Monday, February 3, 2014

View of the Chamber of the Paroches: Part 1

In a previous post I detailed the design of the paroches curtains according to the opinion of Tiferes Yisrael. Using that description we can start to imagine what the Chamber of the Paroches might have looked like.

One important decision was the overall size of the chamber. According to Tiferes Yisrael the paroches was constructed in sections, 4 amos (6 feet) wide, which were then stitched together to form the full 20-amah width. When he states in Middos 1:1 §10 that this chamber is where "the paroches was woven" does he mean that this room was where the individual sections were woven, but then they were taken elsewhere to be assembled into the full curtain, or was the entire paroches woven and stitched together in the same location?
I eventually decided on the former, [not only because of תפסת מרובה but] more practically because it will result in a dramatically smaller chamber, and space was always at a premium in the Courtyard. At the end of Part 2 I will include one of my earlier versions of this room which shows what the other option might have looked like.

To begin the weaving process, the upper beam of the loom must be loaded with warp threads, although in the case of the paroches these might better be termed 'cords' since they were each 1/3 of a handbreadth (just over one inch) thick. In the picture below a large spool holding the 72 warp cords has just been wheeled in to the chamber and the fifty amos or so of cord (that is, 40 amos to form the actual paroches plus some extra to make it easier to work with) have been drawn up to the upper beam. The upper beam will be rotated by hand (by some beefy Kohanim) as the young girls who weave the curtain make sure that all the cords are straight and under even tension. At this point the weaving apparatus of the loom (i.e., the heddles and reed) is not in place to make it easier to load the upper beam.

Loading the warp cords onto the upper beam.
 Now begins the tedious process of threading the heddles. The heddles (the frames which move up and down to raise and lower the warp cords) are hung from the the frame of the loom and each of the 72 cords are inserted through the eye of the heddle, through the reed (the smaller frame which swings back and forth to press the newly woven fabric together), and onto the lower beam.

Threading the heddles.
After the heddles are threaded the weaving can begin. Normally, a shuttle containing the weft thread would be passed back and forth through the warp as alternate warp threads are raised and lowered via the heddle frames. For standard material, which used fine threads instead of cords, it was possible to load the shuttle with enough weft thread to produce an entire cloth. I am not certain how this was done for the paroches since the weft cord was 2/3 of a handbreadth (over two inches) thick, and the total length of the weft was over 1000 amos (1800 feet)! Either they used a shuttle which, of necessity, held just a portion of the weft and then tied on another section of weft when the first shuttle was empty, or they had a more elaborate system which could pass the entire length of weft cord through the loom. [I have not illustrated this part of the process.]
Weaving the paroches

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