ALTAR


ALTAR
ALTAR (Heb. מִזְבֵּח, mizbe'aḥ, derived from the root zbḥ (זבח), meaning "to slaughter (as a sacrifice)"), originally the place where sacrificial slaughter was performed (e.g., the sacrifice of Isaac in Gen. 22). According to biblical law however, animal slaughter was never upon the altar but nearby. Moreover, the altar was not restricted to animal offerings; it also received grain, wine, and incense offerings. Thus, whatever the original intention of the word altar, it was extended to designate the place for offering all oblations. Finally, this definition does not mention all the uses of the altar, since non-sacrificial functions are also attested: testimony (e.g., Josh. 22:26–29) and asylum (see below).   -Typology Altars are found everywhere in the ancient Near East. They were constructed from three kinds of material: stone, earth, and metal. The choice depended on such factors as permanence, cost, and, in Israel, on whether the altar was alone or attached to a sanctuary. This discussion will naturally be limited to Ereẓ Israel. Stone altars are not corroded by time and archaeological excavations have unearthed abundant pre-Israelite specimens. Their form ranges from unworked, detached rocks, to slightly hollowed surfaces, to hewn natural stone, and to completely man-made structures. Some undisputed examples are at Gezer, Hazor, Megiddo, Nahariyyah, and Arad. At Arad, the Israelite sanctuary contains an altar three cubits square and five cubits high (the exact dimensions of the Tabernacle altar in Ex. 27:1) and is built of earth and small unworked stones (in accordance with Ex. 20:22; see below). The Bible also speaks of the same types of stone altars, namely, natural rock (Judg. 13:19–20; I Sam. 6:14; 14:33–35; I Kings 1:9) and artificial heap (Gen. 31:46–54; Josh. 4:2–8, 20 ff.; I Kings 18:31–32). All biblical altars, with the exception of those in sanctuaries, seem to have been built of stone. Altars of earth are explicitly commanded in Exodus 20:24 (cf. II Kings 5: 17), but because earthen altars would not survive the ravages of time, none have been found. Nor, for that matter, were any of the altars mentioned in the Bible built of earth. These, the simplest and least pretentious of all altars, were exclusively the creation of the common folk. Brick, technically also earth, so common a material in Mesopotamia, is not evidenced in Israel; a Canaanite brick altar, however, has been found (beth-shean , stratum IX). The shape of the Israelite stone and earth altars thus far discussed seems to have been simple, no doubt because of the prohibition against the hewn stone and steps (Ex. 20:22–23). The Arad altar, though in a sanctuary, is indicative of this simplicity. It is a square structure. In contrast to stone and earth altars, metal altars, associated exclusively with the central sanctuary of Israel, differ profoundly in shape and function. THE TABERNACLE Israel's desert sanctuary had two altars: the bronze, or burnt-offering, altar standing in the courtyard, and the gold, or incense, altar within the Tent. The courtyard altar was for sacrifices. Its name, 'olah ("whole-offering"), is taken from its most frequent sacrifice, required twice daily (Ex. 29:38–43) and on every festival (Num. 28–29); it was also the only sacrifice entirely consumed upon the altar (see: sacrifice ). The name "bronze" stems from its plating. Actually, it was made of acacia wood and its dimensions, in cubits, were 5 × 5 × 3. Its form is minutely described, though the meaning of all the terms used is not certain (Ex. 27:1–8; 38:1–7). The most important feature of the bronze altar was its keranot (qeranot) or "horns," seen on small altars found in Israel. Refugees seeking asylum seized the altar horns. The altar was purified by daubing the blood of the ḥaṭṭ'at, or "purification offering," on the altar horns (Ex. 30:12; Lev. 4:25–30). Horns were an essential element of all the altars in the Jerusalem Temple. The origin of the horns is still unknown. Beneath the horns was the karkov ("rim" or "border") which seems to have been a projecting rim, and is exemplified by many small altars in Ereẓ Israel. The mikhbar ("net" or "grating") was a bronze mesh that covered the upper half of the altar beneath the rim but neither its appearance nor its function is understood. Since the altar was part of a portable sanctuary, it was fitted with four