Monday, December 10, 2012

Model Mikdash in Morocco

Mishpacha Magazine recently published an article titled "Moroccan Mirage" (Issue #427, Sep. 19, 2012) describing a model of the Temple built in Morocco. This large-scale model was built by Atlas Film Studios out of fiberglass as a movie set and includes such features as the Courtyard, Altar, and Holy of Holies. The site may also be open to the public. To read more of the Mishpacha article, click here.

Atlas Film Studios in Morocco (Google Maps)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chanukah: The Shape of the Menorah

When the Maccabees returned to the Temple after having defeated the Syrian Greeks, they needed to replace numerous Temple vessels which had either been stolen, defiled, or broken. Of special importance in the Chanukah story was the fact that the golden Menorah of the Sanctuary was no longer present, having been stolen by Antiochus four years earlier. As a temporary measure, the Jews fashioned a Menorah made out of iron. When they became more affluent they replaced this Menorah with one of silver, and later still they were able to replace the silver Menorah with one of gold (Rosh Hashanah 24b).

The seven-branched Menorah is described in great detail in the Torah (Exodus 25:31-40). Even so, the Torah omits one very basic detail which has led to divergent opinions on the matter: whether the Menorah's branches were straight or curved.

There are a number of archeological finds which may shed light upon this question. A coin minted by Mattathias Antigonus circa 40 BCE depicts a candelabra with curved branches. As this was a Jewish coin it has been argued that this depiction surely was meant to be an accurate representation of the actual Temple vessel, lending support to the theory that the Menorah of the Sanctuary had curved branches.

Another depiction from around the same time was found in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and it shows a portion of a 7-branched candelabra with curved branches The ornamentation is excessive for what is described in the Torah, but it would not be surprising for the artist to have made such an error since the Menorah of the Sanctuary was only rarely visible to the general public. Those who assume this to be a depiction of the Sanctuary Menorah would argue that while the artist may have guessed at the finer details of the cups and flower designs, the overall shape of the branches would be easily remembered and thus would not have differed significantly from the original.

One of the most famous depictions of a 7-branched candelabra from the Temple is found upon the Arch of Titus in Rome. The triumphal arches of that time were meant to serve as historical records of the events they depicted and are therefore assumed to be very accurate. In one of the scenes on this arch a procession carries the Temple vessels out of captured Jerusalem, and featured among the treasures is a candelabra. The prominence given to this candelabra ostensibly is an indication of its importance, which leads many to speculate that this is the Menorah from the Sanctuary. As can be clearly seen in the picture, the branches are curved. (A new study was carried out to determine the color of the paint used on the original arch, and a summary of the results can be read here. See also this page for more details about this project, including some fantastic up-close photos of the arch.)

Others argue that this surely could not have been the Menorah of the Sanctuary since the base is nothing like we would expect the real Menorah to have. First, its two-tiered, octagonal design is a novelty. Second, archeologists have concluded that some of the creatures depicted on its panels are sea serpents, and Jews would not have allowed such heathen images in the Temple.

In stark contrast to the above finds is the image shown here of a drawing attributed to the hand of Rambam (Maimonides). Unlike the previous pieces of evidence which may or may not have been depicting the actual Menorah of the Temple, this drawing does just that. It is intended to be an accurate rendering of what the Menorah looked like, and while it is not drawn to scale, all of its components and dimensions are labelled. From the fact that the curvature of the base is drawn so precisely, most likely with the aid of a compass, it is apparent that the artist could just have easily drawn curved branches had he so desired. We may conclude that, in the view of Rambam, the Menorah of the Temple had straight branches. Below is a 3-D rendering of what the Rambam Menorah would have looked like.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chanukah: Finding the Oil

One of the most widely-known miracles of the Chanukah story involves the finding of the flask of pure oil. When the Jews returned to the Temple it appeared that all of the sealed containers of pure olive oil had been contaminated by the Syrian-Greeks and there was none left with which to light the Menorah. By Divine Providence a single sealed flask of oil was found and this miraculously fueled the lamps of the Menorah for seven days while more oil was prepared.

From the description of the Temple given in Tractate Middos (the tractate dedicated to recording the measurements of the Temple) we learn that the main storage area for oil was located in the southwest chamber of the Women's Courtyard – the Chamber of the Oil. Certainly all of the containers in this chamber would have been defiled, and it is more likely that the flask was found somewhere else. Here I present two opinions given by the commentators as to where this flask may have been found.

1. In the Sanctuary
The Talmud states that "when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all of the oil in the Sanctuary." From here we learn that oil was stored in the Sanctuary as well. There were thirty-eight cells, or small rooms, built around three sides of the Sanctuary and the special olive oil used for the Menorah may have been stored here.

The Sanctuary. Area of the
small rooms is highlighted.
Some maintain that the flask of oil of the Chanukah story was found in the Sanctuary. There was a room in the Sanctuary (possibly one of the cells) or, according to a slightly different version, a niche in the wall, which was closed off by a door and sealed with the seal of the High Priest (see Siddur of Rokeach, Chanukah; Orchos Chaim, Hil. Chanukah 1; Kol Bo 44). This area had somehow escaped the notice of the Syrian-Greeks and when it was later opened by the Jews it was found to contain a single flask of olive oil. According to this view, it was not the flask itself which was sealed with the seal of the High Priest but rather the area in which it was found.

2. Beneath the Altar
Southwest corner of the Altar
At the southwest corner of the Altar's top were two receptacles where the wine and water libations were poured. The libations flowed down through the Altar into a deep subterranean cavity called the Shissin. Once every seventy years the Kohanim would enter the Shissin through an access hole in the Courtyard floor in order to empty it of the congealed wine. One opinion maintains that the sealed flask of oil was found within the Shissin, apparently hidden there by a quick-thinking Kohen before the Temple was taken (Otzar Hamidrashim, Chanukah, p.193). As for why the Jews were exploring the Shissin at this time, the Altar was in the process of being rebuilt and it is therefore likely that they stumbled upon this flask of oil as they were removing the old stones from the lowest level of the Altar.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chanukah: Rebuilding the Altar

Rebuilding the Altar of the Temple
One of the more shocking discoveries made by the Maccabees after expelling the Syrian-Greeks from the Temple was that the Outer Altar had been used for idol worship. Although the stones of the Altar were attached to the ground and legally impervious to the defilement of idol worship, the Jews felt that it was unconscionable to resume the holy sacrificial service on such stones. One of the lesser-known facts of the Chanukah story is that amidst the cleaning up of the Temple, searching for pure oil, and assembling a new Menorah, the Jews also dismantled the entire Altar and rebuilt it using new stones. See this earlier class for a more detailed description of the Outer Altar.

The stones of the original Altar were stored within the Hall of the Fire, a large structure built into the northern wall of the Courtyard. The main purpose of the Hall was to serve as sleeping quarters for the watch of Kohanim currently on duty and it also provided them a place to warm themselves during the day, a necessary amenity since they had to walk around barefoot on cold marble floors as they performed the sacrificial service. The large warming fire located here gave it its name.
Chamber of Receipts. Three of the original
Altar stones are displayed above the fireplace.

