The Temple Institute: A Day in the Life of the Holy Temple: Throwing the Magrepha

Throwing the Magrepha

The two priests, he who will offer the incense and he who bears the shovel, now make their way together towards the Sanctuary. But before arriving there, in between the Hall and the altar, one of them takes a vessel called magrepha (either a rake-like vessel used for brushing away the ashes from the altar, or a type of musical instrument), and throws it down to the floor!

In the language of the Mishna (Tamid 5, 6) "the sound made by the magrepha falling was so deafening at that moment that in the entire city of Jerusalem, no one could hear his friend speaking!"

Throwing down the magrepha was a signal which served three purposes:

1). When the priests who were outside the court heard the sound, they knew that their colleagues within were about to prostrate themselves before the Divine Presence... and they ran to bow down with them.

2). When the Levites heard it, they knew that the Levite choir was about to enter the court and stand upon the platform, to begin their service of the daily song. They too, ran to join their brothers...

3). And when the Assembly Head (the official in charge of the Israelites who stand in the Temple to accompany the sacrificial service, as representatives of the entire nation) heard, he separated the priests who had become defiled, and stood them all together in the Eastern Gate. This way, everyone could see that they were impure and therefore could not serve in the Holy Temple, and no one would suspect that they had any other reason for not participating in the service.

At this point, these two priests now continue up the twelve steps that lead to the Sanctuary building. They are preceded by two other priests - those who received the tasks of removing the residue ashes from both the inner (incense) altar, and the menorah. He whose job was the altar's ashes enters first. Using the edges of the shovel, he arranges the coals upon the altar evenly, so that the incense will burn well. He then takes up the basket which he left there earlier, prostrates himself and exits, having concluded his task.

He is followed by his colleague, the priest who improves the menorah's wicks. He now enters, and if he finds the two easterly-most candles still burning, he extinguishes the outside flame so that he may replenish its oil and replace its wick, and then relight it. But he does not extinguish the "western candle," the second flame from the end - this flame he allows to burn continously, the "perpetual flame," and from this he will rekindle the menorah in the evening.

If he should find that the "western candle" had gone out, he then cleanses its lamp as well, replenishing its oil and wick, and rekindles its light from the fire atop the outer altar. Afterwards, he takes up the vessel containing the menorah's refuse which he had left earlier on the second step; he prostrates himself once, and departs the Sanctuary.

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