Monday, April 30, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 3

Gates of the Temple Mount

A five-sided gateway of the Temple
   In each wall of the Temple Mount were one or more gateways, all of which conformed to a standard size of 10 cubits wide by 20 cubits tall. Instead of a traditional frame consisting of three parts (two doorposts and a lintel) the Temple gates had additional diagonal elements connecting the doorposts and lintel, resulting in a frame of five parts. 

   Jerusalem was located primarily to the south of the Temple and the majority of the population entered the Temple Mount from that side. To accommodate the large flow of pedestrian traffic two gates were built along this side, spaced evenly across the 500-cubit length of the Temple Mount. These were known as the Chuldah Gates, named after the prophetess Chuldah who delivered her prophesies to the masses just outside the southern wall of the Temple Mount during the First Temple era.
   Centered in the western wall of the Temple Mount was the Kiponos Gate. The name Kiponos may represent a contraction of the Greek words kepos (garden) and ponos (work or toil) to mean working the garden, a reference to the garden located just inside this gateway. In this garden, which occupied the area between the western wall of the Temple Mount and the western wall of the Courtyard opposite the Holy of Holies, the Kohanim cultivated all of the ingredients used in compounding the incense offered daily in the Temple.
   In the northern wall of the Temple Mount was the Tadi Gate. This gate was unique in that its lintel was not flat but consisted of two stones leaning against each other at an angle such that the top of the gate resembled a triangle.
   In the eastern wall of the Temple Mount was the Shushan Gate, so named for the depiction of the city of Shushan which appeared over the mantel of this gate. Shushan was the Persian capital which had hosted the Jews during their exile following the destruction of the First Temple. In appreciation of the ruling power and as a symbol of their allegiance the Jews placed the Persian emblem over this gate in the rebuilt Temple.
   In addition to the five gates listed thus far there are records of other gates in the Temple Mount walls. King Solomon built a gate for bridegrooms and a gate for mourners in the First Temple, the former with doors of white glass and the latter with doors of black jasper (a type of quartz). The locations of these gates are not given, so it is assumed that they were minor gates on the southern side of the Temple Mount. They were likely included in the design of the Second Temple as well.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Muchni Gears Animation

[Video has been removed. See this post for an updated version.]

This is a test animation of the Muchni (the wooden structure which raised and lowered the Kiyor) where I was trying to work out how the gears might have been arranged. The challenge in designing the Muchni is to find a way for a Kohen to raise a 5,000-pound object (see the earlier post for details) singlehandedly. In my design I use a counterweight on the back of the Muchni and reducing gears to make the task of lifting the Kiyor more manageable. This early animation only shows the gears moving but not the Kiyor or counterweight.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 2

