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.

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