On Monday, December 6, a reenactment of several Temple ceremonies will be held in Mitzpe Yericho. The reenactments will include a demonstration of the anointing of the High Priest, and the lighting of the Temple menorah. A new altar will be dedicated for use on the Temple Mount. Each ceremony is an essential element of the Temple service and practical efforts such as these are intended to prepare for the Third Temple.
Menorah: Pure oil
As Monday will be the last night of Hanukkah, a demonstration of the lighting of the temple menorah will be carried out. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple by the Hasmoneans in 164 BCE and the ceremony next week will recreate several aspects of that historic event.
A demonstration of the lighting of the Temple menorah will be held. A Hanukkah menorah (also called a Hanukkiah) has nine branches whereas the one used in the demonstration, made of wood covered in gold and standing at about four feet tall, has seven branches, modeled after the Menorah that stood in the two Jewish Temples as well as the Tabernacle.
Since it is made of wood, the replica is technically not kosher for use as the menorah in the Temple, which must be made entirely of metal. The gold menorah intended to be installed permanently in the Third Temple upon its construction is on display in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. Made to Biblical specifications, it is not portable and cannot be used for reenactments. Standing approximately six feet tall, it weighs half a ton, and contains 45 kilograms (approximately 99 lbs) of 24 karat gold valued at approximately three million dollars.
For the purposes of the menorah lighting, special oil has been prepared. Normally, olive oil is made by crushing the olives and then pressing them. As per the Biblical commandment, olive oil for use in the Temple and for anointing is made by smashing the olives by hand and then allowing the oil to drip for several days.
You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. Exodus 27:20
This produces a very small quantity of oil, only about two percent of the volume of the olives as compared to 20 percent by pressing. But the method described in the Bible produces oil that is vastly superior to that produced by any other method. The initial trial run by the United Temple Movement prepared about 450 pounds of olives, producing 25 quarts of oil. The husks are then pressed and the oil can be consumed or used for adding to grain offerings.
As much as possible, the ritual purity of the olives is preserved. As soon as the olives are pounded, they become open to impurity. They are therefore processed in an area open to the sky and the workers wear surgical masks, as saliva can transfer impurity. The hammers are made of plastic and the surface is marble, materials that cannot receive ritual impurity.
Burning the oil in the Temple was considered a sacrifice in every respect, and does not require an actual Temple building to house it. The Biblical commandment could be fulfilled today by placing the Menorah on the Temple Mount, filling it with the oil that has been prepared, and having it lit by a Kohen (a Jewish man from the priestly caste).
The demonstration will be carried out by Kohanim (priests) wearing garments adhering to Biblical specifications and using silver trumpets, prepared for use in the Holy Temple.
Anointing the Kohen Gadol
A demonstration of the anointing of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) will also be held. Rabbi Baruch Kahana will serve as the Kohen Gadol for the purpose of this demonstration. Rabbi Kahana has served an essential role in educating Kohanim to serve in the Third Temple and has served as the Kohen Gadol in many of the Temple reenactments.
For this purpose, the pure olive oil is prepared for use in the anointing. The anointing oil was described in the Bible to be used in the consecration of the Tabernacle:
Make of this a sacred anointing oil, a compound of ingredients expertly blended, to serve as sacred anointing oil. Exodus 30:25
It is important to note that the oil was called in Hebrew שמן המשחה (shemen ha-mishchah), literally translated as oil of anointing. The Hebrew word for Messiah is משיח (Mashiach), literally the anointed one though this term is also used in the Bible for anyone who has been anointed.
Originally, the oil was used exclusively for the priests and the Tabernacle articles, but its use was later extended to include prophets and kings:
Shmuel took a flask of oil and poured some on Shaul‘s head and kissed him, and said, “Hashem herewith anoints you ruler over His own people. I Samuel 10:1
It is expressly forbidden by the Bible to recreate the oil for any other purpose, punishable by kareth, the most severe punishment described in the Bible. The ingredients as described in Exodus 30:23-25 are as follows:
- Pure myrrh, 500 shekels weight (about 6 kg)
- Sweet cinnamon, 250 shekels weight (about 3 kg)
- “fragrant cane” (sometimes translated as calamus) 250 shekels (about 3 kg)
- Cassia, 500 shekels (about 6 kg)
- Specially prepared olive oil, one hin (about 6 liters, or 5.35 kg)
All of the ingredients must be prepared in total purity. A special jug was made to hold the anointing oil and was marked with a seal.
Dedicating the altar
The event will also feature the dedication of a new altar. The altar adheres to the minimum requirements which will allow it to be used on the Temple Mount. It is hollow and relatively small, designed to be filled with specially selected stones that have already been prepared. This altar is designed to be ready at a moment’s notice and able to be transported and assembled on the Temple Mount.