rings and two staves. Moreover, it was hollow and hence not burdensome. The altar was only a portable frame, since, in contradistinction to the incense altar (Ex. 30:3) there is no mention of a roof, and at each encampment it would, therefore, be filled with earth and rocks (in actual conformity with Ex. 20:21 ff.). The same system of hollowed altars is known from some Assyrian samples. SOLOMON'S TEMPLE In the account of the building of the First Temple (I Kings 6–7), there is no mention of the sacrificial altar although the building of an altar, 20 × 20 × 10 cubits in size, is mentioned in II Chronicles (4:1). There are also allusions to the sacrificial altar in the construction account (I Kings 9:25) under the name of "the bronze altar" (I Kings 8:64; II Kings 16:14–15). The silence of I Kings 6–7 may be due to textual corruption. More is known about its replacement, the altar constructed by King Ahaz (II Kings 16:10–16). It was a copy of the altar in the main temple of Damascus, probably that of Hadad-Rimmon (5:18). It was called the "great altar" (16:15), and was therefore larger than Solomon's altar. It had to be ascended (16:12); it was not made of bronze, since that name was reserved for Solomon's altar. It may have been the model for Ezekiel's altar (below). Ahaz had Solomon's altar moved to the northern part of the courtyard, where it was reserved for his private use (16:14, 15b). -Ezekiel's Altar Ezekiel's vision of a new Temple (Ezek. 40:48) comprises a minute description of its sacrificial altar (43:13–17). It consists of four tiers, each one cubit less per side than the tier below. Since the uppermost tier had a horizontal 12 × 12 cubits, the ones underneath were respectively 14 × 14, 16 × 16, and 18 × 18 cubits. The height of the respective tiers, from top to bottom, is given as 1 + 2 + 4 + 4, to which another cubit must be added for the horns (ibid. 43:15). Thus, the total height of the altar is 12 cubits. Because the long cubit is used (app. 20½ inches), the altar was about 20½ feet tall, even higher than the altar attributed to Solomon by the Chronicler (II Chron. 4:1). It was ascended by a flight of stairs on its eastern side. The edges of two of its tiers were apparently shaped into troughs for collecting the sacrificial blood, the one at the base being called "the ḥeik (ḥeiq; Heb. חֵיק) of the earth" and the other, in the middle, "the ḥeiq of the ledge" (Ezek. 43:14, 17). Their purpose was to collect the blood of the ḥaṭṭ'at, which was daubed at these points (43:20; see below). If rabbinic tradition for the Second Temple holds good for Ezekiel, then even the remaining ḥaṭṭ'at blood   was collected into the middle gutter, for it was dashed on the upper part of the altar walls (see Mid. 3:1). It has been suggested that Ezekiel's altar corresponded to the one he remembered from the First Temple, in which case it would be an exact description of Ahaz' altar. Supporting this view is the Syrian-Mesopotamian influence upon certain of its features. It is known that Ahaz copied a Damascene altar. Its storied structure resembles the ziggurat temple-tower. The uppermost tier is called 'ari'el or har'el; the latter may mean "God's mountain." Perhaps Isaiah's symbolic name for Jerusalem, Ariel, has its origin in this altar (Isa. 29:1–2, 7). Ezekiel also envisions inside the Temple an incense altar, which he calls "the table that is before the Lord" (41:22). That it is of wood may reflect the reality of 597 B.C.E., when Nebuchadnezzar stripped all the Temple cult implements of their gold (II Kings 24:13). -Sanctity and Theology The altars are legitimate only in the Promised Land. This is not because the power of Israel's God is spatially limited – He controls the destiny of all nations and can be addressed in prayer everywhere (e.g., I Kings 8:33 ff.) – but because of the basic concept of the sanctity of Israel's territory: it is the Holy Land. This principle underlies the argument against the erection of a Transjordanian altar (Josh. 22:19), as well as the legal fiction of taking Israelite soil abroad, adopted by the Aramean Naaman (II Kings 5:17) and, perhaps, by his Israelite townsmen (cf. I Kings 20:34). The sanctity of the altar is evidenced by the theophany which concluded the week-long consecration rites for the Tabernacle: "The presence of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the whole offering and the suet pieces on the altar. And all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces" (Lev. 9:23–24). It is an assumption common to biblical tradition that a sanctuary is not fully consecrated – or is not divinely sanctioned – unless it has a tradition of a theophany upon its altar (I Kings 18:38; II Chron. 