The Torah portions of Vayakhel and Pikudei discuss the actual building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that the Jewish people built in the desert as well as the fashioning of the clothes of the Kohanim, of Aharon and his sons.
The Shared Garments of the Kohen Gadol and Regular Kohen (Hedyot)
The clothing of the Kohen Gadol was comprised of four articles of clothing, the choshen (breastplate), ephod (apron), me’il (cloak) and tzitz (frontlet). The other four articles of his clothing – the ktonet (long shirt), avnet (belt), mitznefet (hat), and michnasayim (pants) – were nearly identical to the four worn by the ordinary Kohanim. There were, however, several differences.
The Hat of the Regular Kohen
The hat of the regular kohen was called a migba’at
as opposed to that of the kohen gadol’s, which was called a mitznefet.
There are various opinions about how the hats differed, if at all.
- Rashi’s opinion seems to be that the hats of the regular kohen and that of the Kohen Gadol were identical. The only difference was that the Kohen Gadol’s hat was smaller since his head Tefillin had to fit between the tzitz and the hat, whereas the regular kohen did not have a tzitz.
- The Rambam writes that, although both wore turbans (i.e., a long sash wound round and round the head), the kohen gadol’s turban was round whereas those of the regular kohanim were cone-shaped.
- The Raavad writes that the Kohen Gadol wore a turban whereas the regular kohanim wore regular hats (i.e., they were not made of a sash that was wound round and round the head but were like our hats).
- The Ramban writes that they were both turbans but that the Kohen Gadol’s turban was wound around and around the head in such a way that the center of the head was left uncovered. It was there that Aharon was anointed. Whereas those of the regular kohanim covered the entire head.
The belt of the Kohen Gadol and those of the regular kohanim were both called an avnet.
The verse says that the belt of the Kohen Gadol was made of blue wool, purple wool, scarlet wool and linen.
Some say that the belts of the regular kohanim were made of the same materials, thus making the belts identical.
Others say that the belts of the regular kohanim were made only of linen.
According to the later opinion, the clothing of the regular kohanim were practically identical with the white clothes worn by the Kohen Gadol when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
(Although, as explained above, their hats may have been somewhat different.)
The rest of this article will focus on the Kohanim Gedolim who served in the first Bait HaMikdash.
Fear of Heaven Increases Life
cites the verse, “Fear of the L-rd will add days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened,”
to contrast the Kohanim Gedolim of the first Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and the second. Specifically, “Fear of the L-rd will add days” refers to the Kohanim Gedolim of the first Bait HaMikdash who were G-d-fearing men and merited long lives while “the years of the wicked will be shortened” refers to the Kohanim Gedolim of the second Bait HaMikdash, many of whom were wicked and died shortly after assuming their position. (This will be explained, G-d willing, in next week’s Parsha Halacha.)
Eight, Twelve, or Eighteen
says that there were 18 Kohanim Gedolim who served in the first Bait HaMikdash. Tosfot
points out that, according to the record in the Book of Chronicles,
there were only eight
or twelve Kohanim
who served in the first Bait HaMikdash (not counting Yehotzadak, who was exiled
). There are various approaches to resolving these differences of opinion.
- Some amend the text of the Talmud to read eight instead of eighteen.
- Some amend the text of the Talmud to read twelve instead of eighteen.
- Some say that, although there were only eight (or twelve) Kohanim Gedolim who served in the first Bait HaMikdash, the Talmud says there were eighteen as they are including the Kohanim Gedolim from Pinchas and onwards, despite the fact that they preceded the Bait HaMikdash.
- Some say that when the Talmud says eighteen it is referring to the nine Kohanim Gedolim (including Yehotzadak) and their seganim – understudies, who would occasionally fill in for them if they could not do the service.
According to the list in Chronicles 1, end of chapter 5, the Kohanim Gedolim who served in the first Bait HaMikdash were listed as follows: Tzadok, Achima’atz, Azaryah, Yochanan, Azaryah, Amaryah, Achituv, Tzadok, Shalum, Chilkiyah, Azarya, Seryah and Yehotzadak. As cited below, other sources list several kohanim gedolim in that era with different names. It is possible that these Kohanim Gedolim had more than one name and that the full list is the one given above.
Here is some of the history of several of these great men.
As explained in last week’s
Parsha Halacha, Tzadok was a tremendous Tzaddik comparable to Aharon and his sons.
When Yehoshafat, king of Judah, came to power, he made a religious revival in the land. One of the things he did was to appoint righteous judges to judge honestly according to the laws of the Torah. It seems from the verse that Amaryah, the Kohen, was overseeing all of these judges.
