Monday, January 27, 2014

View of the Chamber of Shekalim

The Chamber of Shekalim (background)
near the northwest corner of the Courtyard
As described in an earlier post, there were 13 collection boxes, called shofaros on account of their long, curved necks which resembled a shofar, which were placed within the Courtyard. Two of them were used to collect the half-shekel donations brought to the Temple by the public each year. Both of these shofaros were kept inside a chamber located in one of the corners of the Courtyard. As the donations came in, the treasurers would deposit them into these shofaros and issue a receipt to the donor. At the end of each day the coins would be transferred to a (larger) storage container also located inside this chamber.
Within the Chamber of Shekalim were two shofaros,
a writing desk, and a large storage cabinet

Monday, January 20, 2014

View of the Chamber of the Spark

The Chamber of the Spark (בית הניצוץ) was located at the Spark Gate (שער הניצוץ) in the northern wall of the Courtyard. This chamber consisted of two walls which protruded into the Courtyard on either side of the gate and above these walls was an unroofed balcony. 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. For this purpose they specifically chose a type of wood which burns very slowly, and because the embers from this fire lasted a long time the gate and its associated chamber bore the name ‘spark.’ The upper floor of this chamber is one of the locations where the Kohanim would stand guard in the Temple. This balcony was not accessible directly from the Courtyard (for had that been the case the balcony would have assumed the sanctity of the Courtyard and thus the Kohen guards would not have been permitted to sit down while on duty); instead, a door in the Courtyard wall opened to a flight of steps (possibly within the wall itself) which led down to the Cheil, thus granting the balcony the status of the Temple Mount. The Spark Gate, like all Temple gates, was closed off by a large curtain while the doors were open.

Two Kohanim restock the firewood in the Chamber of the Spark.

Monday, January 13, 2014

View of the Courtyard Portico

Although the Courtyard was open to the sky, there was a portico, or roof, along the inside of the walls around all four sides which jutted out of the walls halfway up their height. [The walls were forty amos high, which would put this roof at a height of twenty amos, 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.

Each morning the Kohanim from the Hall of the Fire would make their way beneath this roofed area around the perimeter of the Courtyard to check that all of the Temple vessels were in place for the start of the sacrificial service.

Early morning view of the southwest corner of the Courtyard.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Double Dipping: The two mikva'os used by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur

During the service of Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol immersed in two different mikva'os a total of five times. The first of these was done in a mikveh located above the Water Gate on the southern side of the Temple. The remaining four immersions were done in a mikveh built on the roof of the Chamber of Parvah in the southeast corner of the Courtyard.

The Ma'ayan Mikveh
Both mikva'os were fed from the Eitam Spring, apparently for the purpose of granting them the halachic status of a ma'ayan [flowing spring], as opposed to a mikveh of collected rainwater.