The judges made the high priest swear to first go in to the holiest of holies and only then burn the incense, why was that so important?

  • 1
    Are you asking why they argued with the Tzedukim, why make him swear, or why would swearing help?
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 16, 2021 at 20:58
  • Short answer: they hold that the incense in invalid if this change is made. Will have to look for exact source.
    – Mordechai
    Aug 16, 2021 at 21:13
  • Yoma 19b explains the difference.
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 16, 2021 at 21:32
  • @Chatzkel why did they argue with the Tzeukim Aug 17, 2021 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


The Rambam Sefer Avodah, Halachot Yom Hakippurim, Chapter 1, Halacha 7 explains this specific improper action was something that the tzedukim insisted on. Any change in the avodah would invalidate it. However, this particular action was something that the heretics known as tzedukim would insist on. Thus, they had to make sure that the kohen gadol (who at that time was often a political appointee) was not a secret tzeduki.

7 In the era of the Second Temple, heresy erupted in Israel, and the Sadducees emerged, may they speedily perish, who did not believe in the Oral Law and who maintained that the incense offering of Yom Kippur would be placed on fire in the Sanctuary outside the Parochet and when its smoke rose up, they would bring it into the Holy of Holies. Their rationale was that they interpreted the Torah's phrase Leviticus 16:2: "For in a cloud I will appear on the Kaporet,"as referring to the cloud of the incense offering. In contrast, according to the Oral Tradition, our Sages learned that the High Priest should not place the incense on the coals only in the Holy of Holies, before the Ark, as ibid.:13 states: "And he shall place the incense on the fire before God." Since in the Second Temple era, the Sages suspected that the High Priests would tend towards such heresy, they would have him take an oath on the day preceding Yom Kippur. They would tell him: "My sir, the High Priest, we are agents of the court and you are our agent and an agent of the court, we administer an oath to you in the name of He Who causes His name to dwell in this house that you not deviate at all from what we told you."

The High Priest would turn away and cry because they suspected him of heresy and they would turn away and cry, because they placed suspicion on a person's whose conduct was unknown. Maybe he had no such thoughts in his heart.

  • The question was actually why is the order important in the first place not why is was important to make sure it is fine in the right order 🙈 Aug 17, 2021 at 21:55
  • The order is important because the Torah specifies what must be done for the avodah. For example, the sacrifices on the altar must be given exactly as specified. The incense burning is given in the order in which it must be processed. This particular avodah was put into the wrong order by the tzedukim which made it pasul. That is why the kohanim had to respond. Had the tzedukim made trouble with other aspects of the service, chazal would have had to respond in a similar way. @ChagaiFriedlander Aug 17, 2021 at 23:44
  • Thanks! why did they believe the order was different? @sabbahillel? Aug 18, 2021 at 12:06
  • 1
    @ChagaiFriedlander That is part of the answer that I quoted from the Rambam. They misinterpreted part of the pasuk giving the avodah and insisted that their interpretation was part of torah shebichsav Aug 18, 2021 at 17:55

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