Lecture 82: The Days of Shlomo and Yarov'am ֠Exclusive Worship of the God of Israel or Also Alien Gods?

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy




Lecture 82: The Days of Shlomo and Yarov'am –

Exclusive worship of the GOd Of Israel or also Alien Gods?

Rav Yitzchak Levi



            In this unit, we wish to examine the worship of God in the kingdoms of Israel and Yehuda from the days of Shlomo until the end of the first Temple period. In this lecture, we will deal with the period of Shlomo and Yarov'am, and we will address the question of whether the people worshipped the God of Israel or alien gods.




            During the time of Shlomo himself, toward the end of his life and parallel to the establishment of the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, bamot were built for the worship of idols.


Then did Shlomo build a high place for Kemosh, the abomination of Moav, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molekh, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his foreign wives, who burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods. And the Lord was angry with Shlomo, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had twice appeared to him. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.[1] (Melakhim I 11:7)


            Scripture describes the building of bamot for alien gods – for Kamosh the abomination of Moav, for Molekh the abomination of the children of Ammon, and for the rest of Shlomo's foreign wives. It would seem that for the first time since idol worship was wiped out by the prophet Shmuel, idol worship to the gods of Moav and Ammon, from where Shlomo took wives, makes its appearance in Jerusalem. Indeed, the above mentioned verses immediately follow Scripture's account of Shlomo's taking of foreign wives:


For it came to pass, when Shlomo was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Shlomo went after Ashoret the goddess of the Tzidonites, and after Mikom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Shlomo did evil in the sight of the Lord and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. (Melakhim I 11:4-6)


            Did Shlomo actually worship idols? The Radak (ad loc.) writes as follows:


Not that he worshipped idols, but rather he allowed his wives to worship foreign gods and even allowed them to build bamot in Jerusalem for idol worship. This is the meaning of what it says, "Then did Shlomo build," that he allowed his wives to build and did not object. (Radak, Melakhim I 11:1)


            This approach accords with the words of the gemara in tractate Shabbat, which says in the name of R. Yonatan:


Whoever says that Shlomo sinned is in error. For it is stated, "His heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father" (Melakhim I 11:4) – it was not like the heart of David his father, but he did not sin. (Shabbat 56a)


The gemara there deals with various verses dealing with Shlomo, and it concludes that Shlomo did not build the bamot. But because he should have objected to his wives' building of bamot and failed to do so, Scripture relates to him as if he had sinned.


            The plain sense of the verses seems to present gradation:


            It is first stated, "For Shlomo went after Ashoret the goddess of the Tzidonites" (Melakhim I 11:5). Scripture then goes on to describe the building of bamot to foreign gods. But nowhere is it explicitly stated that Shlomo bowed down to idols. On the other hand, Shlomo's bamot remained standing until the days of Yoshiyahu (Melakhim II 23:13), mention being made there of a bama for Ashtoret, the abomination of the Tzidonites, which is not mentioned in the days of Shlomo.


            On the other hand, the Yerushalmi in Sanhedrin states:


When they deliberated and said: Three kings and four commoners have no share in the World-to-Come, a heavenly voice issued forth and said: "Shall he recompense it according to your mind, when you refuse his judgment?" Rather, "Shall he say, You shall choose, and not I; and speak what you know" (Iyov 34:33). They wanted to add Shlomo to them. David came and prostrated himself before them. And some say a fire issued forth from the Holy of Holies and burned around them…. (Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10:2, 53a)


According to the Yerushalmi, there were those who wanted to include Shlomo in the list of kings who have no share in the World-to-Come, and it is reasonable to assume that the main reason for this is his building of bamot for idol worship. In any event, beyond the personal dimension and Shlomo's direct involvement in idol worship on the state level, when Shlomo allowed his wives to worship idols, he, to a certain measure, bestowed legitimacy to the worship of idols in Jerusalem, even if only outside the city.