In each of the four corners of Hall of the Fire were smaller chambers. The northeast contained the Chamber of Receipts where the Kohanim would issue receipts to individuals purchasing wine, oil, and flour from the Temple treasury. It was in this chamber that the stones of the Altar were stored. Now, it was impossible to fit a volume of stones the size of the Altar into this very small chamber. It is therefore likely that this chamber had a massive basement within the tunnels beneath the floor of the Courtyard where the large majority of the stones were stored, while some of the stones were left on display in the chamber upstairs to serve as a reminder of the miraculous events of the Chanukah story.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chanukah: The Cheil and the Soreg


At the heart of the Chanukah story is the Holy Temple. It was here that the persecution of the Jews began under the rule of Antiochus who ordered that the Temple be desecrated and converted into a place of pagan worship. Mattisyahu, son of Yochanan the High Priest, fled to the countryside where he became the father of the Jewish resistance. His sons and followers, the Maccabees, fought bravely against all odds and were aided by Divine Providence to eventually return to Jerusalem and bring the Temple back to Jewish hands. It is their miraculous victories and efforts to restore the sacrificial service to its earlier glory which we commemorate on the holiday of Chanukah.

In these upcoming posts I would like to explore the connection between the physical structure of the Second Temple and some of the core elements of the Chanukah story.

The Cheil and the Soreg

The Cheil and Soreg outside of the Women's Courtyard
Standing at a distance of 10 cubits outside the walls of the Courtyard on all four sides was a low wall, half a cubit high. This wall, as well as the area between it and the Courtyard walls, was referred to as the Cheil. A wooden latticework fence, 10 handbreadths high, was built atop this wall and was called the Soreg.

The purpose of both the wall and the fence was to mark the point beyond which no one contaminated with corpse-tumah, nor any non-Jew, could pass. Archaeologists have discovered one of the marker stones from the Cheil and the inscription (written in Greek) reads, "Any foreigner who passes beyond the wall and fence surrounding the Temple has only himself to blame for the fact that his death will follow."

Marker stone from the Cheil
When the Syrian-Greek kings occupied the Temple during the years leading up to the events of the Chanukah story they made thirteen breaches in the Soreg fence to demonstrate their disdain at having been barred from entering. After the Maccabees regained control of the Temple they repaired these breaches and the Sages instituted that anyone who passes by one of the repaired breaches must bow down to give thanks to God for destroying the foreign regime and abolishing their evil decrees.

Al Hanissim ("For the Miracles") is a prayer of thanksgiving recited during the holiday which gives a brief synopsis of all of the historical events of the Chanukah story. One of the lines reads, "They breached the walls of my Tower," a reference to the enemies of the Jews breaching the Soreg fence which surrounded the Temple (i.e., "Tower"). While the heathen marauders were bent upon breaking down the dividing lines between all nations of the world, our Sages underscored the importance of preserving our Jewish identity by specifically choosing to include the breaching of the Soreg in our liturgy.

The Chassidic masters are quoted as saying that this incident served as the precedent for eating latkehs on Chanukah. To commemorate the repairs made to the breached Soreg the Jewish people contrived a dish – the potato pancake – which resembled a patch (as in a patch on a garment). This Chanukah staple was originally called a latteh, which is the Yiddish word for patch, and over time this became latkeh.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Mystery of Bar Kokhba by Leibel Reznick

I was recently introduced to one of R' Leibel Reznick's books titled The Mystery of Bar Kokhba (Jason Aronson, 1996). In it the author attempts to shed some light on the enigmatic figure of Shimon Bar Kochba, the military leader who led the Jewish revolt against Rome some decades after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

One of the more intriguing theories which R' Reznick presents is that Bar Kochba not only recaptured Jerusalem from Roman hands but proceeded to build the Third Temple upon the Temple Mount. Included among his many proofs for this theory is the fact that the raised platform which exists today on the Temple Mount is precisely the correct size to have served as the Courtyard floor of the Third Temple. He writes that this platform measures 540 feet from east to west by 550 feet from north to south and is thus too large to have been the 187x135-amah Courtyard of the Second Temple and too small to have been the 500x500-amah Temple Mount of the Second Temple. Rather, the raised platform may have been the Courtyard of the Third Temple built by Bar Kochba which, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, measured 346 amos from north to south and 340 amos from east to west.

R' Reznick does list some counter arguments to the claim that a Third Temple was built in Jerusalem. To those I would like to add the following observations:

1. The platform is not rectangular.
The photo below shows the Temple Mount along with the approximate dimensions of the raised platform, measured using Google's Distance Measurement Tool.
The raised platform upon the Temple Mount (Google Maps)
Now, although the measurements are approximate, the platform is obviously not rectangular but trapezoidal and the dimensions stated by R' Reznick only hold true on two of the four sides (the north and west). For this platform to have been the rectangular Courtyard of the Third Temple we must assume that, over time, the structure either eroded or was dismantled, producing the current shape of the platform today.

2. The Courtyard of the Third Temple does not measure 346 by 340 amos.
A careful reading of Tosafos Yom Tov, whom R' Reznick cites as the source for his dimensions of the Third Temple, reveals that the interior of the Courtyard measures only 312 amos from north to south and 317 amos from east to west. See Diagram A below.

Even if we assume that the raised platform encompasses the thickness of the Courtyard walls - which were 6 amos thick - this would result in an area of only 324 by 329 amos. See Diagram B below.

Another point which emerges here is that the Third Temple Courtyard is longer from east to west than from north to south, while the platform dimensions are the opposite, being longer from north to south than from east to west. The approach (apparently) taken by the author to correct this inconsistency was to include the dimensions of the large entrance halls built outside the Courtyard gates in the north, south, and east. Each hall was 11 amos long, so by including the two halls in the north and south (22 amos) and the one hall in the east (11 amos), the "Courtyard" now measures 346 by 340 amos. See Diagram C.
Dimensions of the Third Temple Courtyard: Three Possibilities

3. This theory is inconsistent with R' Reznick's view regarding the Altar.
One of R' Reznick's other theories is that the Dome of the Rock is not, as popularly believed, the place of the Holy of Holies but rather the location of the Outer Altar. The location of the Outer Altar was the same in the First, Second, and (speedily in our days) the Third Temple, thus if we are to maintain that the current raised platform represents the Courtyard of the Third Temple then the location of the Altar would be at its center. As seen in the overlay below, the center of the Third Temple does not coincide with the Dome of the Rock.
Plan of the Third Temple overlayed upon the Temple Mount

Monday, October 29, 2012

View of the Chamber of the Nazirites

During Temple times, an individual could accept upon themselves the vow of a nazirite. A nazirite is a man or woman who, for a set period of time, does not drink wine, cut their hair, or contract corpse-tumah. When the term of their vow is complete the individual was required to come to the Temple and offer certain sacrifices. The meat of the offering was brought to the Chamber of the Nazirites located in the southeast corner of the Women's Courtyard. In this chamber the meat was cooked and the nazirite would receive a haircut and then the cut hair would be thrown into the fire beneath the pot cooking the offering. Nazirites were not permitted to eat their offerings in this chamber but would take them out of the Temple into the city, either to prevent overcrowding in the Women's Courtyard or because it was more appropriate to eat inside a room with a roof and not under the open sky.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Location of the Nitzotz Chamber

The Chamber of Nitzotz [ניצוץ] was located at the westernmost gate in the northern wall of the Courtyard and consisted of a terrace extending out above the gate. This terrace was left open to the sky while the area beneath it, in front of the gate, was enclosed by three walls. This chamber was one of the locations where guards were posted in the Temple: a Kohen guard stood above on the terrace while a Levi assistant stood below on ground level. On the ground floor of this chamber the Kohanim maintained a fire which was kept burning constantly and would be used to relight the Altar fire should it ever be extinguished.

