Love of the Land

For the week ending 24 January 2009 / 28 Tevet 5769

Beit Hachofshet

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When Uzziah, king of the Kingdom of Yehuda, contracted leprosy as a punishment for his entering the Beit Hamikdash to offer incense as a non-kohen, he spent the rest of his life in a cave on Har Hazeitim.

This cave, carved into stone and containing a maze of halls and rooms, was called Beit Hachofshet, literally translated as the House of Liberation. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains the name as a reference to the massive graveyard surrounding the cave in which are buried the dead who have been freed from the obligation of mitzvot.

Whether the site held by tradition is actually the Beit Hachofshet has been questioned as a result of an inscription discovered there in 1864 declaring that it is the burial place of "the kohanim of the sons of Hezer."

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