            The great severity of this deed, beyond the personal question regarding the extent to which Shlomo himself worshipped idols, lies in the fact that immediately following the construction of God's Temple, there appears for the first time the spiritual phenomenon of idol worship in Jerusalem, the new capital city, which constitutes a direct antithesis to the Temple, God's house in Jerusalem. This exacerbates, in addition to the legitimacy given to idol worship, the blurring of the distinction between the worship of the God of Israel and the worship of idols in the capital city itself. This is particularly severe in light of the fact that this phenomenon continues for most of the First Temple period, until it was wiped out in the days of Yoshiyahu only a few decades before the Temple's destruction.


            Anyone wishing to imagine the difficulty of the situation should try to visualize the city of Jerusalem for most of the First Temple period. North of the city stand the royal palace and God's Temple, and east of the city stand the bamot that Shlomo built for idol worship!


            It is interesting that over the course of the First Temple period, it is noted about certain kings that they worshipped idols in Jerusalem. In a certain sense, this worship constitutes a continuation of the actions of the first king Shlomo, who introduced this worship in Jerusalem for the first time after idol worship had been wiped out in the days of Shmuel.


            It is noteworthy that in the summation of Scripture's judgment of various kings, mention is made of the fact that "only the bamot were not removed." This usually refers to bamot built for the worship of the God of Israel,[2] but Scripture does not relate directly to the bamot built by Shlomo. Even in the days of Chizkiyahu, when the king destroys a very large number of the bamot, Scripture does not relate to Shlomo's bamot. The first and last time that Scripture relates to them after the time of Shlomo is in the time of Yoshiyahu, when, for the first time, these bamot are destroyed. The gemara in Shabbat asks about this:


Rather it is as was taught: R. Yose said: "And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the Mount of Corruption, which Shlomo the king of Israel had built for Ashtoret the abomination of the Tzidonites" (Melakhim  II 23:13). Now, is it possible that Asa came and did not destroy them, then Yehoshafat, and he did not destroy them, until Yoshiyahu came and destroyed them?! But surely Asa and Yehoshafat destroyed all the idol worship in Eretz Yisrael! Rather [the explanation is that] the earlier are compared to the latter: just as the latter did not do, yet it was ascribed to them to their credit, so the earlier ones too did not do, yet it was ascribed to them to their shame. (Shabbat 56b)


The gemara in Shabbat interprets the verses, and in effect diminishes Shlomo's sin,[3] but this does not necessarily accord with the plain sense of Scripture. Further study is required not only regarding the gemara's question of whether it is possible that kings such as Asa and Yehoshafat (and we add Chizkiyahu as well) did not wipe out this idol worship, but also regarding the first question that we raised: On the assumption that these bamot stood until the time of Yoshiyahu and that they served for idol worship, is it possible that the prophetic judgment, when summing up the lives of each of the kings, condemns the worship at bamot that were used for the most part for the worship of the God of Israel throughout the kingdom of Yehuda but it does not condemn the bamot used for idol worship found in Jerusalem?


            The Radak explains:


How did Asa and Yehoshafat not wipe them out when they wiped out all the idol worship before them? They wiped out the idol worship, but the bamot they did not wipe out. Because they sacrificed on them to the God [of Israel]. For it says regarding each of them: "But the high places wee not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places" (Melakhim II 12:4). But Yoshiyahu smashed the bamot as well, since they had been built from the outset for idol worship, so that people should not sacrifice upon them even for the sake of heaven, for owing to the fact that the Temple was standing, bamot were forbidden. Therefore, it is written about him: "And like him was there no king before him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul" (Melakhim II 23:25), because the kings who had come before him did not remove the bamot, even though they were good kings. (Radak, Melakhim II 23:13, s.v., asher banah Shlomo)


The Radak proposes that the kings who came before Yoshiyahu wiped out idol worship, but they did not destroy the bamot because sacrifices were also brought there to the God of Israel.


            A question may be raised against this view. Chizkiyahu wiped out the bamot that served for the worship of the God of Israel, but nevertheless it is nowhere stated that he destroyed the bamot that were built by Shlomo for idol worship! Thus, the matter requires further study.