There is a debate among the commentators whether the Chamber of Nitzotz was located on the outside of the Courtyard (north of the wall) or the inside (south of the wall). This debate may be partially resolved based on the translation of the word nitzotz. Some maintain that it means spark, on account of the fire which was kept burning in this chamber, while others maintain that it means ray of sunlight since the sun would shine through the numerous fenestrations in the back wall of this chamber (opposite the gate) and illuminate its interior (Rosh). I would like to show that according to the latter opinion this chamber must have been located on the interior of the Courtyard.

If the Chamber of Nitzotz was outside the Courtyard then the wall opposite the gate would be the chamber's northern wall. Since, in the northern hemisphere, the sun always travels in the southern portion of the sky, the northern wall of this (or any) chamber would never see any direct sunlight during the large majority of the year. The only exception would be during the longest days of the summer. During the summer the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest, so for a few hours in the mornings and evenings the sun would be in the northern part of the sky and able to shine into the openings of the northern wall.

It would be something of a misnomer to call this the "Chamber of the Ray" if it only receives direct rays of sunlight for such a limited time during the year (unless the intent is literally lashon sagi nahar). When we take into account one further fact it makes it all but impossible that this chamber was located in the north. As noted by Rambam and others, there was a roof covering the entire expanse of the Temple Mount up to the Temple walls. Any chamber just outside the Courtyard walls would have therefore been in shadow the entire day all year round.

Placing the Chamber of Nitzotz within the Courtyard avoids the shadow of the Temple Mount roof and also has the "wall of many fenestrations" in the south and exposed to sunlight. I was curious, though, about the shadow of the Sanctuary Building and the Courtyard walls which might affect the amount of light reaching the Chamber of Nitzotz and so I prepared three sun studies to examine the effect of the shadows within the Courtyard on this chamber. In the first one [Winter] we are looking at the Courtyard from above, with the Chamber of Nitzotz in the upper left corner and the Sanctuary Building to the bottom and right of center. Here the shadow of the Sanctuary Building does, in fact, block sunlight from the chamber during the early hours of the morning, although the chamber remains in direct sunlight for most of the day until the evening when the shadow of the western Courtyard wall falls across it.

In the sun study for Spring (which would also apply to the Fall) the sun is higher in the sky and the shadow of the Sanctuary Building covers the Chamber of Nitzotz for the entire morning (compare with the Winter sun study). Here the chamber is in direct sunlight for only a few hours in the afternoon.

In the sun study for Summer the shadow of the Sanctuary does not encroach upon the chamber at all, leaving it in direct sun all the way until evening when it is finally overtaken by the shadow of the western Courtyard wall. All in all, the Chamber of Nitzotz receives a great deal of sunlight through its southern wall.

SUMMARY According to the view that the word "nitzotz" means "ray of sunlight" the Chamber of Nitzotz must have been located on the interior of the Courtyard.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Choice of Scale in the Lego® Model

When I first started thinking about building a model of the Temple out of Lego® bricks, choosing the appropriate scale was an important consideration. It became obvious very quickly that a tabletop model would lack too many of the finer details since there are no Lego® bricks small enough to model them.

Scale Size of an Amah

Rather than pick an arbitrary scale such as 1:50 or 1:100 I wanted to use a scale where the basic unit of measurement in the Temple - the amah - corresponds to a standard Lego® brick. The smallest Lego® brick for this purpose is the 1x1 tile which measures 8 mm (0.31 inches) to a side. Using the 1x1 tile as the equivalent of a one-amah floor tile, the Main Courtyard (135x187 amos) would be roughly 4x5 feet and the height of the Sanctuary Building (100 amos) would be almost 3 feet. Although already bigger than any Lego® set you can buy, there are some important features which would be difficult (but perhaps not impossible) to model, such as the steps - all of which are half an amah tall and half an amah deep.

The next larger brick is the 2x2 tile which is 16 mm (0.63 inches) to a side. With this as a one-amah tile, the Main Courtyard would be 7x10 feet and the Sanctuary Building would be over 5 feet tall. In this scale it is much easier to build important details into the model, and the model as a whole will have a lot more presence, giving viewers a greater sense of what it might have felt like to stand in the Temple. A model built to this scale is approximately 1:29.


To make sure that my chosen scale would work even for the smaller details, I decided to build a prototype of the Menorah. The Menorah stood 3 amos tall, which in this scale comes to just under 2 inches. Working with my existing Lego® collection, I hit upon the design shown below. I tried a number of models with individual arms, three on each side, to hold the lamps, although none of these really worked for me (but I would gladly take suggestions).

[Lego® enthusiasts will notice that the model is built studs down. This approach allowed for a number of additional and accurate details, such as open receptacles on top for the seven lamps, use of the 1x1 slopes to smoothly connect the arms to the body, and the studs on the 2x2 plate serving as the base give the impression of feet.]

Menorah modeled in Bricksmith

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ashes of the Parah Adumah

In Temple times the concept of tumah and taharah [ritual purity] was a daily concern, affecting people, utensils, and food. It was given special attention at this time of year as people began preparing to ascend to the Temple for the Festival of Succos and needed to be tahor [ritually pure] in order to do so. Tumah [contamination] comes in many forms and its severity depends upon the source of the contamination. The most severe form of tumah is that which derives from contact with, or being under the same roof as, a human corpse. According to Jewish law the only way to become purified from corpse tumah is to be sprinkled with spring water which has been mixed with the ashes of a parah adumah [red cow].

Mount of Olives (Wikimedia Commons)
The preparation of the parah adumah took place on the Mount of Olives east of the Temple. After the cow was slaughtered and burned, its ashes were divided into three parts. One third of the ashes was kept in a secure location on the Mount of Olives itself, another third was kept in the Temple (see below), and the remaining ashes were distributed among the twenty-four watches of Kohanim. The leaders of these watches would take the ashes to their hometowns in order to provide purification to people in their region of the country, thereby sparing them the need to travel all the way to Jerusalem.

The ashes of the parah adumah were stored in a stone jug
just outside the gate leading into the Women's Courtyard.
The stone jug holding the ashes stored in the Temple was kept in a niche in the wall just outside the gate of the Women's Courtyard (Tiferes Yisrael to Parah 3:3 #23).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Which Temple is Tractate Middos Describing?