7:1), or that its altar is built on the site of one. The altar has mediating powers; it may bring God to earth, and it enables humans, through worship, to reach heaven. This is nowhere more evident than in Solomon's dedicatory prayer for the Temple, when he proclaims that even in a foreign land Israel's armies or exiles need but turn to the Temple and their prayer will travel to God along a trajectory that passes through their land, city, Temple, and then, at the altar, turns heavenward (I Kings 8:44, 48; cf. 31, 38). The altar, then, is the earthly terminus of a Divine funnel for man's communion with God. It is significant that later Judaism carried the tradition that the air space above the altar was an extension of its sanctity. The sanctity of the altar is evidenced by the asylum it provided anyone who "seized its horns" (e.g., I Kings 1:50–51). An early law, however, stipulated that this privilege was not to be extended to murderers (Ex. 21:14). On this basis, the altar provided no safety for Joab (I Kings 2:28–34); even then, Solomon tried at first to remove Joab who "seized the altar horns" (verse 34) from the altar before he had him killed (verse 30). The altar is consecrated with the "oil of anointment" (Ex. 40:10); it is the only object outside the Tent to fall into the category of the "most sacred" (Ex. 29:37), though not to the same degree as the Holy of Holies inside it. For example, the non-priest is prohibited from viewing the inner sancta (Num. 4:20) but is only barred from touching the altar (Ex. 29:37); the disqualified priest is barred from contact with the sanctuary Holy of Holies, but in regard to the altar, as the verb karav (qrv) or niggash ("encroach") shows, he is forbidden only to officiate at it but is free to touch it (Ex. 28:43; 30:20; Lev. 21:23). The composition of the Holy of Holies also bespeaks this sanctity differential: the inner sancta are plated with gold, the altar with bronze; in transit the former are covered with a blue cloth, the latter with a purple cloth (Num. 4:4–14). Laymen were permitted access only to a corridor within the sanctuary enclosure to perform the required preliminary rituals with their animal oblation (the presentation, laying of hands, slaughter, and flaying of the animal; Lev. 1:3–6), and to assemble there as spectators (Lev. 8:3–4; 9:5). Only the high priest may bless the people from the altar (Lev. 9:22, "and he descended"). Solomon, who performed this function, did so in front of the altar (I Kings 8:64–65). The sacrificial altar must not only be consecrated by an application of the anointing oil but by a week-long ceremonial, during which the altar horns are daubed with the blood of a purification offering (Lev. 8:15) each day of the week (Ex. 29:36–37). The meaning of this consecration can be deduced through a series of analogies with other uses of sacrificial blood, such as the purification rite of a healed leper (Lev. 14:14–17, 25–28); the investiture of new priests (Ex. 29:20; Lev. 8:23–24); the reconsecration rites for defiled altars (Lev. 4:25, 34; 5:9); and the smearing of the lintel and doorposts with blood of the paschal sacrifice (Ex. 12:7, 22). The things which receive the blood are extremities; i.e., the very points of the object which a hostile force would strike first in attacking it. In the ancient Near East, temples were periodically smeared with supposed potent substances at precisely the same vulnerable points, in order to expel the malefic power from the object and to protect it against future incursions. The blood rites therefore had a purgative and an apotropaic function. It is not too difficult to deduce that in Israel these rituals had the same dual purpose; i.e., to purge the altar of any uncleanliness and to protect it from future evil influence. The verbs used in regard to purification apply to the altar but never to man. The blood for each stems from a different sacrifice: for the altar the ḥaṭṭ'at is used but not for humans. Indeed in the case of humans the ritual purification has already taken place by previous ablution (for