            Alternatively, it may be proposed that following the period of Shlomo, the bamot that were built in his days ceased to serve for idol worship; from then on they served solely for the worship of the God of Israel east of the City of David. According to this understanding, however, we can once again ask the question that we raised regarding the difference between Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu: Chizkiyahu destroyed the bamot; why then does Scripture not relate to the bamot that had been built by Shlomo and only during the days of Yoshiyahu is it stated explicitly that he destroyed them? This question remains unanswered.[4]




            Let us summarize Yarov'am's actions regarding the worship of the God of Israel.


  • One of Yarov'am's central concerns is that the kingdom will return to the house of David (Melakhim I 12:26), and he therefore fashions two golden calves – one in Bet-El and the other in Dan. "And he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’"[5]


  • Afterwards, a description is given of how he builds a house of bamot.


  • Afterwards, he sets aside "priests from all ranks of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi" (Melakhim I 12:31).


  • Yarov'am celebrates a feast in the eighth month (v. 32).


The Abravanel understands that Yarov'am's fashioning of the calves did not have a religious objective, but rather the political objective of perpetuating his kingdom from the house of Yosef. The people interpreted his intentions incorrectly and turned the matter into idol worship. According to this, the calves, which symbolize the tribes of Yosef, were set up as a memorial to the kingdom of Yarov'am, who came from the tribes of Yosef.


            The Abravanel also sees a correspondence between Yarov'am's calves and the keruvim in the Holy of Holies:


It may be suggested that since Yarov'am saw that Shlomo had fashioned two gold keruvim in the Holy of Holies, and of the four faces of the Chariot he chose the face of the keruv, inasmuch as its human shape points to the wisdom bestowed by Him, blessed be He, upon the human intellect, therefore Yarov'am chose to take from the Chariot the face of an ox, which alludes to multitude of grain and the blessing of the nations. As it stated, "But much increase comes by the strength of the ox" (Mishlei 14:4). He therefore set up two calves corresponding to the two keruvim. The keruvim have two wings, alluding to the drawing of bounty from above, and the ox has two horns, alluding to this as well. And just as the keruvim in their form are the youngest of people, so too the calves are the youngest of oxen. Perhaps the two calves were male and female, as Chazal said (Yoma 85, 54a) regarding the keruvim, and therefore he fashioned two. And just like Shlomo made a feast when he dedicated the altar, so too did Yarov'am, only that he fabricated it on his own. Accordingly, he did not choose the form of calves to act in the manner of the generation of the wilderness, but rather to take from the supernal faces of the chariot the face that is most appropriate. He did not use the form of a lion, because "Yehuda is a lion's whelp" (Bereishit 49:9), and the tribe of Yosef is likened to an ox, as was mentioned.


The Abravanel wishes to demonstrate that Yarov'am wanted to create something that would serve as a substitute for the worship of God in all ways. The two calves in Dan and Bet-El were meant to serve as an exact substitute for the two keruvim, and he notes their common characteristics and the special similarity between them. Yarov'am exploits religion in order to make a political impact.




            Another interesting point that rises from the account of Yarov'am's actions is his return to ancient traditions.[6]


  • Return to the traditional sites of sanctity in his choice of Dan and Bet-El as the places to set up the calves.


Bet-El is undoubtedly a place with a tradition of early sanctity, both in the period of the Patriarchs and in the period of the Shoftim.[7] Dan is also a place with an ancient tradition, both regarding Avraham's pursuit of the northern kings ("And he pursued them to Dan" – Bereishit 14:14), and in the period of the Shoftim (Mikha's carving in Dan - Shoftim 18).


The Radak argues that Dan was chosen because it is situated on the border of Israel. According to this approach, the holy site defines the boundary of the kingdom, that is, the boundary of the spread of holiness. Regarding this point, Yarov'am adopts an idolatrous notion and applies it to the borders of the kingdom of Israel.[8]


  • The selection of Shekhem and Penu'el as the capital city was also intended as a return to places of past importance, both in the period of the Patriarchs and in the period of the conquest of the Land, both regarding the sanctity of the site and in the governmental sense.


It is interesting to note that the holy places are found on the borders of the kingdom, whereas the sites of governmental rule are found in the heartland.


