About 800 Levites, many in special garments, gathered on the Hulda Steps at the southern wall of the Temple Mount on Monday to sing sections of the Psalms.
The second of its kind, the performance was accompanied by musical instruments and silver horns that were prepared by the Temple Institute for use in the Third Temple.
The performance took place under the musical supervision of Itzik Weiss, former director of the ‘Mizmor’ school, and was overseen by Yotam Segal.
The event was organized by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, in partnership with various entities, including the Jerusalem Office and the East Jerusalem Development Company. The Jerusalem Municipality also extended its support to ensure the event’s success.
Traditionally, Temple musicians were selected from the tribe of Levi. The Zohar explains that the Levites were selected to sing in the Temple because the name Levi means to accompany, and their music would cause others to come close to God. In the days that the Temples stood in Jerusalem, the Levites sang on the 15 steps— corresponding to the 15 Songs of Ascent in Psalms 15 —that led from the Ezrat Nashim (“Court of Women”) to the Ezrat Yisrael(“Court of Israelites”). The Mishna states that there were never less than 12 Levites standing on the platform, but their number could be increased indefinitely. While ordinarily no minor was permitted to enter the Azarah (“Courtyard”) to take part in the service, the young Levites were permitted to join in the singing to “add sweetness to the sound” but were not permitted to stand on the same platform with the adult Levites (Talmud Erchin 2:6).
In the Bible, the tribe of Levi included Moses and Aaron. Kohanim (priests) are descendants of Aaron and his descendants became a subset of the tribe of Levi. The other members of the tribe were chosen by God to forfeit their portions of land in Israel and to serve in the Temple. The Levites performed various functions in the Temple including guarding as well as serving all the musical needs.
Jewish communities are scrupulous about perpetuating the status of the Levites which is passed from father to son. Only Jewish men whose fathers were Levites are considered eligible. Comprising about 4% of the total Jewish population, they are recognized for conspicuous honors in religious services, and their status as Levites is inscribed on their gravestones.
The Gaon of Vilna (an 18th-century Torah sage) said that the Temple music would be the last secret to be revealed before the Messiah.