Tractate Middos describes the Second Temple, but it is not immediately obvious which Second Temple is being described, for this building underwent a major renovation during which some modifications were introduced to the overall design. At the conclusion of the Babylonian exile, the Jews returned to Jerusalem in 353 BCE and built the Second Temple. This structure stood until 19 BCE when it was taken down and built anew by the Roman governor Herod (See Bava Basra 3b-4a for the story of why Herod took it upon himself to rebuild the Temple.) His purpose was simply to refurbish the Temple which had fallen into disrepair and in this he was successful, as the Gemara states, “Whoever has not seen the Temple [as rebuilt by Herod] has not seen a majestic building” (Sukkah 51b). Even so, there is evidence that he engineered more than just aesthetic improvements. A comparison of the two first-hand accounts of the Second Temple — Tractate Middos written by the Tanna R' Eliezer ben Yaakov and the works of Flavius Josephus — reveals a number of significant differences. These differences collectively suggest that Tractate Middos and Josephus are describing two separate structures. Consider the following:

1. Middos 2:1 states that the the Temple Mount measured 500 amos by 500 amos, while Josephus writes that Herod undertook to rebuild the Temple “larger in compass” and so expanded the original dimensions of the Temple Mount (Antiquities, XV 11:1). The current shape of the Temple Mount (as rebuilt by Herod) is trapezoidal and measures 1601 feet on the west, 922 feet on the south, 1530 feet on the east, and 1042 feet on the north (Resnick, Holy Temple). Contemporary opinions on the size of an amah are in the range of 18-24 inches; 500 amos would therefore be equivilant to between 750 and 1000 feet. Thus, not only is the Herodian Temple Mount not square, but its eastern and western sides are clearly longer than 500 amos.

2. Middos 1:3 states that there was one gate in the western wall of the the Temple Mount, while Josephus says that there were four (Antiquities, XV 11:5).
Israel Museum model of the Herodian Second Temple. To the left of center is the western Temple Mount wall and the elevated walkways provide access to two of the four gates leading into the Herodian Temple Mount from this side.

3. Middos 2:6 states that there were two gates in the western wall of the Courtyard, while Josephus does not mention any gates in this wall.

4. Middos 1:3 states that the eastern gate of the the Temple Mount featured above it a design of Shushan, the Persian capital. According to most commentators (Rav, Tosafos Yom Tov, Rambam, Meleches Shlomo) the purpose of this design was to instill in the people an awe of the Persian Empire which controlled the region at the time. It would be a strange thing indeed for Herod, a Roman governor, to reconstruct this monument paying tribute to a defeated foreign power.

     Aside from the examples above which come from the Mishnah itself, Tiferes Yisrael's commentary (whose view I follow in my computer model) also deviates from the account of Josephus and the archeological record:

5. In Middos 2:5 §37 he concludes that there was but one gate, located in the east, which provided access to the Women's Courtyard from the Temple Mount, while Josephus writes that there were additional gates in the north and south (Wars, V 5:2).
Israel Museum model showing the Women's Courtyard from the northeast. Aside from the entrance into the Women's Courtyard from the east there were additional entrances in its northern and southern walls.

6. In Middos Diagram §8 he writes that the entire expanse of the the Temple Mount up to the walls of the Temple was covered by a roof, while Josephus makes no mention of what was certainly a  remarkable architectural achievement.

7. In Middos 2:3 §26 he writes that all the gateways of the Temple had frames with diagonal cornerpieces, copying the design used by King Solomon in the First Temple, while archaeological evidence shows that typical Herodian gateways lacked such a feature.
Israel Museum model, southern wall of the Temple Mount, showing typical Herodian-style gateways.

8. In Middos 1:6 §(5) he writes that the walls of the Temple were comprised of a repeating pattern of three courses of stone followed by one course of wood, while Josephus and the archaeological evidence show the walls to be of solid stone.

SUMMARY A comparison of the text of Tractate Middos and the works of Josephus indicates that the the two sources are describing different buildings.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Columns of the Temple

Just inside the walls of the Temple Mount ran a cedar-covered portico supported by marble columns.
View of the Israel Museum Temple model. Columns of the Temple Mount
are visible on the left side of this photo.
Josephus writes that the columns of the Herodian Temple were hewn from single blocks of white marble whose natural beauty rendered additional carvings or painting unnecessary. In Herod's palace at Masada there are similar columns, each of which was comprised of drum-shaped sections which were fitted together and plastered. This outer surface was then carved and painted to appear as a single piece of stone. The same technique may have been used in the Temple, fooling the eye of Josephus and testifying to the Herodian artisans' mastery of their craft.

The design of the columns which I use in my computer model is based on archeological evidence found in Persepolis (in modern Iran), the capital of the Persian Empire. The Jewish artisans who returned from the Persian-held lands to Jerusalem may have borrowed elements of the royal architecture they saw in Persepolis and incorporated this style into the columns of the Second Temple.
Column of the Second Temple
The columns stood 25 amos tall and each measured "as wide as three men can reach." A man’s reach is about 4 amos, thus the columns had a circumference of 12 amos and a diameter of 3.8 amos. The columns were spaced approximately 15 amos apart (on centers) and arranged in three rows along the walls of the Temple Mount, with the first row of columns engaged with (partially set into) those walls.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sefer Ezras Kohanim — ספר עזרת כהנים

The work Ezras Kohanim by R' Yehoshua Yosef HaKohen (originally printed in Warsaw, 1873) is an indispensable tool and resource for any serious student of Tractate Middos. The author cites an impressive variety of sources related to the Mishnah, many of them hard to find and/or out of print, and spends much time analyzing the various opinions, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each. There are also numerous diagrams throughout the text.

This work was recently reprinted in a two-volume set by Mifal Torah Hamikdash, under the guidance of Rabbi Avrohom Yeshayah Neuwirth. The difference between the printings available up till now and this new one is like night and day and much credit is due Rabbi Neuwirth for all of his efforts in making this remarkable sefer more accessible to the public.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Animated Temple Tour Intro

In addition to the still images which I use in my Beis Hamikdash slideshows, I have also been interested in using the same virtual model to create an animated tour of the Mikdash. Here is an idea I have for part of the opening title sequence. Like all of my other 3D shots, this is modeled and rendered in Cinema 4D.

Monday, August 20, 2012

View of the Short Columns

To the north of the Altar, within the butchering area, were eight short columns from which the sacrificial animals would be hung for flaying. The columns were shorter than a man’s height and topped by a square piece of heavy cedar. This block of wood was not fastened to the columns but remained in place due to its own weight. Along three sides of the cedar block, except for the western side, were affixed a row of three iron hooks. One handbreadth of the hook protruded from the block and 2 handbreadths were embedded in the wood.

