Monday, January 28, 2013

Arches of the Temple Mount

In an earlier post I described how the entire Temple complex was built upon different levels of arches which raised it above the bedrock of the Temple Mount. I was going through some of my older files and found this illustration which shows how this might have looked. Here, an entire section of the Temple is cut away so that the levels of arches are visible – and color coded.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Detail from the Chamber of Oils

The Chamber of Oils, located in the southwest corner of the Women's Courtyard, housed the Temple's supply of oil, wine, and flour. Although all of these ingredients were used daily in great quantities, oil was needed the most, hence the name. A very common bulk storage container for liquids in those days was the clay amphora of the type shown here.

The Temple used only the best quality oils and the Talmud (Menachos 85b) states that the highest quality oil came from the olive groves of Tekoa. According to Kollel Iyun HaDaf, Tekoa of old was located on the mountain across from Meron (northwest of the Kineret Sea). Based on this idea, the amphora in this illustration is shown stamped with its location of origin.
Meron, Israel (Google Maps)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New website for Choshen Mishpat topics

Rabbi Abba Zvi Naiman, a colleague of mine at Artscroll, has just launched a new website called It features, among other things, a collection of his audio shiurim on Choshen Mishpat topics. Each shiur is accompanied by a pdf of sources and the site is very nicely organized. The topics are both fascinating and relevant to everyday life and are worth a look and a listen. There is also a link to many of his published works, including the new Elucidated Derech Hashem.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weight of the Paroches

SUMMARY The Paroches curtain weighed more than an elephant.

Using the dimensions of the Paroches and the known value for the density of wool it is possible to arrive at a rough upper limit for the weight of the Paroches. The volume of the Paroches is:

V = 20 x 40 x 1/6 amos
V =133 amos3  or 777,600 inches3

The density of wool is 0.0475 lbs/in3 so the weight of the Paroches would be 36,936 lbs.

Using the volumes of the warp and woof cords themselves (see previous post) can provide a lower limit for the weight. The volume of the 360 warp cords is given as:

v = (360)πr2h

r = 0.0278 amos (converting from 1/6 handbreadth)
h = 40 amos

The volume of the warp cords is 35 amos3

There are also 360 woof cords and their volume is given as:

v = (360)πr2h

r = 0.056 amos (converting from 1/3 handbreadth)
h = 20 amos

The volume of the warp cords is 70 amos3 and the total volume of warp and woof cords together is 105 amos3 or 612,360 inches3. According to this calculation the Paroches would weigh 29,087 lbs. [For comparison, a large elephant weighs about 25,000 lbs.]

In addition to the weight of the material itself there were two golden bands which ran across the top of the Paroches to keep it taut so that it covered the full 20 amos of the width of the Sanctuary building. Each band measured 2 handbreadths tall, 2 fingerbreadths thick, and 20 amos long (Shiltei Giborim). The volume of one band is:

V = 0.33 x 0.083 x 20 amos
V = 0.556 amos3  or  3,240 inches3

The density of gold is 0.698 lbs/in3 so the weight of each band would be 2,262 lbs., or 4,524 lbs. in all. This puts the total weight of the Paroches at (a minimum of) 33,611 lbs.

It is further interesting to note that the Paroches was immersed in a mikveh prior to being installed in the Temple. Just imagine how much water it must have absorbed and how much heavier it would have been for the Kohanim handling it to remove it from the mikveh and bring it to the Cheil where it was hung out to dry.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Design of the Paroches

SUMMARY The design of the Paroches curtain is described in the Mishnah in Shekalim and from here such details as the diameters of its various threads can be determined.

Interior of the Sanctuary looking west.
Paroches is in the background.
In the Second Temple there were three large  Paroches curtains: one at the opening of the Antechamber and two which hung in the Sanctuary and divided the Holy from the Holy of Holies. These curtains measured 20 amos wide by 40 amos tall (30 x 60 feet). The Mishnah (Shekalim 8:5) states that the Paroches of the Temple was woven upon seventy-two heddle shafts. The heddles of a loom are those devices which raise and lower the warp threads to allow the shuttle holding the woof thread to pass from one side of the fabric to the other. See item "f" in the diagram below.
A loom (Wikimedia Commons)
Tiferes Yisrael (Boaz 2 ad loc.) demonstrates that the 72 heddle shafts mentioned in the Mishnah could not have accounted for the full 20-amah width of the Paroches. Instead, he concludes that the Paroches was woven in sections which required 72 heddle shafts each and these sections were then sewn together to form the full Paroches.

The Mishnah (ibid.) also records the thickness of the Paroches as one handbreadth (3 inches). In order to create a fabric which is one handbreadth thick the warp cords must be 1/3 of a handbreadth thick and the woof cords, which were normally twice the diameter of the warp threads, would be 2/3 of a handbreadth (Tiferes Yisrael loc. cit.). Since each section used 72 heddles, and each heddle held one cord, this means that the sections were 24 handbreadths wide. [72 cords x 1/3 handbreadth per cord = 24 handbreadths.] 24 handbreadths is equal to 4 amos (6 handbreadths per amah), so five sections would be needed to produce a width of 20 amos. This means that the Paroches had a total of 360 warp cords [5 sections x 72 cords per section = 360 cords] along its 20-amah width.

Diameter of the Strings in the Warp Cords

Each warp cord was comprised of 24 smaller strings dyed with different colors, as follows: 6 strings of techeiles, 6 of argaman, 6 of tolaas shani, and 6 of sheiss. Since the diameter of the warp cords is given as 1/3 of a handbreadth, it is possible to estimate the diameter of the 24 smaller strings making up that cord.

In a cross-section of a cord made of smaller strings let the cord have radius R and area A such that

A = πR2

Let the strings have radius r and area a such that

a = πr2

Cross-section of a thicker cord
made of smaller strings
The total area of the cross-section of the cord is approximately equal to the sum of the areas of the smaller strings. This is only an estimate since the cord is not perfectly round in cross-section and this calculation also does not take into account the airspaces between the strings:

A = Na

where N is the number of strings in the cord.


πR2 = Nπr2

r = R / √N

d = 2r = 2R / √N

In the case of the warp cords of the Paroches:

R = 1/6 handbreadth
N = 24

Thus the diameter of each string is 0.068 handbreadths (0.14 inches).

Diameter of the Threads

The Mishnah (ibid.) states that there were a total of 820,000 threads used in the warp. To account for this number Tiferes Yisrael understands that the dyed strings which made up the warp cords were themselves made of many smaller threads. According to his arrangement, if the 360 warp cords were made of 24 dyed strings each then there were a total of 8640 dyed strings. [360 x 24 = 8640] Dividing 820,000 threads among 8640 strings gives approximately 95 threads per string. Using the same estimation from above:

d = 2R / √N

R = 0.034 handbreadths
N = 95

Thus the diameter of each thread is 0.0070 handbreadths (0.021 inches). [Common yarn diameters range from approximately 0.004 to 0.031 inches.]