Monday, August 25, 2014

Preparing the Red Cow on the Mount of Olives

The Torah requires that the preparation of the red cow [parah adumah] be carried out facing the opening of the Sanctuary. While the Tabernacle was still in use as the Jews wandered in the wilderness, the red cow would have been prepared off to the east of wherever the Tabernacle happened to be situated at the time. During the First and Second Temple eras, the procedure was carried out on the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple.

Mount Moriah and the Mount of Olives were separated by the Kidron Valley, and to allow the Kohanim to easily reach one from the other a walkway was constructed starting from the eastern gate of the Temple Mount. This walkway was supported by two levels of arches, with the columns of the upper level located over the airspaces of the lower level (Parah 3:6). This arrangement ensured that anyone standing on the walkway would be completely protected against the tumah of a grave that might be present in the ground below (see this post for more details).
The 71 members of the Great Sanhedrin line the walkway to greet the Kohen bringing the red cow to the Mount of Olives (see Parah 3:7 with Tiferes Yisrael §53).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview of the Temple Mount's Eastern Gateway

Currently I am modeling the eastern gateway of the Temple Mount and the walkway which led from the gateway to the Mount of Olives, further to the east. This gateway was also called the Shushan Gate, named for the depiction of the city of Shushan painted above it which served to remind all those entering this gate that it was the Persian Empire which had granted the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Creating a LEGO® Minifig Kohen

Transforming a standard LEGO minifigure into a Kohen fit for the sacrificial service requires dressing him in the four priestly vestments worn by the Kohanim: pants, robe, belt, and turban.

It is not necessary to model the pants since they were more like knickers and not visible beneath the robe.

The simplest way to create a Kohen robed in white is to use a white torso and legs. Although the "robe" look is lost when you reach the legs, this design offers the most flexibility in terms of posing the minifig for different parts of the sacrificial service:

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Keys of the Heichal

The Ninth of Av is a day upon which many tragedies occurred for the Jewish people, foremost among them the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The events surrounding the Temple's destruction are recorded in various historical sources and religious texts, and many of these found their way into the current liturgy of the day. I would like to look at the following incident, referenced in Kinnah 32, which occurred during the final hours of the First Temple era (recorded by the Gemara, Taanis 29a):
Many groups of young Kohanim gathered together with the keys to the Heichal [Sanctuary] in their hands. They ascended to the roof of the Heichal and called out, "Master of the World! Since we have not merited to be faithful treasurers the keys shall be transferred back to You!" They threw the keys heavenward and the form of a hand appeared and took the keys from them. The Kohanim then threw themselves from the roof into the burning remnants of the Temple below.
The Heichal had but one gateway, so if the keys mentioned here were to that gateway why does the Gemara refer to them in the plural? The Gemara also implies that each of the many groups of Kohanim was holding one or more of the keys (otherwise it could have stated simply that "many young Kohanim gathered together...") — just how many keys did the gateway have? And why do the Kohanim refer to themselves as "treasurers" [גזברין]?