the leper, Lev. 14:2–9; for the priest, Ex. 29:4). The function of the blood rite therefore is to ward off evil; it is an apotropaic act (cf. the paschal sacrifice, Ex. 12:23). The consecration of both priest and altar was performed, however, by the anointing oil (Ex. 29:21; Lev. 8:11). The blood of sacrifices must terminate on the altar, if not on its horns, then upon its walls and base. This leads to another   equally significant function of the altar: the blood prohibition. Israelites and non-Israelites alike are constrained from eating blood, because it is the life of the animal (Gen. 9:4). The blood must be drained and returned to the Creator. There is only one legitimate place where this can be done: at the altar of the central sanctuary. The altar, then, is the instrument by which the animal's life is restored to God. Indeed, in Leviticus occurs the clear, unambiguous statement that whoever slaughters an ox, sheep, or goat elsewhere but at the sanctuary altar is guilty of murder (Lev. 17:3–4). It is permitted to kill animals and eat their flesh but the blood must not be tampered with; it must be returned to God via the altar, if the animal is sacrificeable, and via the earth if brought down in the hunt (Lev. 17:13–14). Thus, the sanctuary altar legitimates animal slaughter; it is the divinely-appointed instrument of effecting expiation for taking animal life (Lev. 17:11). The prohibition of making steps on the altar "that your nakedness be not exposed upon it" (Ex. 20:23) is another evidence for the sanctity of the altar. The early altar at the sanctuary of Arad, with a step to it, illustrates that the prohibition was practical, not theoretical. For this reason, once Israelites adopted trousers, a Persian invention, the priests were required to wear breeches (Ex. 28:42–43). -Incense Altar All the biblical accounts of the sanctuary speak not only of the sacrificial altar but also of an incense altar within the sanctuary building. The incense altar of the Tabernacle is described in detail (Ex. 30:1–10; 37:25–28). Its dimensions were 1 × 1 × 2 cubits. Like the sacrificial altar, it contained horns, rings, and staves for carrying, and was made of acacia wood. However, it differed from it in being plated with gold, not with bronze; also, the plating extended over the top for it was solid and had a roof, in contrast to the sacrificial altar. Its place was directly in front of the curtain, flanked by the two other golden objects, the candelabrum (Ex. 25:31 ff.) and table (23 ff.). Incense was burned upon it twice daily at the time of the tamid, or "daily," offering. No other offering but the prescribed incense was tolerated (9b). Reference to the incense altar of Solomon's Temple is found in the construction account (I Kings 6:20–22; 7:48) and in the incense offering ascribed to King Uzziah (II Chron. 26:16). In his blueprint for the new Temple (Ezek. 41:22), Ezekiel may have been thinking of the incense altar he saw in the Temple (as a priest, he had access to it). The historicity of these accounts has been called into question since the critical work of J. wellhausen in the late 19th-early 20th centuries on the assumption that the burning of incense was not introduced into Israel until the Second Temple (see I Macc. 1:54). However, many small altars have been found in Ereẓ Israel dating back to the Bronze Age, too small for animal offerings. Some actually approximate the dimensions of the Tabernacle altar and are even equipped with horns, e.g., at Shechem and Megiddo. An incense altar, identified as such by its inscription, has been recently excavated in Khirbet Mudayna in Jordan at a site dating to the early eighth century B.C.E. Thus, the incense altar was standard equipment for neighboring temples and cannot be denied to Israel. Since there is no reason to deny that there was an incense altar in Solomon's Temple, there remains only the question of the incense altar ascribed to the Tabernacle. Scholars have been nearly unanimous in declaring it an anachronistic insertion based upon the Temple. Their suspicion is strengthened by the placement of its description not in the text containing the rest of the inner sancta (Ex. 26), but after the description of the entire Tabernacle and its paraphernalia (Ex. 30:1–10) – an afterthought, as it were. The objection is fallacious. The fact that it is not found in its "logical" place is