The Temple Institute: A Day in the Life of the Holy Temple: Removing Ashes with the Silver Shovel

Removing Ashes with the Silver Shovel

Once the officiating priest has sanctified himself, he takes the silver shovel from its spot and walks up the ramp, ascending to the top of the altar. There, he uses the shovel to stir the coals, and into it he collects a small amount from the ashes of the inner coals that have been thoroughly consumed by the fire. Most of the ashes remain atop the altar - the amount he is required to remove is minimum. But this action symbolically prepares the altar for a new day of Temple service.

Descending to the floor once again by way of the ramp, the priest turns towards the north and walks towards the east side of the ramp for a distance of "about 10 amot." At that exact location he places the coals from his shovel in a small pile on the floor, as the verse states (Lev. 6:3): "And he shall place them near the altar." This spot is known as the Place of Ashes, on the eastern side of the ramp, about 3 handbreadths from the ramp itself, and at a distance of 10 amot from the southern wall of the altar. The crops from burnt offerings of birds (see Lev. 1:16), the ashes from the inner (incense) altar, and the ashes from the menorah were also placed in this spot.

With that, the priest has concluded the first sacred task of the day in the Holy Temple, the service of the removal of the ashes.

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