Positive Mitzvah Thirty-Five

The Oil of Anointment

Requires Beit HaMikdash

VaYikra 21:10 The Kohen who is exalted above his brethren - upon whose head the anointment oil has been poured or who has been inaugurated to don the vestments - shall not leave his head unshorn and shall not rend his garments.

Shemot 30:31 You shall speak to the Benei Yisrael, saying: 'This shall remain for Me oil of sacred anointment for your generations.'

We are commanded to have oil made for us according to a specific composition, ready for the Anointment of every Kohen Gadol who may be appointed. With this oil some of the kings also were to be anointed.

The Mishkan and all its vessels were anointed with this oil [by Moshe], but the [Temple] vessels will not be anointed with it in the future, for the Sifre says explicitly: "'With the anointment of these,' - that is to say, the vessels of the Mishkan - all vessels [to be used in the Temple] were sanctified for all time" (BaMidbar 7:34; Sifre Zuta), as He had said (Baruch Hu), "This shall be holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations" (Shemot 30:32).

The provisions of this Mitzvah are explained at the beginning of Keritot.

Just as with the anointment of the vessels of the Mishkan by Moshe 'all vessels were sanctified for all time', so with the anointment of the Kohanim by Moshe their whole lineage became sanctified for all time to come. The Kohen Gadol, however - his office not being of an hereditary nature - had to be anointed at his induction. In like manner an heir to the throne of Yisrael did not have to be anointed, though in order to avoid disputes over the royal succession, and as a means of proclaiming the legitimacy of the new King, anointment was resorted to. Such, for instance, was the case with Shlomo.

According to Tradition, the Ark of the Covenant and the Oil of Anointment which Moshe himself had prepared were hidden by King Yoshiyahu (Josiah) when he realized that Yisrael would soon go into exile and that the Temple was about to be destroyed (Yoma 52b). During the entire period of the Second Temple the High Priests were thus no longer anointed; their consecration was accomplished by the putting on of the eight robes designed for the Kohen Gadol, and by their performing the service in the Priestly attire.

Tradition, however, assures us that both the Ark of the Covenant and the Oil of Anointment will come to light once again at Yisrael's final redemption, and it is for this reason that Maimonides includes the two Commandments appertaining to them among the Taryag Mitzvot.