Yehoyada, the Kohen, was a fearless
and righteous man
who restored the Kings of David to their rightful throne and influenced the king and the Jewish people to serve G-d in an exemplary manner. The Midrash says
that, in the generation when Yehoyada was the leader, if Aharon the Kohen would have been alive, he would have had to subjugate himself to Yehoyada. The story of this great man is that Atalyah, the daughter of Achav (king of Israel) and Izevel (Jezebel), married Yehoram who became the king of Judah after the death of his father, the righteous Yehoshafat. Their son Achazziah became the king when Yehoram died. He was assassinated a short while later by Yehu who also killed Yehoram, king of Israel, and the other members of the family of Achav whom Achazziah had gone to visit. (This was a punishment from G-d for their having led wicked lives.) Following this, in order to establish herself as the queen of Israel, Atalyah murdered all of the male family members of her husband (many of whom were her own descendants!). Only one descendant was saved. Yehoshavat, the daughter of Yehoram, managed to rescue her baby nephew, Yoash, the son of Achazziah, from among the slain children. With the help of her husband, Yehoyada the Kohen, she hid him (and his nursemaid) in the chamber above the Holy of Holies for six years. When Yoash turned seven, Yehoyada gathered many Levites and made a covenant with them and with the Jewish people that they would be loyal to G-d and to Yoash. They then anointed Yoash as the king and put Atalyah to death. 
Following this, there was a religious renaissance in Judea. They destroyed the idolatrous worshiping places, killed the idolatrous priests, and refurbished the Bait Hamikdash.
Yehoyada lived until the ripe old age of 130. When he passed away, he was buried in the sepulcher of the kings because he had restored the Davidic dynasty.
The verse recounts that, as long as Yehoyada was alive, Yoash followed in the ways of G-d.
Our sages say that, unfortunately, after the passing of Yehoyada, King Yoash abandoned those ways and gave permission for the people to deify him.
Zechariah, the son of Yehoyada, who had become Kohen Gadol upon the death of his father, and was also a prophet, reprimanded Yoash in the name of G-d, saying, “So said G-d: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the L-rd? You will not succeed because you have forsaken the L-rd, and He has forsaken you.'”
Ignoring that Zechariah’s father and mother had saved his life, King Yoash commanded that Zechariah be stoned to death. The people stoned the Kohen Gadol/prophet to death in the courtyard of the Bait HaMikdash.
This took place on a Yom Kippur which was also Shabbat.
As Zechariah was dying, he cried out, “May G-d see and seek justice.”
Indeed, when the Babylonian general Nevuzaraden came to destroy the first Bait HaMikdash, he slaughtered thousands of Jews to quiet the blood of Zechariah that had been bubbling on the stones of the courtyard of the Bait HaMikdash since his death many years before. (We read about this in the Yom Kippur service.)
There were several more noteworthy, righteous Kohanim Gedolim in the first Bait HaMikdash such as Azaryah (see note 23), Chilkiyah and Seraya. Perhaps we will discuss them in another article.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Chodesh Tov!
Hilchot Klei HaMikdash, 8:2
On Exodus, 39:27 and 28:31
Yoma 12a and b. This opinion is based on the fact that they are both called avnet and since the verse specifies the materials used for the belt of the Kohen Gadol, the belt of the regular kohanim must have been made of the same materials.
Yoma, ibid, based on Exodus, 28:40 where all of the clothes of the regular kohanim are mentioned together. Since the other articles of clothing were made of pure linen, the belt too must have been made of pure linen. See Ramban on ibid, 39:29. The Rambam (Hilchot Klei HaMikdash, 8:12
) sides with this view.
Chronicles I, 5:36
The verse traces the lineage of the Kohanim Gedolim from Aharon until Yehotzadak, who was exiled. In verse 37 it says that Azaryah “is the one who served in the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem.” When counting from Azaryah, there were eight Kohanim Gedolim (excluding Yehotzadak).
When counting from Tzadok (listed in verse 34) who, according to Kings I, 2:35
served as the Kohen Gadol under Solomon, there are twelve Kohanim Gedolim.
See Ritva who writes that, although Yehotzadak is listed in the verse, he never actually served as a Kohen Gadol but was exiled before he could do so. Others say that he served but that he is not counted since he was exiled and the Bait HaMikdash was destroyed.
Ri, quoted in the Ritva. According to this opinion, when it says that Azaryah “is the one who served in the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem,” it does not mean that he was the first Kohen Gadol (see note 20). Rather, it means that he upheld the honor of the Temple of Solomon by protesting against King Uziyahu who tried to burn incense in the Bait HaMikdash which he was not allowed to do since he was not a Kohen. See Chronicles II, 26:17 – 21
Another interpretation suggested by Tosfot
Much of the information is gathered from sources cited in Toldot HaKohanim HaGedolim (published in New York, 1933), by Rav Yekutiel Yehudah Greenwald.
See Chronicles II, chapter 19
The Seder Olam, chapter 19, describes him as being strong (fearless) as a rock.
See below. See also Zevachim, 103a where Yehoyada’s exposition on a Torah verse is quoted.
See Kings II, chapters 10 and 11 and Chronicles II, chapters 22 – 24
Antiquities of the Jews, book 9, 8:3
Kings II, 12:3 and Chronicles II, 24:2
See Shemot Rabbah, 8:2, based on Chronicles II 24:17.
Chronicles II, 24:20
Chronicles II, 24:22