  • Yarov'am's naming of his sons with the names of Aharon's sons alludes to identity with/support of the strange fire that was offered on the day of the dedication of the Mishkan. This is based on the assumption that Aharon's sons brought the strange fire for ideological reasons. Yarov'am appears to have viewed their actions as holy.


  • Yarov'am appoints priests who are not descendants of Levi. This may have been meant as a return to the situation that preceded the service in the Mishkan, to worship conducted by the firstborns in each family, and not by priests from among the descendants of Levi.


  • The intention was that the sacrificial service should be conducted at bamot throughout the kingdom. This is a return to the period when bamot were permitted, and each individual could worship God wherever he so desired.


  • In order to complete his detachment from Jerusalem and the sacrificial service in the Temple, Yarov'am also changes the calendar in the kingdom: "And Yarov'am ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast that is in Yehuda" (Melakhim I 12:32). From Yarov'am's perspective, the significance of the splitting of the kingdom lies not only in the rejection of Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom of Israel, but also in the rejection of the Mikdash as the center of worship, with all that that entails.


The Radak explains as follows:


"Whereupon the king took counsel" – He took counsel about how to act, and he agreed with his advisors that he should fashion two calves. Why calves? He opened a discussion with them, saying: Surely you know that the kingdom has split in accordance with the will of God, as was stated by the prophet Achiya Ha-Shiloni (Melakhim I 11:31). If so, God did not find favor with the monarchy of the house of David, and therefore, let us establish a different place, so that they should come and offer sacrifices there. Why a calf? He said to them: Surely Aharon fashioned a calf for Israel, to rest His Shekhina upon it, instead of Moshe who was missing to them. You too, now, who do not have the site of the Shekhina which is in Jerusalem – let us make a calf in its place so that God may rest His Shekhina upon it. He therefore said, "Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt," as they said regarding the calf in the wilderness (Shemot 32:4). For their intention was not idol worship. And why did he fashion two? In order not to impose upon Israel that they must all come to one place. "And he set the one in Bet-El, and the other put he in Dan." In Bet-El, because he said to them: This place was also chosen like Jerusalem, for Ya'akov said about this place, "it shall be God's house" (Bereishit 28:22). "And the other put he in Dan," because it is on the edge of the border of Eretz Yisrael, as it is written: "From Dan to Be'er-Sheva" (Shmuel I 3:20). "Rav lachem to go up to Jerusalem" – it was enough for you until now; from now on stop going up to Jerusalem. And Yonatan translated: "The way is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." And in the midrash (see Tosefta, Ta'anit 3:7): "It is too much for you to go up – what did he do? He placed two guards, one at Tavor and one at Mitzpa. This is what Hoshea said: "Because you have been a snare on Mitzpa, and a net spread over the Tavor" (Hoshea 5:1). (Radak, Melakhim I 12:28-29).


According to the Radak, the reason for setting up the calves is connected to the understanding that God no longer found favor with the Davidic monarchy. Since Jerusalem is connected in its very essence to the kingdom of the house of David, Jerusalem as a place was also rejected, and therefore Yarov'am sought another place to serve as a substitute for Jerusalem.


            According to the Radak, it was not the intention of the people of Israel to worship idols. This is similar to the way that R. Yehuda HaLevi understood the sin of the golden calf - the people of Israel served God, but in a forbidden manner. R. Yehuda HaLevi writes:


If this were not so, Yarov'am and his party would be nearer to us, although they worshipped idols, as they were Israelites, inasmuch as they practised circumcision, observed Shabbat, and other regulations, with few exceptions, which administrative emergencies had forced them to neglect. They acknowledged the God of Israel who delivered them from Egypt, in the same way as did the worshippers of the golden calf in the desert. The former class is at best superior to the latter inasmuch as they prohibited images. Since, however, they altered the place of service and sought Divine Influence where it is not to be found, altering at the same time the majority of ceremonial laws, they wandered far from the straight path. (Kuzari IV, 13)


            In the end, the people related to the calves as idols, as Scripture states, "And this thing became a sin" (Melakhim I 12:30). According to this, we are dealing with the severe sin of idol worship. That is to say, the process starts with the service of God, but in a forbidden manner, and ends with acute idol worship on the part of the nation.