Monday, August 13, 2012

View of the Salt Chamber

Early in the morning a Kohen prepares a supply of salt for the day's service.
Shown is the interior of the Salt Chamber. It was located in the southeastern corner of the Courtyard and served as a repository of a large quantity of salt. The Temple used this salt for three main purposes: 1) to apply to every offering which was burned on the Altar; 2) to sprinkle on the Altar's ramp to absorb the oils and blood which spilled there and thereby prevent the Kohanim from slipping; 3) to tan the hides of sacrificial animals.

salt2 from Yoav Elan on Vimeo.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sun Study of the Temple Walls: Other Issues

In the previous post I used a sun study of the Temple walls to help determine whether the interior wall height of the Courtyard was 40 amos or 70 amos. As I described there, this was based on the premise that the second row of rings from the Altar must be exposed to direct sunlight even on the shortest day of winter. After watching the sun study animation I thought that this criterion could be used in other places where the exact Temple measurements are disputed to rule out one or more of the opinions.

The first question I wanted to address is how the 24 rings to the north of the Altar were oriented. The Mishnah tells us that the rings were arranged on the floor of the Courtyard in a number of rows running from east to west and that these rows either contained 4 rings each or 6 rings each. All agree that the total length from north to south allowed for the rings is 24 amos and that the distance between the Altar and the first row of rings is 8 amos.

• Opinion #1 Each row had 6 rings from east to west. There were 4 rows in total and the space between the row centers would be 8 amos. This would put the second row of rings 16 amos (8 + 8 = 16) away from the northern edge of the Altar.

• Opinion #2 Each row had 4 rings from east to west. There were 6 rows in total and the space between the row centers would be 4.8 amos. This would put the second row of rings 12.8 amos (8 + 4.8 = 12.8) away from the northern edge of the Altar.

There does not seem to be any indication in the sources that the orientation of the rows would make any practical difference. If, however, it can be shown  that one of these orientations fails to have the second row of rings in full sunlight during the shortest days of winter then this orientation may be ruled out.

Once the height of the Courtyard walls have been set at 40 amos, the shadow cast by the Altar becomes the most influential factor. The closer the second row of rings is to the Altar, the more likely it is to fall within that shadow, and it is therefore Opinion #2 which stands to be eliminated. Well, upon closer inspection I see that Opinion #2 is the one I used in my original sun study and the second row of rings was clearly in direct sunlight. So it emerges that both opinions meet the criterion and neither can be eliminated on the basis of the Altar's shadow.

The other question is the north-to-south placement of the Altar within the Courtyard. Although the dimensions of the Courtyard are given in the Mishnah, some details are omitted, and one of those details is how far the Altar was from the southern Courtyard wall. Various opinions are given among the commentators, but the shortest distance on record is that of the Tanna, R' Eliezer ben Yaakov, who maintains that the Altar was only 5.5 amos from the southern wall. If it can be shown that when the Altar is this close to the south, the shadow of the southern wall falls upon the second row of rings then this opinion may be ruled out. Here is another sun study animation with the Altar placed according to the opinion of R' Eliezer ben Yaakov:

As it turns out, the shadow of the southern wall does not approach the rings at all, and thus we must conclude that the sun study cannot shed any light upon the issue of where the Altar was placed.

SUMMARY The sun study of the Temple walls does not help determine the orientation of the 24 rings north of the Altar nor does it help determine the north-south placement of the Altar.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Height of the Temple Walls

SUMMARY There are two main views regarding the height of the Courtyard walls: 40 amos or 70 amos. Two proofs, including a sun study of the Temple walls, show that the height was most likely 40 amos.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 15

The Tauim and Upper Level of the Sanctuary

Exterior of the Sanctuary Building
as viewed from the southwest
Outside the walls of the Sanctuary were three levels of small storage chambers called tau'im (sing., tau) which held the treasures of the Temple. In the north and south each level was divided into five rooms while in the west there were three rooms on each of the first two levels and two rooms on the top level, for a total of 38 tau'im.

While most of the 38 tau'im had just three openings, the northeastern tau on the middle level had five: one opening east to the Antechamber, one opening west to the adjoining tau, one to the Holy in the south, one to the winding ramp in the north (see below), and one to the tau above. This tau was entered each morning in order to open the Sanctuary doors. First, the Levi unlocked the small eastern door by kneeling down and putting his arm through a hole in the wall near the door and inserting the key into the lock from the inside. Once this door was unlocked, he entered the tau and then unlocked the southern door to the Holy whose lock was directly before him. Now in the Holy, he would remove the bolts and open the keyed locks of the Sanctuary’s inner set of doors and swing them open and then repeat the procedure for the outer doors. Outside this tau’s northern door was a 6-cubit ladder leading down to the foot of the winding ramp at the floor of the Courtyard.

North of the 5-cubit (7½-foot) thick wall around the tau'im was a gap, 3 cubits (4½ feet) wide, which housed the winding ramp. A ramp began here at the floor of the Courtyard in front of the bottom, northeast tau and rose due west to the roof of the top, northwest tau. To the north of the ramp was another 5-cubit wall, equal in height to the top of the tau'im, which acted as a protective fence for those walking on the ramp.

Upon reaching the top of the winding ramp one would find himself on the roof of the top, northwest tau. Like all accessible roofs, those of the tau'im had a fence around their perimeter for safety. From here one would walk south along the roofs of the western tau'im to the southwest corner of the Sanctuary Building. In the south, corresponding to the winding ramp in the north, was a 3-cubit space called the Place of Drainage Water. Rainwater which drained off the roofs of the Sanctuary and tau'im was directed to a pool of water here. To the south of the Place of Drainage Water was a 5-cubit wall like that of the winding ramp, added both for symmetry and support.

Starting at the southwest corner of the Sanctuary Building was a ramp which rose due east from the roof of the top, southwest tau up to the door of the  second story of the Sanctuary. All the dimensions of the second story — height, width, and length — matched those of the first level. The interior was similarly decorated with gold plating and carvings. Opinions vary as to what may have been stored there, from vessels of the Tabernacle to sacred writings. 

Above the Holy of Holies were openings in the floor of the second story spaced an arm’s reach apart. When repair work had to be done in the Holy of Holies, workers would be lowered down through these openings in three-sided boxes so that they would not be able to see any more of the Holy of Holies than absolutely necessary for their work.

Immediately inside the door to the second story were two very thick vertical beams, 40 cubits (60 feet) tall, which were connected by rungs to form a sturdy ladder up to the roof of the Sanctuary Building. This roof was covered with iron tiles, 1 cubit (1½ feet) square, and protruding from these tiles were sharp iron spikes, 1 cubit tall, designed to keep birds from landing on the Sanctuary Building and soiling it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 14

The Holy of Holies

Beyond the Holy was 1 cubit (1½ feet) of space called the Traksin which divided the Holy from the Holy of Holies. This word is derived from the Greek, connoting a place which is both inside and outside, since it divided between the inside—the Holy of Holies—and the outer Holy. In the First Temple there was a wall built in this space with a doorway opening to the Holy of Holies. However, in the Second Temple the ceiling of the Sanctuary was 40 cubits (60 feet) high, 10 cubits (15 feet) higher than in the First Temple, and it was not possible at that time to construct a structurally sound wall which was 40 cubits tall and only 1 cubit thick. They could not make the wall any thicker since that would take away space from either the Holy or the Holy of Holies, the dimensions of which were not subject to modification. Therefore, they hung two curtains across the Holy in place of the original wall to act as the divider. One curtain would have sufficed but for their uncertainty as to whether that wall was considered part of the Holy or the Holy of Holies, thus they hung two curtains on either side of the Traksin and left that 1 cubit as undefined.

