Tamid perek 1, in discussing how t'rumas hadeshen was done, writes:

He descended; he got to the floor, turned north, and went...

Any idea which way he turned around (clockwise or counterclockwise)? Was (is) there a halacha that one may not have his back to the kodesh kadashim while in the bes hamikdash?

The Rav on Yoma perek 5 indicates that the kohen gadol would not face east while in the kodesh kadashim, so would back out. Did (does) that rule extend to people in the other areas of the bes hamikdash?

  • Cf. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1043
    – msh210
    May 12, 2011 at 7:30
  • 2
    It is brought down somewhere that in all of his circuits of the mizbe'ach he only made right turns. For the two sprinklings on four corners the mishna says he started in the SE and ended in the SW, so it must be that he was walking sideways around it, with his right shoulder leading his left one. This would necessitate sometimes having the kodesh hakodshim to his back. But while on the mizbe'ach might not count and I don't have a source.
    – WAF
    May 12, 2011 at 8:14
  • @WAF good point about the mizbeach (though you mean left turns, mostly, not right). Thanks. Note that the space for walking was one ama wide, so it might not have been feasible to walk backward; as you note, "while on the mizbe'ach might not count"....
    – msh210
    May 12, 2011 at 8:23
  • @WAF, why do you assume he walked sideways around the mizbeach and not normally? (But your main point is valid even if walked normally. OTOH, if he sometimes walked normally and sometimes sideways, he could rig it so he never had to walk backward or face east.)
    – msh210
    May 12, 2011 at 8:33
  • Only because of kol pinos she'ata poneh..., which I was under the impression applied there. That is the part I don't have a written source for.
    – WAF
    May 12, 2011 at 8:43

1 Answer 1


Rambam (Hil. Beis Habechirah 7:4) says that when a person finishes his service in the Beis Hamikdash, he should walk out of the azarah backwards, so as not to turn his back to the Heichal. The fact that he doesn't say anything about being careful with this during their avodah, though, perhaps indicates that it doesn't matter as much.

We do find that they walked normally, going west to east, in the ezras nashim during the Simchas Beis Hashoevah celebrations (Sukkah 53b), though perhaps then they kept the Nikanor Gate closed so that the Heichal wasn't (as) visible.

Another data point: the kohanim stood on the steps of the ulam to bless the people (Rambam, Hil. Tefillah Uvirkas Kohanim 14:14) - presumably they must have faced east, towards the ezras Yisrael, since birkas kohanim has to be done face-to-face.

On the other hand, Tosefos Yom Tov (to Middos 3:5) cites Raavyah that there were no hooks (for hanging up the korbanos to skin and dissect them) on the west side of the poles set up for this purpose, so that the kohen wouldn't be standing with his back to the Heichal. Similarly, when it came to slaughtering the korban tamid, the kohen doing so would face west (thus standing next to the animal being slaughtered rather than in front of it), and Tiferes Yisrael (to Tamid 4:1) again says that this was so that he wouldn't have his back to the Heichal.

All told, then, it may be simply that they did try to keep this rule when possible, but would vary it if necessary (as with birkas kohanim, and perhaps also when walking around one of the walkways of the altar).

  • Good points. I'll give it a checkmark, while hoping still for further evidence.
    – msh210
    May 12, 2011 at 16:04
  • re Birkat Kohanim: this issue arises in Israel nowadays during Birkat Kohanim of Neilah. The minhag (everywhere I've seen at least) is to leave the Aron open for the whole repition of Neilah. From what I understand, in Israel (where the Kohanim do perform Birkat Kohanim at Neilah) the Kohanim actually close the Aron just before Birkat Kohanim and reopen it afterwards to avoid having their backs to an open Aron. It would be quite a chiddush, though, to say that the kohanim in the mikdash did this daily with the gates without a source.
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:17
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    @DoubleAA: they may not have needed to. There was a paroches in front of the kodesh hakodashim, and another one on the door of the ulam, which is what they were standing in front of.
    – Alex
    Jun 11, 2012 at 17:17
  • @Alex I think the whole premise of this question is that the rules for the mikdash would be stricter than those of a shul, so a parochet might not be good enough. But I agree with your conclusion that we don't worry about this when it isn't too big a deal. In shul it's easy; in the mikdash it wouldn't have been as much.
    – Double AA
    Jun 13, 2012 at 4:01

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