When the Beit hamikdash (temple in Jerusalem exists), and the sacrifices etc. all happen, is there a minimum number of kohanim and leviim obligated to serve in the temple? If so what, and what is the source from the number.

  • The minimum number of kohanim can't be above 3, as that's how many there were to start.
    – Double AA
    Oct 30, 2023 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


--- I originally read that the question referred to the past, so these sources discuss the (minimal and maximal) amount of Kohanim that were active during the korbanos. ---

It depends on the service. Please refer to the Mishnah, which says that for the daily offering, nine priests were involved.

The daily offering is sacrificed and its limbs are carried by nine priests, as mentioned in a previous mishna. These nine carry the limbs and the accompanying libations and meal-offerings. Occasionally, the service is performed by ten priests, occasionally by eleven, and sometimes by twelve priests; no fewer than nine and no more than twelve. How so? The daily offering itself is sacrificed by nine priests, as explained earlier. On the festival of Sukkot a priest in whose hand is a jug of water for the water libation is added, and there are ten priests. On Sukkot, a water libation is poured on the altar in addition to the standard wine libation. In the daily afternoon offering, eleven priests participate in the service. How so? The daily offering itself is sacrificed by nine, and there are an additional two priests in whose hands are two logs that are placed on the altar. The mitzva of placing the two logs in the morning was assigned in the first lottery, as the Gemara explained earlier. On Shabbat, eleven priests participate. How so? The daily morning offering itself is performed by nine, and there are an additional two priests in whose hands are two vessels of frankincense that accompany the shewbread. This frankincense is burned on Shabbat. And on Shabbat that occurs within the festival of Sukkot there is an additional priest in whose hand is a jug of water for the water libation, for a total of twelve priests.

The Gemara says that no more than 12, and no fewer than 9 priests where involved in the performance of the daily service.

The Bartenura also says something interesting on that Mishnah. He explains that these 9 priests were divided over different parts:

עצמו. בכל יום תשעה. ששה לאברים ולקרבים, כדאמרינן לעיל, ואחד לסולת. ואחד לחביתין ואחד ליין: עצמו – on every day, nine [priests]; six for the limbs and the innards, as we stated above (Mishnah 3) and one for the fine flour, and one for the baked cakes and one for the wine.

A bull was offered by 24 priests, as the Mishnah a bit further explains:

A bull is sacrificed by twenty-four priests. How so? The head and the right leg are sacrificed first, but due to its size the head is carried by one priest and the leg by two. The tail and the left leg are carried as follows: The tail is sacrificed by two and the leg by two. The breast and the neck are carried as follows: The breast is offered by one and the neck by three priests. The two forelegs are carried by two priests, and the two flanks are carried by two. The intestines and the fine flour and the wine are carried by three each, because the meal-offering and wine libation that accompany a bull are larger than those that accompany a ram.

However, an individual could also "handle" the bull-service by himself. Refer also to the Bartenura.

I am not going to describe the full list, but I would highly recommend reading it yourself, including the Gemara on that Mishnayos.

See: https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Yoma.2.5

Orthodox Union also has a nice summary. Here.

The Mishnayot on today’s daf focus on the number of kohanim needed to perform the various tasks that made up the daily Temple service. Obviously, any “special events” that were going on on a given day would affect the number of kohanim that were needed. The Mishnah teaches, for example, that the korban tamid, which was the first sacrifice brought every day, was brought by nine, ten, eleven or twelve kohanim, depending on the day.

The korban tamid itself needed nine kohanim. On Sukkot, when there also was a water libation, an extra kohen was needed to carry the jug of water.

The afternoon korban tamid needed eleven kohanim; the additional two kohanim carried extra wood to the altar.

On Shabbat there were eleven kohanim involved, two of whom carried the levona (frankincense) for the Lechem HaPanim (show bread). On Shabbat of Sukkot, there also was a kohen carrying the jug of water, so there were a maximum of twelve kohanim involved.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .