08/23/2013 06:48

On the evening of Tuesday, August 20th, 2013, the 14th day of Elul, 5773, after a 2000 year 'summer break,' school reopened to teach kohanim (Jewish men of priestly descent) the 'lost' art of performing the daily Tamid service in the Holy Temple.

The detailed laws of the Divine service in the Holy Temple have always been accessible in the volumes of Jewish tradition. But now, for the first time in two millennia, an organized academy has been inaugurated to prepare for the renewal of Temple service. The grand opening of the academy began with a semi-dress rehearsal/dry run of the entire daily service from start to finish, reenacted step by step.

For the purpose of this unique educational endeavor, special educational tools and props were used, representing the necessary vessels. A figure of the lamb offered up in the daily service, and a small scale altar, were also created exclusively for study purpose.

The evening was not open to the public. Some twenty men, young and old alike, of kohanic descent (direct lineal descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest), participated in the rehearsal. Some of these men donned actual priestly garments manufactured for them by the Temple Institute. The garments are constantly being prepared, and as there were not enough garments available, others sufficed with white shirts and pants for this dry run. All of the kohanim were barefoot, as they are forbidden from wearing shoes while attending to their sacred tasks within the confines of the Holy Temple.

The large group of enthusiastic onlookers in attendance included students and family members, as well as a special contingent of women representing the "Women for the Holy Temple" group, who were active in planning and preparing every aspect of the evening.

The reenactment was overseen by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute, who drilled the kohanim in the particular instructions for each of the individual actions that make up the daily service. Leading the kohanim was Rabbi Baruch Kahana, who conducted each of the four daily lotteries and distributed the specific assignments to various kohanim. All these activities as described in the Mishna and other sources of Torah understanding.

An atmosphere of great excitement prevailed throughout the entire evening and profoundly affected all those assembled – 'players' and audience alike. All were emotionally charged and visibly moved with the knowledge that here in Jerusalem, these sacred tasks are being reenacted, for the purpose of studious preparation, for the first time since the destruction of the Holy Temple. Despite the limited space and all the typical pressure which accompany first time efforts, the overall effect was spell-binding, as we witnessed a sacred ceremony, first described in Torah four thousand years ago, yet not attended to for two thousand years of exile, suddenly come to life before our very eyes. All at once, ancient texts and descriptions took shape as today's descendants of Aaron, the first high priest and father of all kohanim, worked diligently to perform their assigned tasks.

With G-d's help, the Temple Institute, in conjunction with other Temple organizations, will be making great advances in Temple preparation with the establishment of this new school, whose sole purpose is teaching kohanim their unique privileges and responsibilities toward G-d and toward the people of Israel, as well as all humanity. The numerous priestly tasks which make up the daily Tamid service, as well as the holiday and Shabbat service in the Holy Temple require a complete command of every detail of the task at hand, perfect concentration, and pure intentions. As always, this is achieved through practice, practice, practice! Welcome back to school, kohanim! May you use your skills soon, in the newly rebuilt Holy Temple! Temple Institute


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