Kenneth Cohen

Temple Details

When one studies the details of the Temple service, he realizes how meticulous the Kohanim were in following every detail to the letter.

Many are not aware that the Temple grounds were equivalent to the camps of the desert known as מחנה שכינה, the camp of the Divine Presence, and מחנה לויה, the camp of the Levites.

There was a gate that divided these two camps known as שער ניקנור, the Gate of Nikanor. This was at the top of the famous “fifteen steps,” that we refer to as שיר המעלות, “the song of the steps.

This was also the border between the Tribe of Benjamin, and the Tribe of Yehuda. The area of Benjamin was the holier area that contained the altar and Temple vessels, such as the Menorah and Holy Ark.

The third camp in the desert was known as מחנה ישראל, the Camp of Israel. Its equivalent was the area within the walls surrounding the city of Jerusalem. There were laws that involved fulfilling them within the walls of Jerusalem, such as eating Ma’aser Sheini or the Korban Pesach.

The Torah does not permit a Kohein to serve or even enter the Machane Shechina, under penalty of Karet. The Talmud speaks of a case where other Kohanim discovered that one of their colleagues had served in the forbidden state. They beat him with sticks.

We learn that if one had come in contact with the dead, he was allowed in the Levite Camp. The proof of this was learned from Moshe Rabbeinu, who was a Levi, and he took it upon himself to carry the remains of Yosef with him, out of Egypt.
We can see how the location was very significant. There were so many rules in connection with location alone. This does not even touch upon all of the details related to the various sacrifices. Managing the Temple according to the Torah, was a huge task carried out by the Kohanim and Leviim. Very impressive!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at