            There are many parallels between Yarov'am's calves and the calf that the people of Israel fashioned at the foot of Mount Sinai:


  • "These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Shemot 32:4) corresponding to "Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Melakhim I 12:28).


  • The names of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, and the names of Yarov'am's sons, Nadav and Aviya – Yarov'am's desire to resemble Aharon.


  • The children of Levi do not participate in the sin, neither in the case of the golden calf nor in the case of Yarov'am (at least according to Divrei Ha-yamim II 11:13-15: "And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their districts. For the Levites left their pasture lands and their estates, and came to Yehuda and Jerusalem; for Yarov'am and his sons had cast them out from serving as priests to the Lord.")


  • Just as at the sin of the golden calf they made a feast, so too Yarov'am made a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month.


  • There is a similarity between the wording of the prayer offered by Moshe following the sin of the golden calf and that of the prayer of the man of God to restore the king's hand (Melakhim I 13:6).


These parallels clearly indicate that Yarov'am fashioned calves that corresponded in their essence to the golden calf made by the people of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai.


The alternative chosen by Yarov'am is a sort of return to the ancient service performed at bamot, in all places by priests who were not descendants of Levi.


The same applies to the golden calf – the calf has sanctity inasmuch as it is part of the Chariot, representing the Shekhina's footstool. According to Grintz, following the destruction of the Mishkan in Shilo and the exile of the ark and following Shlomo's novel ideas in the Mikdash, Yarov'am believed that it was appropriate to return to the ancient tradition that relates to the Chariot as fashioned out of calves.[9]




            The parallelism that we pointed to between Yarov'am's calves and the golden calf sharpens the question of why is there no harsh criticism of the calves. The prophets Achiya Ha-Shiloni, Eliyahu, and Elisha never condemn the calves in a clear and direct manner.[10] Similarly, the man of God who comes from Yehuda (Melakhim I 13) criticizes the bamot, but not the calves. He cries against the altar that men's bones will be burned upon it, and the sign is that the altar will be rent and the ashes will be poured out from it on that very day. Scripture relates directly to the sin of the bamot, but not to the sin of the calves:


After this thing, Yarov'am returned not from his evil way, but made again of all ranks of the people priests of the high places. Whoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became a sin to the house of Yarov'am, even to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth. (ibid. vv. 33-34)


            However, despite the prophets' ignoring of the calves, it is possible to find several places in which the prophets relate to the calves as idolatry:


·        In the summary of the sins that brought to the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and its exile (Melakhim II 17), it is mentioned that "they made them molten images, two calves" (v. 16), and this appears together with the making of an ashera and the worshipping of the host of heaven and the Ba'al. It is perhaps possible to understand that Scripture relates here to the calves as outright idolatry, and not to service of God in an improper manner.


·        The prophet Hoshea criticizes the calves several times. In chapter 13, following a description of the worship of the Ba'al, the prophet relates to the worship of the Ba'al, and even though the calves are different from Ba'al worship, he says: "And now they sin more and more, and have made for themselves molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss calves.’" (v. 2)


It turns out, then, that although we find an uncompromising battle against idol worship (e.g., Eliyahu's campaign against Ach'av), there is no battle similar in force and scope against the calves. In two places, Scripture relates to the calves in close proximity to the prohibitions of idolatry, and this only intensifies the negative connection between the prohibition of setting up an idol in the context of the service of the God of Israel and real idol worship, even though the two are very different.


Dr. Noach Chakham notes another two points that emphasize the difference between the calves and the keruvim, and explain why the calves, in contrast to the keruvim, should be regarded as idol worship:


  • The calves have an earthly form, as opposed to the keruvim, which have a less corporeal form. Therefore, there is more room to be concerned about idolatry in the case of the calves than regarding the keruvim.