Each curtain was 20 cubits wide, 40 cubits tall, and 1 handbreadth thick. They were woven of wool dyed with many colors at an incredible cost of 820,000 golden dinars (according to one opinion). It was described as “the most praiseworthy item in the world.” Spanning the top was a band of gold, 2 handbreadths tall and 2 fingerbreadths thick, which kept it taut so that the entire width of the Holy was covered (the curtain of the Antechamber also had such a feature).

The outer curtain was folded back at the southern end and held by a golden band and the inner curtain was similarly folded back at the northern end. This allowed the Kohen Gadol to walk between them without having to open them manually as he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur while at the same time they completely blocked off the interior of the Holy of Holies from the view of anyone standing in the Holy.

The innermost chamber of the Sanctuary was the Holy of Holies. It measured 20 cubits (30 feet) square and, like the Holy, was plated with gold and set with precious stones. Protruding 3 fingerbreadths (2¼ inches) above the floor was the Foundation Stone and on this stone they placed the Ark during the First Temple era. In the Second Temple the Holy of Holies was empty since the Ark had been concealed in a labyrinth of underground tunnels before the First Temple was destroyed. The Holy of Holies also had windows which, according to Josephus, were angled so that no one could see in from the outside.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 13

The Sanctuary

Looking west within the Holy.
Inner Altar is in the center.
Separating the Sanctuary from the Antechamber was a 6-cubit (9-foot) thick wall and centered in this wall was the single doorway to the Sanctuary. It had two doorposts and a mantel and measured 10 cubits wide and 20 cubits tall (15 feet by 30 feet). Two sets of double doors were hung in this doorway, one set at the eastern edge of the doorway closer to the Antechamber, and one set at the western edge closer to the Sanctuary. Just in front of the outer doors hung a curtain which was raised and lowered very much like a stage curtain by means of ropes. Normally the curtain was left open so as not to hinder the Kohanim as they came and went from the Sanctuary during the sacrificial service. However, when the Kohen Gadol wished to enter the Sanctuary alone, his assistant would stand outside the doorway and lower the curtain to give him privacy. Upon hearing the bells of the Kohen Gadol’s tunic as he retreated towards the entrance the assistant would raise the curtain once again.

Inside the Sanctuary was the Holy, 20 cubits wide, 40 cubits long, and 40 cubits high (30 feet by 60 feet by 60 feet). As in the Antechamber, the interior was plated with gold and magnificently decorated. Covering the floor were wooden panels plated with gold. The only part not covered with gold was the area hidden behind the inner Sanctuary doors when they were open. Since this area was not visible while the doors were open, plating it with gold would have served no purpose and the Torah does not needlessly waste the money of the Jews.

The Holy housed the Menorah [candelabra], the Table [which held the loaves of Showbread], and the Inner Altar [for the offering of incense], with the Menorah in the south, the Table in the north, and the Inner Altar centered between them and slightly off towards the east.

Each of these vessels was an exact replica of those built by Moses for the Tabernacle. Unlike the Laver which may actually have been Moses’ original, the Menorah and Table were only duplicates since the originals were hidden before the destruction of the First Temple. All three of these vessels were placed in the middle third of the Sanctuary’s length with the Menorah in the south, the Table in the north, and the Inner Altar centered between them and slightly off towards the east. King Solomon fashioned ten copies of both the Menorah and the Table which were arranged in rows of five on either side of the originals, and the same practice was followed in the Second Temple.

There were twelve windows in the Sanctuary corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. It was common at the time to construct windows with narrow outer openings and wide inner openings, both for security purposes and to allow more light to enter the room. The windows of the Sanctuary were designed with the narrow openings on the inside and the wide openings on the outside to symbolize that the Temple, far from needing light, was the source of light for the world.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 12

The Antechamber

Looking west towards the face of the Antechamber.
Altar is in the foreground
To the west of the Altar stood the massive entrance hall of the Sanctuary Building called the Antechamber. It measured 100 cubits (150 feet) wide and towered 100 cubits above the floor of the Courtyard. Leading up to the large central doorway was a set of twelve steps which ran the entire width of the building. Like all the steps in the Temple these steps were half a cubit (9 inches) high while the lengths of the steps varied. The first two steps were 1 cubit (1½ feet) long and the third step was 3 cubits (4½ feet) long. This pattern repeated itself four times, save for the very top step which was 4 cubits (6 feet) long. Being that there were 22 cubits (33 feet) between the Antechamber and the Altar and these steps took up 21 of those cubits, only 1 cubit (1½ feet) of walking space was left between the first step and the Yesod of the Altar.

On these steps towards the south stood the Laver where the Kohanim sanctified their hands and feet for the sacrificial service. The Laver was a sanctified vessel and the law dictates that anything suitable for a sanctified vessel which was left inside that vessel overnight becomes unfit for use in the Temple. This would have required the Kohanim to empty the water in the Laver each night and refill it the next day which is both degrading to the sanctified water of the Laver and a time-consuming task. To avoid this, they took advantage of the fact that if the water in the Laver were to be connected to the water table its sanctity would be nullified and thus would not become unfit for use if left out overnight. To this end they dug a pit in the floor of the Courtyard and directed a stream of water through it. The Laver was lowered into this pit where it remained submerged in, hence connected to, the stream overnight and the water inside was thus prevented from becoming unfit and could be used the next day.

The Laver and Muchni

A rope and pulley system called the Muchni was used to raise and lower the Laver. It was a permanent structure, made of wood, and had a ratchet or gear purposely designed to generate a lot of noise as it operated. The Laver could be raised by just one person, quite a feat of engineering considering that the Laver, when full of water, weighed over 2½ tons!

At the top of the steps leading up to the Antechamber was its large gateway. This gateway was the largest in the Temple, measuring 20 cubits wide and 40 cubits high (30 feet by 60 feet). Queen Heleni [the queen of Adiabene, a province in the Middle East, who converted to Judaism in the Second Temple era] donated a golden candelabra which was mounted on the roof of the Antechamber and centered in the eastern wall. Each morning the rays of the rising sun would strike this candelabra, causing it to shine and sparkle, which was the signal for the people of Jerusalem that the time of reciting the morning Shema had arrived. [The Shema prayer must be recited once each morning — at a certain time — and again in the evening.]
Interior of the Antechamber, looking north

Inside the entrance to the Antechamber was its main hall, 11 cubits (16½ feet) long and 60 cubits (90 feet) wide. Every inch of the walls and floor was plated with brilliant gold and decorated with carvings of flowers, palm trees, and cherubs, all connected by a network of chain designs and set with precious stones.