in itself reason to suspect that another kind of logic obtained there. Functionally, the incense is outside the carefully graded sanctity outside of chapters 28–29; as such its description appropriately follows those chapters. (Jacob Milgrom) -In Halakhah In talmudic sources the word "altar," when unqualified, refers to the outer altar (Yoma 5:5), which stood in the Temple Court in the open, a distance of 22 cubits from the corner of the porch (Mid. 5:1). Most of it was in the southern sector (Yoma 16a; but see the opinion of R. Judah, ibid.; see also Zev. 58b). For building the altar for the Second Temple prophetical testimony was needed to determine the exact required location (Zev. 62a). This altar is also called "the altar of bronze" because of its bronze cover (Hag. 3:8) and "the altar of the burnt offering," because daily burnt offerings and other sacrifices were offered upon it (Men. 4:4). According to talmudic sources the altar was ten cubits high (but Jos., Wars, 5:225 has 15 cubits). It was a structure of stones joined together with earth (Mekh. Sb-Y. Yitro 20; Epstein, ed., 156) and consisted of four square layers formed of stones, plaster, and a filling of mortar (Zev. 54a), the wider stones being placed below and the narrower above, as described later (Suk. 45a; Mid. 3:1; Zev. 54a). These dimensions made the altar four cubits larger on all four sides than the altar of Solomon's Temple (II Chron. 4:1; Mid. 3:1). The first layer was 32 × 32 cubits (according to Jos., ibid., 50 × 50), and one cubit high. The second layer was 30 × 30 cubits and five cubits high. The lower projection of one cubit each on the north and at the northeast and southwest corners, which were one cubit higher than the ground (Tosef. Zev. 6:2; Mid. 3:1), was called the base. There was no base in the southeast corner (Zev. 54a). In the southwest corner there were several narrow apertures through which the blood flowed down to the water channel, and from there to the brook of Kidron (Mid. 3:2; Yoma 5:6). Five cubits from the ground, i.e., in the middle of the altar, a red line, the "hut shel sikrah," encircled it, indicating the place for the upper and the lower sprinkling of the blood (Mid. 3:1; Tosef. Zev. 6:2). The third layer was 28 × 28 cubits, and three cubits high. The cubit-wide projection which encircled the middle of the altar was called the sovev ("surround").   The priest walked along it, to offer up the burnt offering of a bird (Zev. 6:5), and to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices upon the altar with his finger (Zev. 5:3). The fourth layer constituted the "horns" of the altar. They were four stones, one cubit by one, placed at the four corners of the altar. After deducting the breadth of the horns (one cubit) and another cubit within, used as a path for the priests (karkov, "border"; Tosef. Shek. 3:19; Zev. 62a) when removing the ashes, an area of 24 × 24 cubits remained which was assigned as the place of the fire. The larger fire was in the southeast corner (Tam. 2:4) and the smaller, for incense, opposite it in the southwest corner (Tam. 2:5). Although open to the sky, it is stated that the rain never extinguished the wood fire, nor did the wind disturb the column of smoke (Avot 5:5). In the center of the altar there was an enormous heap of ashes called tappu'ah ("apple"), because of its round shape (Tam. 2:2). According to R. Meir, the dimensions of the projections of the base, of the surround, and of the horns, were measured by the larger cubit, which was six handbreadths (Kelim 17:10; Tosef. Kelim, BM 6:12–13; see Men. 97b). On top of the altar there were two bowls, either of silver or limestone, into which the water and the wine of the water libation were poured during Tabernacles (Suk. 4:9). During the rest of the year the wine libation was poured into the bowl on the east (Tosef. Suk. 3:14; Sif. Num., Shelah 107). From the bowls the wine flowed through a gutter in the floor of the court (Tosef. Suk. 3:14) into the pits (foundations of the altar) in the southwest corner (Mid. 3:3). The wine was absorbed in the pit or congealed inside the pipe between the porch and the altar, and the pipe consequently had to be cleaned. In the opinion of R. Yose, the pit penetrated to the abyss (Tosef. Suk. 3:15; Suk. 49a). The stones of the altar were smooth (Zev. 54a), taken from the virgin soil of the valley of Beth Cherem (Mid. 3:4). The use of iron was forbidden in its erection. The stones were plastered over twice yearly, at Passover and at Tabernacles, and, according to Judah ha-Nasi it was plastered with a cloth every Sabbath eve (Mid. 3:4; Maim., Yad, Beit ha-Behirah 1:16). In the times of the Hasmoneans the Syrians placed the "Abomination of Desolation" upon the altar (I Macc. 1:54). When the Temple was subsequently cleansed they were doubtful whether it could be used, and hid the stones (ibid. 4:44; Meg. Ta'an. 9; Av. Zar. 52b) in a chamber in the Bet ha-Moked (Chamber of the Hearth; Mid. 1:6). The dedication of the altar (I Macc. 4:53–59) became the central feature of the festival of Ḥanukkah. One reason given for the Ḥanukkah celebration lasting eight days is that it took this much time to build the altar and plaster it (Meg. Ta'an. 9, 25th Kislev). At the southern side of the altar there was a stone ramp, 32 cubits long and 16 wide, enabling the priests to reach the top of the altar without transgressing the prohibition contained in Exodus 20:26 (Mekh. Yitro, Ba-Hodesh, 11; see above). There was a space between the end of the ramp and the altar (Zev. 62b). Altar and ramp together were 62 cubits long (Mid. 5:2), the ramp overhanging the lower part of the altar. From the large ramp two smaller ones branched off, one on the east side in the direction of the surround, and the other on the west in the direction of the base (Zev. 62b and Rashi ibid.). The existence of a ramp to the surround is mentioned explicitly only by the amora Judah b. Ezekiel. Usually one ascended the altar from the right-hand side of the ramp and descended from the left one (Zev. 6:3). Lack of precision in the aforementioned dimensions of the altar and the ramp did not disqualify them from use (Tosef. Men. 6:12), but the absence of the horns, the base, the surround, the ramp, the lack of a square appearance, or the slightest flaw in the altar would disqualify the sacrifice (Tosef. Suk. 3:16; Zev. 62a and 59a). Only the slaughter of birds took place on the actual altar (Zev. 6:4–5); other sacrifices were slaughtered to the north of it (Zev. 5:1–2; Mid. 3:5). If the slaughtering took place on the altar, however, the sacrifice was acceptable (Zev. 6:1). During the Second Temple period no fire descended from heaven (Yoma 21b) as it did in the First Temple (Zev. 61b). A tradition was preserved that the fire of the First Temple was concealed in a well and was brought out in the days of Nehemiah (II Macc. 1:19–24). Whenever the altar was not in use for regular sacrifices additional burnt-offerings were offered (Tosef. Shek. 2:8). These are referred to as the keiz ha-mizbe'ah ("summer fruit" of the altar; Shek. 4:4). A special regulation "for the benefit of the altar" was enacted to ensure continual sacrifice on the altar (Git. 5:5; Git. 55a). The altar fire continued to burn even at night so that the portions of the sacrifice which it had not been possible to burn during the day would be consumed (Ber. 1:1; Tam. 2:1). The priests would rise early in the morning and undergo ablution in order to be privileged to remove the ashes (Tam. 1:2; Yoma 1:8; 2:1). After ascending to the top of the altar they cleared away the ashes (Tam. 1:4) and shoveled them on to the ash heap (ibid. 2:2). When the heap was overfull the ashes were removed, but during the three Pilgrim Festivals they remained there as they were considered ornamental (ibid.). Priests alone were permitted to approach the altar and minister (Zev. 116b) and proof that a person had "stood and ministered at the altar" (Yev. 7:6) was accepted as evidence of his priestly lineage (Kid. 4:5; cf. Ter. 8:1; Jos., Ant., 9:160). The altar and ramp made sacred whatever was prescribed for them. Even if disqualified sacrifices were placed upon them, they were not removed (Zev. 9:1–7; Tosef. Mak. 5:4; and Tosef. Tem. 1:14). A vow made "to the altar" was considered as referring to the altar sacrifices (Ned. 1:3; Tosef. Ned. 1:3). In the talmudic era the principle that the altar because of its sanctity served as a refuge for murderers who seized hold of its horns was restricted (Mak. 12a; Num. R. 23:13; cf. TJ Kid. 4:1, 65c). The altar played an important role in the festival ceremonies. During Tabernacles a daily circuit with palm branches or willow branches (Suk. 43b) was made of the altar and verses of Hallel were recited. On the