Walls of the Temple Mount
King Darius (wikimedia)
   Both the Temple Mount and the courtyards within it were surrounded by tall walls, 40 cubits (60 feet) in height. These walls stood 5 cubits (7½ feet) thick at their base and tapered slightly as they rose to give them greater stability. In King Solomon's First Temple the walls were composed of a repeating pattern of three courses of stone followed by one course of wood. In the Second Temple, the Persian king Darius — who was the one to grant the Jews permission to rebuild the Temple — commanded that the walls mimic that original design but with the following changes: 1) the walls should begin with one course of wood and then three courses of stone, 2) the wood should not be set completely within the walls, and 3) the wood should not be covered with plaster. No mortar was used to hold the massive stones together rather they were carefully fitted to one another and then locked into place with iron braces.
Line of sight from the Mount of Olives
to the opening of the Sanctuary Building
   The eastern wall of the Temple Mount was much lower than the others and stood less than 26 cubits (39 feet) high. The reason for this was a Scriptural requirement connected to the Parah Adumah [red heifer, whose ashes have the ability to purify people and objects from corpse-tumah]. The Parah Adumah was prepared on the Mount of Olives, located due east of the Temple, and the Torah writes that while the Kohen is carrying out the preparations he must have a direct line of sight to the opening of the Sanctuary. From his vantage point in the east the Kohen would look over the lower eastern wall of the Temple Mount, through the eastern gate of the Women's Courtyard, and through the Nikanor Gate to the opening of the Sanctuary.
   The Temple was not squarely centered within the four walls of the Temple Mount but was offset towards the northwest corner. Although in many models of the Temple the Temple Mount is shown as a large, open expanse of space, this is not accurate. The space between the walls of the Temple Mount and the Temple itself was packed with numerous chambers, storehouses, workshops, and offices which were necessary for the day-to-day operation of the Temple. Since we do not know the names and locations of these many chambers they are often omitted from the depictions of the Temple.
Just inside the walls of the Temple Mount ran a cedar-covered portico supported by marble columns, each of which was hewn from a single block of stone and adorned with flowered capitals. The columns stood 25 cubits tall and each measured “as wide as three men can reach.” A man’s reach is about 4 cubits, thus the columns had a circumference of 12 cubits and a diameter of 3.8 cubits. The columns were spaced approximately 15 cubits apart and arranged in three rows along the walls of the Temple Mount, with the first row of columns set into the walls. 
   The cedar roof covering this portico extended 30 cubits from the inside of the Temple Mount walls. It was carved with flower designs and had a fence on top to prevent anyone who might be walking there from falling off. The entire area of the portico was set upon a raised platform a few steps higher than the floor of the Temple Mount and, like the entire expanse of the Temple Mount, was paved with marble stones.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 1

Preparing the Temple Mount
   One of the first steps taken in the construction of the Second Temple was a massive earth-moving operation. The entire area of the Temple Mount, which measured 500 cubits by 500 cubits (one cubit measures approximately 18 inches), was completely excavated all the way down to solid bedrock to clear the site from possible graves. Since tumah [ritual contamination] from a grave rises up through the ground all the way to the heavens it would have rendered anyone standing on the ground above the grave tamei [ritually contaminated].
   When the First Temple was built, no such excavations were carried out. King Solomon relied upon the fact that since there was no reason to suspect the presence of tumah on the Temple Mount the land was presumed tahor [ritually pure]. However, when the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to rebuild the Temple they discovered a skull beneath the site of the Altar and this forced them to retract the default tahor status originally granted to the Temple Mount. In such a case where tumah is suspected the land must be excavated down to virgin soil or bedrock (whichever comes first) to verify that no sources of tumah are present. The builders of the Second Temple certainly wanted to avoid any shadow of a doubt and thus dug down beyond the virgin soil all the way to the bedrock; historically, we also know that Herod dug down to the bedrock to provide a sturdy foundation for the immense weight of the walls.

   A two-level network of arches was built over the bedrock which further protected against possible tumah. The tumah of a grave is prevented from rising further when it encounters a covered airspace of one handbreadth, thus an arch will protect the ground above it from such tumah. One level of arches would not have been sufficient since any tumah directly under one of the solid support columns would continue to rise. Therefore, a second level was needed with support columns placed over the airspaces of the first level. Although, according to the letter of the law, the excavations alone rendered the entire area of the Temple Mount tahor, it was nonetheless felt that for the sake of the Holy Temple an additional precaution of the double arches should be employed to rule out the remote possibility of an unknown grave within the bedrock itself.
   Having excavated down to the bedrock and installed the arches, the Temple could have been built on the now-level plane directly atop the arches. Instead, the elevations of the various courtyards matched the original – and Divinely fashioned – contours of Mount Moriah prior to the excavations. Rather than regaining the original elevations by back-filling the area over the arches with dirt, a system of vaulted tunnels was constructed under the entire Temple complex. The lowest level of tunnels supported the floor of the Temple Mount; above this was another level, 6 cubits high, which supported the area under the Women's Courtyard and Main Courtyard ; a third level, 7½ cubits high, supported the floor of the Courtyard itself.