[b-hebrew] high priest on Yom Kippur -- no strings attached?

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 18:20:51 EDT 2005

It appears to me that the Zohar is the earliest source
that mentions this phenomenon.  The quote of the 
Zohar in this regard that I found is at: 
where it quotes the Zohar on Lev. (Emor):
שרשרת של זהב היו קושרים ברגלו של הכהן הגדול בשעה שנכנס
לקודש הקודשים. שאם ימות, ימשכו אותו בשרשרת ויוציאו אותו משם,
מבלי שיכנסו הם לקודש הקודשים = A golden chain would be
tied around the leg of the High Priest when he enters the
Holy of Holies, so that if he dies, they can pull him out by
the chain and take him from there, without having to enter
the Holy of Holies themselves.

The following is based mainly on Joseph Tabory's,
Jewish Festivals in the Time of the Mishnah and
Talmud, Magnes: Jerusalem (2000) [Hebrew], p. 266

This appears to have been unknown to the Talmudic 
Rabbis.  See Bavli Yoma 19b, where a Sadducee is
described as having died as a result of not performing
the ritual according to law.  A discussion follows as to
whether he died a few days after or as he came out of
the Holy of Holies: And some say, as he came out he
was plagued, as R' Hiyya said: A kind of cry was heard
in the Azara, that an angel came and hit him in the
head.  And his brothers, the priests, went inside and
found a calf's footprint between his shoulders...

So apparently, the Talmud had no problem with
priests entering the Holy of Holies to take out a
plagued or dead High Priest in extreme

The following additional sources have bearing to the
question: Yoma 7:4 "A good day it was to his
followers when [the high priest] came out well out
of the Holy [of Holies.]"  This is not simply because
of the wellbeing of the High Priest himself, but also
because his wellbeing in the Holy of Holies reflected
on the atonement that the nation received.  Yoma
5:1 The prayer while lighting the incense was short
"so as not to worry Israel."  The dead Sadducee
story - Jerusalemi Yoma 1:5, 39a, Bavli Yoma 19b,
Tosefta Kippurim 1:8.

Articles referenced in Tabory on the dangers of entering 
the Holy of Holies are in Tarbiz 48, p. 201- 214, Tarbiz
51, p. 310-311/311-312.  The joy of leaving the Holy
of Holies [referenced to above] is probably related to
Ben Sira 50:6-7, "How great is it when he looks out
from the Tent, and leaves the House of Cover, like
a star among the clouds, like a full moon amongst on 

Tabory doesn't mention Josephus on the paragraph
of the dangers of entering the Holy of Holies but
mentions him in the next paragraph regarding the 
Sadducees having been bound by Pharisee law
due to public pressure so it appears to me that if
Josephus would have mentioned this it would have
been mentioned by Tabory.

Yitzhak Sapir

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