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.


  1. Why does the picture have numerous menorahs. Wasn't there only one?

  2. As I mentioned in the post, we know that King Solomon built ten copies of both the Menorah and the Table and installed them in the Sanctuary (this is described in the Book of Kings and discussed in the Gemara, Menachos 98b). Based on his precedent, the builders of the Second Temple did the same thing.

  3. Hi Rabbi Elan. Your diagram shows 20 large windows.10 on the ground and 10 to the second level. Which 12 please are you refferring to. Thanks. Also do we know the size of the windows.
    Regards Yosef Ber

  4. There are also two windows on each level in the east, that is, they open into the Ulam. The windows (of the main floor) would have spanned the distance from the tops of the tauim, or small rooms, around the outside of the building up to the floor of the upper level. The actual height will depend on how high you set the tauim. In my illustrations and models the tauim are 26 amos high.

    1. Hi. Thanks for that! I forgot about the windows to the Ulam. So are the 12 you are refferring to only those of the lower main floor and if so would it be 4x on North 4x on South 2x in Ulam and 2x to West (back) of Heichal. I am making my Taim total height 21 amos.
      So from the top of Taim to the bottom of the decorations joining structure going up 5 Amos for the next level, I have 19 Amos of space. Please tell me if there is a raya anywhere which mentions this and also would it be the same for the upper level or would the windows be bigger as there would be a full 40 amos.
      Yosef Ber

    2. Ezras Kohanim to Middos 4:5 says that the windows spanned the distance from the tauim to the ceiling. If you were asking about an explicit proof for the height of the tauim themselves, I don't have one. I do make a hypothesis that the tauim were 26 amos high in total. As for the upper windows, I suppose you could make them even taller because you have more room up there, although in my model I make them the same height as the lower ones for symmetry.


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