Monday, March 17, 2014

View of the Chamber of Parvah

The Chamber of Parvah, located to the west of the Chamber of Salt, was used to process the hides of the sacrificial animals. While I did not research the exact procedure used, some of the key steps involve stretching the hides over wooden frames, soaking them in a caustic bath to remove the hair, and then scraping them clean. Since this is a very smelly process this chamber did not open directly to the Courtyard but likely had a door to the adjoining Chamber of Rinsers which did open to the Courtyard. [I am curious, though, how (or if) this chamber was ventilated. Adding windows does not seem to be an option since that would allow the smell into the Courtyard, which is exactly what they were trying to avoid by not giving this chamber a door to the Courtyard in the first place.]

Kohanim prepare the hides within the Chamber of Parvah
On the roof of the Chamber of Parvah was a mikveh used by the Kohen Gadol for four of the five immersions required as part of the sacrificial service of Yom Kippur. Using the same principle which allowed sacrificial meat to be eaten on the roof of the Chamber of Salt, the mikveh on this roof was also imbued with Courtyard sanctity since the only way to access it was through the Courtyard (as described earlier). [How the Kohanim reached this roof will be explained in a future post on the Chamber of Rinsers.] While the roof certainly had a fence for safety around its edge (as was the case with all accessible roofs) anyone standing there would still be visible to people standing below in the Courtyard, so for the privacy of the Kohen Gadol they would hold up a linen sheet around the mikveh when he immersed.

The mikveh above the Parvah Chamber
The mikveh was connected to the same system of pipes which brought water to the mikveh above the Water Gate from the Eitam Spring. In the case of the Chamber of Parvah, though, the pipes were so cleverly hidden within the walls that, to the uninitiated, it appeared as though the water was brought to the mikveh through some type of sorcery. In fact, Parvah — the man who built this chamber — is described in the Talmud as an amgushi, which is classically understood to mean sorcerer. Of course, it is unimaginable that the Sages would have allowed sorcery (which is prohibited by the Torah) to be employed in the construction of a Temple chamber. Rather, what the Talmud means is that Parvah was an expert engineer whose designs were so ahead of his time that they gave the impression of being magical (Tiferes Yisrael).

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