The Torah forbids entering the mikdash or eating the meat of a korban in a state of impurity (so-called טומאת מקדש וקדשיו) .

Someone who transgresses in error (beshogeg) gets forgiveness through repentance and a sin offering see Vayikro 5 (2) and Rashi there.

In addition, the Torah obligates various offerings to atone for these acts.

1) The Kohen Godol confesses this sin on his own ox for himself and his brother kohanim see Vayikro 16 (11) and Rashi there .

2) The “he-goat for Hashem” obtains the people's atonement for this Vayikro 16 (15) and Rashi there .

3) The mishnayos in Shevuos 1 (4 – 7) describe the various offerings that also effect atonement for טומאת מקדש וקדשיו. The Tannaim argue over the atonement of the additional offerings for Rosh Chodesh and the Sholosh Regolim: the factors involved seem to be when, if at all, the person became aware of the sin and if a separate offering is needed for eating as opposed to coming into the mikdash.


Why does the atonement for impurity in the Temple take so many different forms?

  • It's really easy to never know you violated this. That's what most of the latter stuff is for.
    – Double AA
    May 3, 2016 at 16:12
  • Sure. But why does the Torah not make one act of kapporoh work for all? May 3, 2016 at 16:51
  • It basically is. The Chataot on the holidays are it.
    – Double AA
    May 3, 2016 at 16:52
  • I'd recommend going through the first perek of Shavuos in the Gemara. It might be easier to understand then.
    – DonielF
    Jun 15, 2016 at 2:07
  • This also comes up in Horayot chapter 2. May 6, 2019 at 3:43

2 Answers 2


I believe The Rambam addresses your question in his sefer Moreh (3:47),

ומפני שאי אפשר שלא ישגה אדם מישראל ויכנס ל'מקדש' 'טמא', או יאכל 'קדשים' והוא טמא, או אפשר שיעשה זה ב'מזיד', כמו שיעשו ה'רשעים' והעברות הגדולות והם 'מזידים', צוה מפני זה להקריב 'קרבנות' שיכפרו על טומאת מקדש וקדשיו' - קצתם ל'זדון' וקצתם ל'שגגה', לפי מיניהם - והם 'שעירי הרגלים ושעירי ראשי חדשים ושעיר המשתלח' (כמו שהתבאר במקומו), כדי שלא יעלה בלב ה'מזיד' שלא עשה רעה גדולה כש'טימא מקדש יי', רק ידע ש'נתכפר לו בשעיר', אמר, "ולא ימותו בטומאתם", ואמר, "ונשא אהרן את עון הקדשים וגו'". ונכפל זה הענין הרבה:

It was, however, impossible to assume that none of the Israelites made a mistake, by entering the Sanctuary, or eating hallowed things in a state of uncleanliness. It was even possible that there were persons who did this knowingly, since there are wicked people who commit knowingly even the greatest crimes; for this reason certain sacrifices were commanded as an atonement for the defilement of the Sanctuary and its hallowed things. They were of different kinds; some of them atoned for defilement caused ignorantly, others for defilement caused knowingly. For this purpose were brought the goats on the Festivals and the New-moon days (Num. xxviii. 15, 27, etc.), and the goat sent away on the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi. 16), as is explained in its place (Mishnah Shebnot, i. 4). These sacrifices serve to prevent those who defiled the Sanctuary of the Lord knowingly from thinking that they had not done a great wrong; they should know that they obtained atonement by the sacrifice of the goat, as the Law says, "That they die not in their uncleanness" (Lev. xv. 31); "That Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things" (Exod. xxviii. 38). This idea is frequently repeated.

Maimonides, Moses. The Guide for the Perplexed.


The following suggestion was given to me. (An approach for Rosh Chodesh is needed still.)

When we go to achieve atonement through the Beis Hamikdosh on Yom Kippur, we want to ensure first of all that all the “tools” that we use to achieve the atonement are clean and properly prepared. Therefore we need to get atonement for טומאת מקדש וקדשיו before we seek a general kapporoh.

Each of the Sholosh Regolim has its own judgement. As the mishnah in Rosh Hashono 1 (2) says

בפסח נידונים על התבואה

בעצרת על פירות האילן

בחג על המים

so in the same way we want to ensure that the influence of the Beis Hamikdosh on these judgements should be clean and pure.

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