In the north and south of the Antechamber were two chambers called Chambers of the Knives where they kept the knives used for slaughtering sacrifices. Each of the twenty-four watches of Kohanim had private cabinets for their knives (twelve in the north chamber and the other twelve in the south) and these were set into the walls of the chambers. The southern chamber was also used as permanent storage of knives which became unfit for use. They would not be fixed since one operating principle of the Temple was, “there are no displays of poverty in a place of affluence.”

Above the doorway of the Sanctuary, inside the Antechamber, was a large grapevine of solid gold weighing over 25 tons. Donations of gold and other precious materials such as carbuncles, sapphires, and diamonds, were presented in the shape of leaves, individual grapes, or whole clusters (some of which were as tall as a man). These additions were hung upon the vine until they were needed for repairs to the structure or to support poor Kohanim. The vine itself was suspended from strong cedar poles, similar to a real grapevine.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 11

The Butchering Area

The Butchering Area north of the Altar
At a distance of 8 cubits (12 feet) from the northern edge of the Altar were twenty-four iron rings set into the floor of the Courtyard where animals would be held during slaughter. The rings took up an area of 24 cubits (36 feet) square, arranged in six rows north to south of four rings each (the four rings ran east-to-west). Each ring was a half-circle, hinged on one side so that the other side could be lifted for the animal’s head to be inserted and then locked down. The rings were oriented so that the animal would be facing south when put into the ring. Each watch of Kohanim was assigned their own ring which they would use during their shift. The exception to the above was the Tamid offering [the continual offering brought twice daily] which was always slaughtered in a specific ring in the morning and a specific ring in the afternoon, regardless of which watch was on duty.

The eight short stone columns north of the rings were much shorter than a man’s height and topped by a heavy piece of square cedar. This block of wood was not fastened to the columns but remained in place under its own weight. Along each of the three sides of the cedar block, save for the west, were affixed a row of iron hooks from which the animals were hung for skinning. These hooks protruded one handbreadth (3 inches) from the blocks of wood. There were similar hooks in the walls of the Courtyard which were used for skinning the Pesach sacrifice. It is not clear how many of these additional hooks there were, but presumably there were enough to cater to the multitudinous crowds that filled the Courtyard before Pesach.

There were eight stone tables near the columns used to support large animals during the skinning, to rest knives upon, and to wash the innards upon. More analogous to small footstools, the tables measured just 1 cubit tall and 1 cubit square (1½ feet per side).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tour of the Temple:Class 10

The Altar

The Outer Altar of the Temple
The Outer Altar served as the focal point of the sacrificial service. [The smaller, Inner Altar — located within the Sanctuary Building — was used for offering incense.] After an animal offering was slaughtered, its blood was applied to the walls of the Altar and certain parts of the animal were then burned on the fires located on the Altar's top.

The Altar was a three-tiered structure made of stones held together with cement and coated with plaster. The first tier was called the Yesod, or base, and measured 32 cubits (48 feet) square and 1 cubit (1½ feet) high. It only protruded from the body of the Altar on the west and north. Above the Yesod was the Sovev, or ledge [since it formed a ledge upon which the Kohanim would walk], measuring 30 cubits (45 feet) square and 5 cubits (7½ feet) high. Above the Sovev was the top level, called the Altar, measuring 28 cubits (42 feet) square and 3 cubits (4½ feet) high. On the four corners of the Altar were extensions called Keranos (sing., Keren), meaning horns [since they protruded upward like the horn from the head of an animal] which were hollow and open on top, 1 cubit square and 1 cubit high (1½ feet per side).

On the top of the Altar, starting near the outer edge, the first 2 cubits (3 feet) were depressed into the top, leaving a small lip around the edge of the Altar to prevent the Kohanim from falling off (there was a similar feature around the edge of the Sovev). The Kohanim would walk within this channel as they performed their various tasks on the top of the Altar.

Three different fires were kept burning on the Altar every day. The largest one was located on the eastern side and everything brought to the top of the Altar to be burned was placed on this fire. Each morning this fire would be rebuilt by laying down two logs, parallel to each other, and then stacking two more logs on top, perpendicular to the first two, to form a square. A few more layers were added to make it very large.

The second fire provided the coals used in offering the incense. The size of the incense fire was large enough to produce 5 se’ah (1.5 cubic feet) of coals per day and 8 se’ah (2.3 cubic feet) of coals on the Sabbath.

The third fire was a maintenance fire, the pilot light of the Altar whose purpose was to fulfill the requirement of maintaining a “constant flame” (Leviticus 6:6) on the Altar. If the main fire would go out they would relight it from this small fire.

Near the southwest Keren on the top of the Altar were two silver bowls. These bowls were receptacles for the libations which were offered on the Altar: water libations were poured into the western bowl and wine libations into the eastern one. Water libations, offered only on Succos, were brought together with the wine libations and both were poured into their respective bowls simultaneously. In order for them to empty at the same rate, the drain in the wine bowl was made slightly wider than the drain in the water bowl to account for the difference in viscosity. The drains of both bowls led down through the Altar to a deep subterranean hollow under the southwest Keren of the Altar.

On the southwest corner of the Yesod were two round depressions with small holes at the bottom which served as drains. Both drains were located towards the southern edge of that corner with the eastern drain being further south than the western drain. Blood poured on the western Yesod flowed along the top of the Yesod via a channel which directed it to the western drain. Blood poured on the southern Yesod (i.e. directly on the southwest corner) flowed into the eastern drain. This eastern drain also had a channel leading to it since the drains themselves were very small and it would be impossible to pour the blood directly into such a small hole.

In the Courtyard was a channel of flowing water called the Amah [“cubit”] — 1 cubit wide and 1 cubit deep, hence the name. This channel started near the southwest corner of the Altar and ran due south to the Water Gate. When the Kohanim wished to clean the floor of the Courtyard they would block the pipe of the Amah at the Water Gate, causing the water to back up and flood the Courtyard. The pipe was then reopened and all the refuse would be carried away with the water. Directly under the southwest corner of the Yesod was a small hollow, called the Shis, which was connected underground to the nearby Amah. All the blood poured on the Altar would run down the two drainage holes into the Shis and from there into the Amah. This blood-enriched water would be carried out to the Kidron Valley where it was sold to farmers as fertilizer with the proceeds going to the Temple.

The Torah requires that the Kohanim ascend the Altar via a ramp, as opposed to steps. The main access ramp of the Altar was centered on its southern side and measured 32 cubits (48 feet) long, 16 cubits (24 feet) wide, and 9 cubits (13½ feet) tall. The main ramp was flanked by two smaller ramps. On the eastern side was a ramp to the Sovev and on the western side a ramp to the Yesod.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 9

Chambers of the Courtyard

Chamber of Hewn Stone
The Courtyard contained a large number of chambers which served a multitude of different purposes. Along the eastern wall on either side of the Nikanor Gate were two chambers. To the north was the Chamber of Pinchas the Clothier where the Priestly Vestments were stored and distributed. The chamber was named after the very first Temple clothier called Pinchas.