seventh day the circuit was made seven times (Suk. 4:5), and the people took their leave of the   altar with expressions of laudation, "Beauty is thine, O Altar\! Beauty is thine, O Altar\!" (ibid.). During Passover, so large was the number of paschal lambs sacrificed in the Temple court, that the sprinkling of the blood against the base of the altar was performed by successive rows of priests (Pes. 5:5). The omer was waved on the east side of the altar and offered on the west side (Men. 5:6); so also with the waving of the two loaves on Shavuot (ibid.). The baskets of first fruits were placed at the side of the altar (Bik. 3:6; Tosef. Sanh. 3:6). The golden altar (Yoma 5:5), also called the inner altar (Tam. 3:1), stood in the center of the center of the sanctuary (Yoma 33a–b), opposite the parokhet ("curtain") which separated the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies (Tosef. ibid. 2:2). Incense was burnt (Men. 4:4) and the sacrificial blood was sprinkled upon its sides (Men. 3:6; Lev. 5:1–2; Yoma 5:7). The measurements of the golden altar were the same as those used in the Tabernacle of Moses (Ex. 30:1–10) except that the larger cubit of six handbreadths was used (Kelim 17:10). -In the Aggadah The altar as a symbol of atonement recurs again and again in rabbinic literature (Tosef. BK 7:6). Johanan b. Zakkai explains the prohibition against the use of iron in erecting the altar, because the sword (iron) represents catastrophe, and the altar, atonement (ibid.), its whole (shelemot) stones "bringing peace (shalom) between Israel and their Father in Heaven" (ibid. 7; Mekh. end of Yitro). In line with this homily, the Mishnah taught: "It is not right for that which curtails life to be lifted up against that which prolongs it" (Mid. 3:4). The word mizbe'aḥ ("altar") is interpreted as suggesting, by assonance, the four words mezi'aḥ, mezin, meḥabbev, mekhapper ("removes evil decrees, sustains, endears, atones"; Ket. 10b); or as a notarikon , its four letters being the initials of Meḥilah-Zekhut Zikkaron – Berakhah-Ḥayyim ("forgiveness-merit (memorial) – blessing-life"; Tanḥ. Terumah 11). Because of the merit of the altar, blessing accrued to Israel (Tosef. Ma'as. Sh. 5:29), and because of it, the Holy One blessed be He will punish the kingdom of Edom (Tanḥ. Terumah 11). Its dimensions and its parts are also interpreted symbolically (ibid. 10; Mid. Tadshe 11). According to one aggadic opinion, Adam was formed from earth taken from the site of the altar, in order that the site of his atonement should give him power to endure (Gen. R. 14:8; TJ Naz. 7:2, 56b). According to a late aggadah the altars of the ancients – Adam, Cain, Abel, Noah – were erected on the site of the altar where also Isaac was bound (PdRE 31), and it was from them that Jacob took the stones that he placed at his head at the ford of the Jordan (Gen. 35). According to R. Isaac Nappaḥa the fact that the Temple was built on the site of the akedah (Zev. 62a) is the basis of the saying that "whoever is buried in the land of Israel is as if he were buried beneath the altar" (Tosef. Av. Zar. 4:3; ARN1 26:41; S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), p. 163). The idea of the Sanctification of the Divine Name implicit in the binding of Isaac also gave rise to the metaphorical use of "building an altar" as an expression for such an act (Lam. R. 1:16, 50; Git. 57b). The more usual metaphor is "… as if he built an altar," used with reference to one observing the commandments of Judaism (Ber. 15a; Suk. 45a–b; Men. 110a). By interpreting scriptural verses the aggadists coined such expressions as, "as if an altar was erected in his heart" (Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva, 8), and "the altar shed tears" (Sanh. 22a). Plagues afflicting a person are merely "an altar of atonement for all Israel" (Ber. 5b, see rabbinovicz , DIK, 5OF, 1, 14). After the destruction of the Temple, a Jew's table is regarded as taking the place of the altar (cf. Tosef. Sot. 15:11–13), and it was said that "now that there is no altar, a man's table atones for him" (Ber. 55a; Men. 97a). The halakhic authorities explain many table customs on this basis (Shibbolei ha-Leket, Buber's ed., 141; Sefer Ḥasidim, 102). (Bialik Myron Lerner) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: de Vaux, Anc Isr, 406–14, 527 (incl. bibl.); Haran, in: EM, 4 (1962), 