History of the Bama
Offering a sacrifice to Heaven on a bama a private altar was permissible during certain periods in history. Until the Mishkan was built in the Wilderness and during the first 14 years following the arrival in Eretz Yisrael, when this sanctuary was in Gilgal, the bama was legitimate. During the 369 years when a more permanent sanctuary stood in Shiloh the bama was outlawed. It regained its legitimacy when that sanctuary was destroyed and relocated to Nov and then Givon for a period of 57 years. Once the Beit Hamikdash was built in Jerusalem the bama was outlawed forever.
During the periods of the Mishkan in the Wilderness and its stationing in Shiloh, and during the Beit Hamikdash era, only a kohen could perform the service of offering a sacrifice. It was not necessary, our gemara states, to have a kohen at a time when it was permissible to offer sacrifices on a bama. As support for this Rashi cites a mishna (Zevachim 113a) and a few historical examples of a non-kohen offering a sacrifice on a bama. One of these is the sacrifice offered in the days of the Prophet Shmuel (Shmuel I, 11:15 and 13:9). Others are those offered by Gideon (Shoftim 6:26) and Manoach, father of Shimshon (ibid. 13:19).
The precedent cited from Shmuel is easily understandable. This was during the period when the Mishkan was in Nov and the bama was legitimate. Since Shmuel was not kohen this conclusively proves that a non-kohen can perform the service on a bama. But there is a problem with the proofs from Gideon and Manoach. Both of them lived in the era of the Judges when the Mishkan was in Shiloh and the bama was outlawed. The gemara (Zevachim 108b) explains Manoachs sacrifice as a horaat shaah an extraordinary command from Heaven to temporarily ignore the ban on the bama. If this was an extraordinary situation perhaps it also warranted the ignoring of the need for a kohen and thus leaves us without a precedent for a non-kohen performing the service on a bama in an ordinary situation. What is even more problematic is the proof from Gideon. Our Sages (Temurah 28b) clearly state that in regard to his sacrifice eight regular requirements for the service were suspended by a direct order from Heaven, one of them the need for a kohen.
Readers are invited to offer their explanation of this difficult Rashi.
Dressing the Part
"You are described as a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation and you must dress the part!"
Thus spoke the Persian King Azagdar as he raised the belt worn by the Sage Huna bar Natan.
This was a reference to one of the items in the dress code prescribed for kohanim by the Prophet Yechezkel. In addition to wearing a linen turban and linen trousers the kohanim were instructed to avoid girding themselves in any place that is sweaty (Yechezkel 44:18). In practical terms this meant that the belt they wore around their robes had to be placed above the hips and below the level of the elbows.
Even though this was specifically required only of an actual kohen, the Persian ruler extended its application to every member of the "kingdom of kohanim".
When Huna related this incident to the Sage Ameimar he was told that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy that "kings shall be your nursemaids" (Yeshayahu 49:23). Although the real fulfillment of this prophecy will come only at the end of days when the nations will consider it a privilege to serve the "kingdom of kohanim," a glimpse of this golden hereafter was occasionally provided.