To the south of the Nikanor Gate was the Chamber of the Makers of the Chavitin. In this chamber the Kohanim would prepare the chavitin [named for the machavas, the type of pan in which it is fried], a meal-offering offered daily – and paid for – by the Kohen Gadol. Twelve loaves of chavitin were prepared each day, half of which were offered in the morning and half in the afternoon.

On the southern side of the Courtyard there were two elevated chambers located directly above the Water Gate. The first of these, the Chamber of Avtinas, was where the Avtinas family would carry out the compounding of the incense offered daily in the Temple. Adjacent to the Chamber of Avtinas on the east was a mikveh [ritual bath] where the Kohen Gadol would immerse on the morning of Yom Kippur as he began the sacrificial service.

In the southeast corner of the Courtyard were three chambers. The Chamber of Salt contained salt used to apply to the sacrifices. [All sacrifices were salted before being placed upon the Altar.] The Chamber of Parvah, located to the west of the Chamber of Salt, was where they would tan the hides of the sacrifices. On its roof was a mikveh used by the Kohen Gadol for the other immersions required as part of the sacrificial service of Yom Kippur. The Chamber of the Washers was to the west of the Chamber of Parvah and was used to wash out the stomachs of sacrificial animals.

In the northeast corner were also three chambers. The Chamber of Hewn Stone, so called for the special square stones used in its construction, was the largest of the three northern chambers and served as the seat of the 71-member Sanhedrin court. Adjacent to the Chamber of Hewn Stone was the Chamber of Wood used by the Kohen Gadol to store his priestly vestments and also served as his residence for the week before Yom Kippur. The Chamber of the Basin contained a well which provided water for the Courtyard. This chamber was named for the large basin attached to the wall where the water brought up from the well would be stored.

Tucked into the northeast corner of the Courtyard was a chamber used in the preparation of the ashes of the red heifer. To ensure that this ritual was carried out in the utmost sanctity, all of the utensils in this chamber were made of stone, which is impervious to tumah, and it is for this reason that the room was called the Chamber of Stone.

On either side of the Spark Gate two walls protruded into the Courtyard forming an area called the Chamber of the Spark which housed a fire that was kept burning constantly. On top of these walls was a balcony which was open to the sky and was not accessible directly from the Courtyard. A door in the back wall of the balcony opened to a flight of steps which led down to the Cheil.

Built around the first of the large Courtyard gates on the north side was a chamber with a domed ceiling called the Hall of the Fire. Its main purpose was to serve as sleeping quarters for the watch of Kohanim currently on duty and it also provided them a place to warm themselves during the day, a necessary amenity since they had to walk around barefoot on cold marble floors as they performed the sacrificial service. [The Kohanim in the Temple could not wear any article of clothing in addition to their priestly vestments, which consisted of a robe, pants, belt, and a hat.] The large warming fire in the main hall of this chamber gave it its name.

Chamber of Receipts

In the four corners of Hall of the Fire were small chambers which opened into the main hall. Each served a different purpose. In the southwest was the Chamber of the Sheep. Here they always maintained a supply of six sheep, free of blemishes, which would be used for the two daily Tamid sacrifices. In the southeast was the Chamber of the Show bread. All the preparations of the Show bread — the kneading, setting into the forms, and the baking — were done in this chamber every Friday. In the northeast was the Chamber of Receipts where the Kohanim would issue receipts to individuals purchasing wine, oil, and flour from the Temple supply. In the northwest was the Chamber of Hall of the Fire which housed the entrance to the private bathhouse of the Kohanim.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 8

The Courtyard

The Courtyard of the Temple is called Azarah, from the Hebrew word ezrah, meaning aid, a reference to the fact that all Divine assistance comes to the Jews via the Temple. Within its walls the Courtyard measured 135 cubits (202½ feet) from north to south and 187 cubits (280½ feet) from east to west, and this space was divided into different sections. Beginning in the east, the first 11 cubits (16½ feet) of the Courtyard's length (from east to west) were known as the Israelites' Courtyard where the public would stand while their sacrifices were being slaughtered and brought to the Altar. Entry into this area was restricted to individuals who were completely tahor.

Adjoining the Israelites' Courtyard was the Kohanim's Courtyard, also 11 cubits long, which was used primarily by the Kohanim as they shuttled back and forth between the public in the east and the Altar to the west. Israelites were not permitted to enter here except to perform certain actions related to their offering, such as resting their hands upon the head of the animal [prior to the slaughter], slaughtering the animal [the slaughter was not an official part of the sacrificial service and thus could even be performed by non-Kohanim], or waving the meat [a procedure required of certain offerings].

The Kohanim's Courtyard was elevated 2½ cubits (3¾ feet) above the Israelites' Courtyard and these two areas were separated by four steps running the entire width of the Courtyard. The first of these was a large step, 1 cubit (1½ feet) high and 1 cubit deep, and marked the point beyond which all non-Kohanim should not enter (the step itself was located within the Kohanim's Courtyard). To further mark this boundary there were blocks of wood as wide as the length of a man's hand (from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger) protruding from the northern and southern walls of the Israelite's Courtyard along their full height. These blocks of wood were needed in addition to the large step since many people may not have realized that the purpose of the step was to mark the boundary, or they may not have known whether the step was part of the Israelites' Courtyard or Kohanim's Courtyard.

Above the large, 1-cubit step was a flight of three standard steps — each half a cubit (9 inches) high and half a cubit deep — which together formed a platform called the Duchan. The Duchan was used on a daily basis by the Levi'im who would stand upon it as they provided musical accompaniment for the sacrificial service. In addition, when the Kohanim would deliver the Priestly Blessing (which they did each day in the Temple), those Kohanim who could not find a place to stand upon the steps of the Antechamber would stand upon the Duchan.

To the west of the Kohanim's Courtyard was a section 32 cubits (48 feet) long which was occupied by the Outer Altar and all of the associated structures needed to slaughter and skin the offerings and prepare the different cuts of meat for burning upon the Altar. Beyond that was a section consisting of the 22 cubits (33 feet) between the western face of the Altar and the eastern face of the Antechamber and was aptly termed the Area Between the Altar and the Antechamber. This area contained the steps leading up to the Antechamber as well as the Laver from which the Kohanim would wash their hands and feet prior to beginning the sacrificial service. The largest section of the Courtyard was occupied by the Sanctuary Building (which includes the Antechamber) and measured 100 cubits (150 feet) from east to west. The last section of the Courtyard consisted of the 11 cubits (16½ feet) between the western wall of the Sanctuary Building and the western wall of the Courtyard.

Although the Courtyard was open to the sky there was a roofed area along the inside of the walls around all four sides which jutted out of the walls halfway up their height. The walls were 40 cubits (60 feet) high, which would put the roof at a height of 20 cubits (30 feet), or just even with the tops of the gateways. The roof was not continuous but was built in sections which ran between the gates of the Courtyard, and each section was supported by a single row of marble columns similar in design to those of the Temple Mount. The area beneath the roof was used for overnight storage of some Temple vessels and hanging from, or displayed upon, the roof itself were spoils of war.