Project Genesis

The Land of Israel

Removing the High Priest from the Holy of Holies

Question: If a high priest in the Holy Temple died while in the holy of holies, how was his body taken out. Answer: During the 2nd Temple period there were a great many Kohanim (Jewish Priests) acting as “Kohein Gadol” (High Priest), who were not fit for the roll. If they entered the Holy of Holies during Yom Kippur they were subject to the same fate as anyone else who entered.

These people would die, but I have read and heard a variety of explanations of what occurred. The main theory, not necessarily the one I think is the case, is that a rope was tied around a leg, so that if he did not “walk” out, he would be pulled out. A second is that the body could be removed in the same way that repairs were make, staying behind a form of portable wall where one would not face the interior. The third is that a Kohein might die within the year, but not on Yom Kippur itself, and therefore would not need to be taken out.

Regards, Eliahu Levenson

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