Mizbe'ach HaOlah (Alter)
The Mizbe’ach HaOlah is one of the keilim (vessels) found in the Azarah (courtyard). In the times of the Mishkan, the Mizbe’ach was built as a hollow rectangular prism ten amot high and five amot square. It was made of acacia wood, covered in copper and filled with earth each time the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was built in a new location. On top of the Mizbeach are four kranot (cornerstones) at its corners and on the bottom is a foundation that surrounds two sides of the alter. In order to ascend to the Mizbe’ach there was a kevesh (ramp) that stands next to it but not physically attached.
When the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was built, the Mizbe’ach grew in size. The Mizbe’ach in the second Beit HaMikdash was thirty-two amot square and ten amot high with a ramp that extended thirty amot. The materials used to build the Mizbeach also changed. The Mizbe’ach in the Beit HaMikdash is filled with stones that were never cut by iron.
Every day the Mizbe’ach is used to sacrifice Korbanot (sacrifices) on the ma’aracha gedolah (literally “large fire”). The Mizbe’ach also has two other bonfires, one from which coals are taken to burn the ketoret (incense) on the Mizbeach HaKetoret (Incense Altar) and one called ma’arachat esh hatamid (the constant fire) which is always burning, and is used to relight the Ner HaMa’aravi (Western Light) of the Menorah (Candelabra) if it goes out.