Monday, March 24, 2014

View of the Chamber of Rinsers

The third chamber in the southeast corner of the Courtyard was the Chamber of Rinsers. Here the Kohanim would wash out the stomachs of sacrificial animals. Since this work, like that done in Parvah, created an unpleasant smell, it was actually carried out in an underground room beneath the main chamber. The stairwell leading down to this room was closed off by a door which helped minimize the foul odors reaching the Courtyard. It emerges that the Chamber of Rinsers was more like a vestibule with a door in each wall: in the north to the Courtyard; in the south to the underground room; in the east to the adjacent Chamber of Parvah; in the west to the ramp which led up to the mikveh on the roof of the Chamber of Parvah.
Chamber of Rinsers as seen
from the southeast
Underground room beneath the
Chamber of Rinsers

The Underground Room
From the Chamber of Rinsers a set of steps descended to a lower level where the actual work was carried out. I have provided the Kohanim with running water here since the channel of water which flowed  through the Courtyard was located just to the west of this room and it would be a simple matter to run a pipe from the channel down to the basement.

Rather than have the Kohanim bring all of the waste matter back upstairs and carry it through the Courtyard, this underground room had its own exit off of the Temple Mount (Tiferes Yisrael). I decided to place the door to this exit in the southern wall of the room, tucked underneath the stairs. From here the Kohanim would have walked down another flight of steps until they reached the open space beneath the floor level of the Temple Mount (which was 6 amos below the floor of the underground room, see below) and from here made their way off of the Temple Mount itself. [Now, if the blood-enriched water which flowed through the channel in the Courtyard was sold to farmers as fertilizer then perhaps the waste material from the Chamber of Rinsers was also sold for the same purpose. If so, the Kohanim would have brought this material to the Kidron Valley, east of the city, which is where the water from the Courtyard ended up.]

Cross-section of the southeastern
corner of the Courtyard.
There is a reason why the ceiling of this underground room was quite high — a full 10 amos from the floor. The entire Temple complex was built upon arches: starting from the bedrock of Mt. Moriah one (double) level of arches supported the floor of the Temple Mount; another level, 6 amos high, supported the floor of the Women's Courtyard; another level, 7.5 amos high, supported the floor beneath the Israelites' Courtyard. [Presumably the height of the arches beneath the main Courtyard increased to 10 amos to account for the 2.5-amah difference in elevation between the Israelites' Courtyard and main Courtyard.] It seemed intuitive to have the underground room rest upon the arches below it, just as was done for the adjacent Music Chambers which were located beneath the Israelites' Courtyard.

After preparing the cross-section shown here I noticed something else: since the Chamber of Parvah opened exclusively to the Chamber of Rinsers, and the Chamber of Rinsers opened to the Kohanim's Courtyard, there are 2.5 amos of "forgotten" space between the floor of the Chamber of Parvah and the roof of the Music Chambers. This small gap may have figured prominently in a historical event that took place in the Temple. According to one version of the story, Parvah was the name of a sorcerer who wanted to observe the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. His plan was to tunnel into the Temple, but as he was doing so he was discovered beneath the Chamber of Parvah and stopped. The chamber was then named after him to commemorate the event. Perhaps he knew of this bit of empty space and tried to take advantage of it. How he got to this point, and why he was here, of all places, would make another interesting study.

The Ramp
From within the Chamber of Rinsers a ramp led up to the mikveh on the roof of the adjacent Chamber of Parvah. The ramp was enclosed and had its own door so that the Kohen Gadol would not be bothered by the smell as he ascended to the mikveh. The ramp did not start directly in the Courtyard since they wanted to grant some measure of privacy to the Kohen Gadol as he went to immerse, and it did not start in the Chamber of Parvah itself because of the smell. Rather than take away any more space than necessary from these small chambers I opted to have the ramp pass through the southern Courtyard wall.
Ramp leading to the roof of the Chamber of Parvah

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