this question and offer various reasons as to why they needed to reenter the Ohel Moed. Rav Breuer suggests that the ultimate purpose was to officially end the inauguration process by saying "Shalom". If this be the case then in our case as well we can see that the final time that the Kohen Gadol enters is to seal the day. Given what we wrote last year about the tevilot and the garments the situation takes on even that much more significance. The Kohen Gadol actually needs to dip once again in the mikveh, and change into his white garments to reenter the Kodesh Hakodashim.

It is interesting to note that we may have an echo of such an idea in our very own amidah every day. We finish with the bracha of "Sim Shalom" which is not a request for peace (after all it does not appear in the middle section of the Amidah reserved for asking for things, rather it is in the final section known as Hodaah- thanking). Our final bracha is actually after we have "finished the amidah" (note when we bow, at the beginning and end of the first bracha and the beginning and end of the second to last bracha. Wouldn't it have made more sense to bow at the final bracha? The answer is that we do!! We bow at the end of the official Amidah, however we cannot take leave of God without the Shalom ceremony, patterned after the inauguration of the Mishkan and the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.

I look forward to seeing the Kohen Gadol as he leaves the Kodesh Hakodashim for the fourth time and we can escort him to his home in Yerushalayim on this coming Thursday evening.

Gmar Chatima Tova


Midreshet HaRova

Location: 50 Chabad Street, Old City, Jerusalem

Mailing Address: P. O. Box 1109, Jerusalem 9101001, Israel

Telephone: 972-2-626-5970    Fax: 972-2-628-4690    Email:

© 2020 All rights reserved.  Design by Studio Bat Amit, Development by Coda