  • As opposed to the keruvim, which are set up deep inside the Holy of Holies, where nobody can see or touch them,[11] the calves are visible to all. They stand out in the open, everybody can see, touch, and kiss them, and therefore they are much more likely to lead to idol worship.


The bottom line is that the prophetic attitude toward the calves is certainly not similar or identical in its severity to its attitude toward the worship of Ba'al or any other idol, even though the establishment of the calves was certainly forbidden and could not be condoned. It is possible that this attitude stemmed from seeing the worship of the calves as worship of the God of Israel by way of an idol, which is certainly forbidden, but nevertheless viewed as a less serious offense than outright idol worship.


In the next lecture, we will continue to deal with the sins of Yarov'am and examine his attitude toward the prohibition of bamot.


(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] We dealt at length with the location of these bamot in the previous lecture, and we will not discuss the matter here a second time.

[2] See, for example, Melakhim II 12:4; 14:4; 15:4; 15:35. It should be noted that in these verses it is not explicitly stated that the reference is to bamot for the worship of the God of Israel, but were the reference to bamot for the worship of idols, we would have expected the verses to express a much more severe attitude. Thus, for example, regarding Ach'av, when the prophet relates to bamot for idol worship, it is stated explicitly.

[3] This gemara relates to various biblical figures and interprets their sins in a manner that is different than what is implied by the plain sense of Scripture. The fact that various different figures are mentioned, and regarding all of them it is stated, "Whoever says … sinned is in error," teaches about a general attitude that goes beyond personal judgment of each of the figures. This issue requires great expansion, but this is not the forum for it.

[4] It is difficult to ignore the feeling that Scripture wishes to emphasize that the bamot that Shlomo built for idol worship were found in Jerusalem for most of the First Temple period until the time of Yoshiyahu. It is possible that Scripture wishes to describe the days of Yoshiyahu as the last period of the First Temple era, when the king made a final attempt after the difficult days of the kingdom of Menasheh to serve God with all his heart, "and like him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Torah of Moshe, neither after him arose there any like him" (Melakhim II 23:25). These efforts included wiping out idol worship and the bamot, finding the Torah scroll, renewing the covenant, and burying the ark. (Were we dealing here with the period of Yoshiyahu in itself, each of these elements would receive great expansion).

What we have said here attempts to explain the actions of Yoshiyahu. But it does not answer the question of why, if Shlomo's bamot continued to serve for idol worship throughout the First Temple period, they were not destroyed earlier. Why is there no criticism of any of the kings who did not destroy them? And if they served for the worship of the God of Israel, why did Chizkiyahu not destroy them together with the rest of the bamot?

[5] The Ralbag explains that there is no reason to go up to Jerusalem and to practice idol worship there.

[6] This idea was formulated by Dr. Noach Chakham in the framework of his course, "Worship of God and Idol Worship during the Period of the Monarchy in the Wake of Grintz," and we shall follow here in his footsteps.

[7] We dealt at length with the sanctity of Bet-El in a previous shiur (http://vbm-torah.org/archive/yeru/02yeru.htm).

[8] It is important to remember that Bet-El also serves as a border city – the border between the kingdoms of Israel and Yehuda. We shall expand upon this point in the next lecture.

[9] In the next lecture, we will expand upon this issue as well.

[10] In Melakhim I 14:9, it is said about Yarov'am: "But you have done more evil than all that were before you, for you have gone and made you other gods, and molten idols, to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back." It is reasonable to assume that the reference is to the calves.

[11] Even the High Priest who enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur enters with a cloud of incense that serves as a veil between him and the keruvim.

This idea of the incense serving as a barrier between the Shekina and man appears in various places. Let us briefly note some of them:

·         At the end of Parashat Korach, Aharon stops the plague by way of incense, until he stands between the dead and the living.

·         The physical location of the incense altar – in Parshat Tetzaveh (Shemot 30) the incense altar is located directly opposite the parokhet.

·         A famous question raised by many commentators is why the incense altar is not mentioned in Parshat Teruma. One of the answers is that the incense only has a role in places where there is a desire to enter the Mikdash.

·         The first time that the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he goes in with the incense, which makes it possible for him to enter.