The Kohen Gadol needs us!

When the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, as described in the parsha of Acharei-Mot, what helps him?

Danny Ginsbourg

Judaism Holy Temple
Holy Temple

We read in our parsha of the injunction to Aaron:(16:2)’He shall not come בכל עת: at all times into the Sanctuary within the curtain, so that he should not die; for in a cloud will I appear upon the Ark-cover’.

The Chezkuni, one of the Rishonim, expounds:’Whilst the Cohen Gadol was forbidden to enter the Sanctuary ‘at all times’, he was permitted to enter it on Yom Kippur, when the smoke of the Ketoret offering that he brings on that day, ‘concealed’ the Shechina that, כביכול, ‘resided’ in the Sanctuary, from the eyes of the Cohen Gadol’.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin comments: ‘The word ‘עת’ is not used here in its usual meaning of a time, such as a date or a month; had that been the intention, the passuk would have concluded:’but on the tenth day of the Seventh month’.

‘Instead it is used to denote a state and the reasons for it, as in עת רצון: a state of Heavenly Mercy.

‘Only on Yom Kippur, by reason of Bnei Israel on that day confessing their transgressions, doing תשובה, and the Cohen Gadol bringing offerings for his transgressions, and those of Bnei Israel, is the Cohen Gadol allowed to enter the Sanctuary.

‘All of these make this an עת רצון, a ‘time’ of Heavenly Grace and Mercy’.

The Kli Yakar adds a deeper insight into this ‘one-day-a-year’ gift, commenting:

’The prohibition on the Cohen Gadol entering the Sanctuary ‘at all times’, is due to the transgressions of the people; these separate them from Hashem, and, also, preclude the entry of the Cohen Gadol, because the fault of the people also attaches to him’.


‘Because it is written:(Tetzave 28:1)’And you bring near Aaron, your brother..מתוך בני ישראל: from the midst of Bnei Israel’’.

‘This teaches that Aaron only merited to be brought close, ‘from‘ Bnei Yןsrael; when they do not merit to be close to Hashem- due to their transgressions- so too, their שליח, emissary, does not merit to enter the Sanctuary.

‘Only on Yom Kippur, the day on which all Bnei Yisrael have ascended to be like מלאכי השרת: Ministering Angels’- having been cleansed of their transgressions-‘ does their emissary, the Cohen Gadol, merit to enter the Sanctuary’.

The Radomsker Rebbe, the Tiferet Shlomo, sweetens our understanding of the connection between the merits of the people, and the work of the Cohen Gadol, on Yom Kippur, by homiletically interpreting the description in the Gemara (Yoma 6:), of the עבודה of the Holy Day:

’And the Cohanim and the people were standing in the עזרה: the courtyard, of the Beit Hamikdash ‘.

Expounds the Rebbe

:’עזרה is ‘derived’ from עזר: help; the Cohanim and the people were gathered as the Cohen Gadol entered the Sanctuary, on Yom Kippur, to assist and support him, by entreating Hashem, that his prayers and עבודה, be accepted.

‘It was this work of the people, was what gave the Cohen Gadol the כח: the ‘strength’, the right, to enter the Sanctuary, and, then, only on that day’.

The Beit Avraham from Slonim adds, that to thank the people for their critical support , the Cohen Gadol, after he had completed his עבודה on Yom Kippur, made a repast for the people (Yoma 70.), to acknowledge that all his עבודה of that day, was due to their merit, and כח’.

May we soon merit to again ‘assist’ the Cohen Gadol to enter the Sanctuary, in the rebuilt Beit Hamikdash, on Yom Kippur!

  • לעילוי נשמת רב אברהם ישעיהו הבר זצ׳ל
  • לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.