Monday, January 17, 2011

can we build a mizbeyach without a navi?

The gemara (Zevachim 62) tells us that nevi'im came to Eretz Yisrael with Ezra and testified as to the correct location of the mizbeyach. Why did it take the word of a navi to figure out where the mizbeyach should be built? Do we need a navi before we can build a mizbeyach? The Maharat"z Chiyus explains that the first Beis haMikdash was razed to the point that not even the foundations of what originally stood remained. There was no evidence left that would indicate where walls were, where the mizbeyach had been, etc. Therefore, it required the help of a navi to figure out where to place things. Today, since we have archeological evidence and we have remnants of the Mikdash still left standing, we can simply take out a tape measure and figure out based on the dimensions given in Mes. Midos exactly where things go. We can theoretically rebuild the mizbeyach even without a navi.

The Brisker Rav (on Bechoros 17) disagrees. The Rambam writes (Beis HaBechira ch 3) that the place of the mizbeyach is "mechuvan b'yoseir" -- it has to be precisely placed in exactly the correct spot. Being even a little off disqualifies the whole effort. This type of exacting measurement is impossible even given the best surveying tools and the evidence of what once was. The place of the mizbeyach is not subject to calculation -- it can only be revealed to us by a navi.


  1. there was an interesting article in the mishpacha 6 months ago. They reckon the rock is not the even hashesiyah rather it is the mokom hamizbeach.

    They described chambers underneath the har habayis which members of a british archealogical expedition were allowed access to around 1865. Their descriptions of the chambers fits what the mishna / gemara says about what happened to the nesachim.

    Apparently there is a rocky outcrop to the west of the dome of the rock which the mishpacha reckoned was the place of the kodesh hakedashim.

  2. even if we need special exactitude for building the mizbeah
    i would think that m'kom hamizbeach for zrikat hadam for koban pessach we could calculate

  3. The Drishas Tzion, if I remember correctly, actually details how we can actually partially rebuild the Temple, not just the mizbeach, and start up korbanos again, all in the absence of a navi or moshiach.
    Of course it's well known he wasn't aware that the Har HaBayis currently has squatters on it that might have a problem with that...

  4. NJS, you are right -- we don't need a mizbeyach to offer korbanos. This played into the whole debate Garnel referred to between R' Akiva Eiger, R' Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher, the Maharatz Chiyus, and others whether we can offer a korban b'zman ha'zeh.