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There were a few hundred kohanim gedolim in the second bais hamikdosh many of whom died on 'the job' on yom kippur in the holy of holies. Knowing this, what induced them to become a kohen godol which seemed to be for some (the tsdokim) a certain death?

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Ummm........greed? –  Double AA Sep 13 '13 at 13:55
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you mean kovod. They had to pay to become kohen godol. Remember Yeshoua ben gamla whose wife paid. –  5780 Sep 13 '13 at 15:34
    
Interesting question (+1), but it wasn't only the Sadducees that died, was it? Should this question be generalized? –  Fred Sep 13 '13 at 17:55
    
See this article, which explains how and why High Priests died, based on gemaras in Yoma. –  Fred Sep 13 '13 at 18:09
    
It would go completely against human nature to be so greedy to want to be Kohain Gadol knowing they were likely so unworthy that they would die. Who in their right mind would really go in with a rope around their waist? That alone makes the claim in the gemara to be suspect. According to Josephus, who was much closer to the events of the bais hamikdash than those of the gemara, there weren't quite that many and they didn't die during Yom Kippur service. Many did serve for just days or a year but died from assassination or were just replaced for other reasons. –  A L Sep 13 '13 at 20:00

2 Answers 2

The Ben Ish Chai (I'm not sure where - I was told this by one of my Rabbis) says that in the context of the dispute between the Tsadokim and the Perushim, people would pay to be Kohen Gadol for Yom Kippur, knowing that they were unworthy and likely to die - but they did it for their cause. Both Tsadokim and the Perushim would pay for the office, because they felt that if they didn't sacrifice themselves to do the Yom Kippur service, someone from the other sect would do it, and would do it their way.

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This is quite a complicated answer:

One could say they already knew they were going to die. They were perhaps ill or knew through the stars like the 'ish itti' who also knew he was going to die when taking the goat. But then it wouldn't prove like the gemoro wants to that they were 'bad' men.

So my novel answer. Perhaps they had hotzaas zera l'vatala on the previous yom kippur. The gemoro says unless one is a tsaddik one wont live through the year. They knew they were not tsaddikim (but tsdokim!) so they signed up to be kohen godol to be able to die in the holy of holies. It says the angels also couldn't go in there on yom kippur. So he did not have to die with sword of the angel of death and since he was going to die anyway its better to die with the hand of hashem alone.

Now if they were tsaddikim they would have lasted out the year and longer as the gemoro says. Since they didnt that proves they weren't.

to FRED. The gemoro in yuma 19b says a malach did enter. The artscroll answers in the name of the yerushalmi it was only if the avoida was being done properly. So that goes against what I have written so far. The artscroll also answers in the name of the maharsha that it was only whilst he was in the holy of holies not when he already had left.

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See Yoma (19b, "ba mal'ach v'chavato al panav"), which implies that angels could enter. –  Fred Sep 13 '13 at 18:15
    
@fred Vayikra 16:17 states that no person could be in the Ohel Moed when the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodashim, and Chazal [10] understood this to be a prohibition on entering the Beit Hamikdash building-which applied to people and even to angels[11]-while the Kohen Gadol was within the Holy of Holies. from your article –  5780 Sep 14 '13 at 20:21
    
see my profile for further comments. –  5780 Sep 15 '13 at 8:43

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