Monday, March 10, 2014

Another View of the Salt Chamber

In the next series of posts I will be focusing on the three chambers located in the southeastern corner of the Courtyard: the Chamber of Salt, the Chamber of Parvah, and the Chamber of Rinsers.

Unlike some of the Courtyard's other chambers, these were located entirely within the Courtyard itself and not within its walls. The first of these was the Chamber of Salt which held a large supply of salt used for different purposes, such as tanning hides in the adjacent Chamber of Parvah, applying to the sacrificial parts before they were placed upon the Altar, and sprinkling on the Altar's ramp to absorb the oils and blood which spilled there and thereby prevent the Kohanim from slipping.
The Salt Chamber as seen from the southeast. To its west is the Chamber of Parvah and the door in the northern wall leads to the Israelites' Courtyard.

[For another view of the interior of the Chamber of Salt, see this earlier post.]

In the picture I show the chamber's western wall as being taller than the other walls. The reason for this will become clearer when I discuss the Chamber of Parvah, but the overall motivating factor for this difference in height comes from the implication of the Mishnah when it describes these chambers. Middos 5:3 states that there were six chambers in the Courtyard, three in the north and another three (those mentioned at the beginning of this post) in the south. When discussing the three in the north (in Middos 5:4) it states that the roof over these chambers was the same height, for even though they were built at different elevations (i.e., some were in the Israelites' Courtyard and some were in the Kohanim's Courtyard which was 2.5 amos higher) they shared a common roof. Since the Mishnah tells us this fact for the northern chambers, the implication is that the southern chambers did not share a common roof. For this reason I have built the Salt Chamber lower than the adjoining Parvah Chamber.

There is an opinion which says that on the roof of this chamber was a terrace where the Kohanim could eat sacrificial meat (Tavnis Heichal). Although, as a general rule, all rooftops and second stories in the Temple were not imbued with the sanctity of the Courtyard and thus one would not be allowed to eat sacrificial meat there, this does not hold true when the only access to the roof or second story is through the Courtyard. Thus, in the case of this terrace, since its stairs [presumably] led down into the Chamber of Salt which, in turn, opened to the Courtyard, this granted the roof a level of sanctity equivalent to that of the Courtyard. Now, it is generally forbidden for anyone — Kohanim included — to sit down in the Courtyard, but since the act of eating sacrificial meat is considered part of the service of the offering, and it is necessary and proper to sit down while eating, the Kohanim were permitted to sit down while consuming the sacrificial meat. To ease congestion within the Salt Chamber I placed the stairs leading to the roof within the Courtyard's southern wall rather than inside the chamber itself.

Stairs within the Courtyard wall
leading from the Salt Chamber up to its roof.

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