763–80 (incl. bibl.); idem, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 272–302; Aharoni, in: BA, 31 (1968), 2–32; J. Milgrom, Studies in Levitical Terminology, 1 (1969), 37–41; Maim. Yad., Beit ha-Beḥirah 1:13–2:18; Barth, JJLG, 7 (1909), 129–130; J. Doktorovitz, Middot ha-Battim (5697 – 1936/7), 45–54; M. Weiss, Beit ha-Beḥirah (5706 – 1945/6), 11–27, 101–3; Ginzberg, Legends, index; Bialoblocki, in: Alei Ayin, S. Schocken Jubilee Volume (5712 – 1951/2), 51–52, 55; S. Lieberman, ibid., 81; idem, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950); idem, Tosefta ki-Feshutah 4 (1962), 684, 710, 871, 879–83; C. Albeck, Mishnah (5), Seder Kodashim (5719 – 1958/9), 313, 324–7, 424–5, 433–5; Safrai, Ereẓ Yisrael, 5 (1958), 212; S. Scheffer, Beit ha-Mikdash (5722 – 1961/2), 25–29; D. Conrad, Studien zum Altargesetz (1968). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (1993), 564; Z. Zevit, in: D. Wright (ed.), Pomegranates and Golden Bells (FS Milgrom; 1995), 29–38; C. Meyers, in: M. Fox (ed.), Texts, Temples and Traditions (Harran FS; 1996), 33–46; K. Smelik, in: M. Vervenne (eds.), Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Literature (Brekelmans FS; 1997), 263–78; N. Na'aman, in: VT, 48 (1998), 333–49; S.D. Sperling: in, R. Chazan et al. (eds.), Ki Baruch Hu (Levine FS; 1999), 373–85.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Altar — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Este artículo trata sobre el espacio o estructura consagrados al culto religioso. Para otros usos de este término, véase Altar (desambiguación). Un altar (del latín altare, de altus «elevación») es un espacio o… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Altar — Al tar, n. [OE. alter, auter, autier, fr. L. altare, pl. altaria, altar, prob. fr. altus high: cf. OF. alter, autier, F. autel. Cf. {Altitude}.] 1. A raised structure (as a square or oblong erection of stone or wood) on which sacrifices are… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • altar — (Del lat. altāre). 1. m. Montículo, piedra o construcción elevada donde se celebran ritos religiosos como sacrificios, ofrendas, etc. 2. ara (ǁ piedra consagrada). 3. En el culto cristiano, especie de mesa consagrada donde el sacerdote celebra el …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • Altar — (vom lateinischen alta ara), jede künstliche Erhöhung zur Darbringung von Opfern, in heidnischer Vorzeit aus Rasen und Erde, auch aus Holz aufgebaut, das dann mit dem Opfer durch das Feuer verzehrt wurde. I. Heidnische Altäre. Den oberirdischen… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • altar — sustantivo masculino 1. Uso/registro: elevado. Mesa sobre la que el sacerdote cristiano celebra la misa: el altar de la iglesia, poner flores sobre el altar. ). Sinónimo: ara ( 2. Zona delantera de las iglesias católicas donde están los altares:… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • altar — ALTÁR, altare, s.n. 1. Parte a bisericii, despărţită de naos prin catapeteasmă, în care se oficiează liturghia. ♦ Masă de cult pe care se oficiază liturghia, în biserica creştină. 2. Ridicătură din piatră, pământ sau lemn pe care, în antichitate …   Dicționar Român

  • ALTAR — (homonymie) Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Selon le contexte, « Altar » peut signifier : L Altar, un volcan éteint d Équateur ; Altar Interactive, une société de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Altar [2] — Altar (o. lat. alta ara), jede künstliche Erhöhung zur Darbringung von Opfern, im Altertum ursprünglich aus Rasen, Erde, Steinen oder Holz roh aufgebaut. Griechen und Römer machten aus den Altären Werke der Kunst (Fig. 1), sie bildeten sie aus… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • altar — altar, llevar (pasar por el) al altar expr. casarse. ❙ «Frecuentemente en las construcciones ir al altar, casarse, y llevar al altar a una persona, casarse con ella.» DH. ❙ ▄▀ «Han tenido que pasar por el altar porque ella andaba con bombo,… …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

  • altar — (n.) O.E. alter, altar, from L. altare (pl. altaria) high altar, altar for sacrifice to the great gods, perhaps originally meaning burnt offerings (Cf. L. adolere to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to ), but influenced …   Etymology dictionary


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