SUMMARY A new sun study of the Courtyard reveals Tiferes Yisrael's opinion on the height of the Chambers of the Knives.
Alert reader U. Weinstein sent in the following comment to an earlier post:
It seems that you did not follow the assumption of the Ezras Kohanim that the 'beis hachalifos' was only as tall as the 'ta'im' and not 100 Amos tall as the Ulam.Until reading this comment I had not given the matter any thought since, to the best of my knowledge, Tiferes Yisrael in Middos (upon whom my Temple model is based) does not mention anything about the height of the Chambers of the Knives [Beis Hachalifos]. Now, of course, I was curious whether his opinion on the matter could be deduced somehow. It turns out that it can, and one important part of the answer requires looking not at the shape of the building itself, but at its shadow.
First, some facts. The Mishnah (Middos 4:6-7) states that the Sanctuary Building measured 100 amos in width, length, and height. This is not to say that it formed a cube of 100 amos to a side, since the Mishnah itself goes on to clarify that regarding the width (north to south), only the front of the building (i.e., the Antechamber) was 100 amos wide - the majority of the building was only 70 amos wide. Regarding the height, we know that the small rooms [tauim] which ran around the northern, western, and southern sides of the building were certainly not 100 amos high since the Mishnah explains that a ladder was needed to ascend from the roofs of these rooms up to the roof of the building itself. It emerges that the measurement of 100 amos for the Sanctuary Building represents only a maximum in each direction.
In the sefer Ezras Kohanim the author describes the Chambers of the Knives as being only as tall as the tauim. According to this view the eastern face of the Antechamber was only 100 amos wide at the bottom, up to a height of approximately 20-30 amos (the height of the tauim is not stated explicitly), at which point it indented inward on either side. The amount of indentation on either side can either be 15 amos or as much as 36 amos, depending on where one draws the line between the Antechamber and the Chambers of the Knives.
|Three possibilities for the width of the Antechamber above the
Chambers of the Knives (l to r): 100 amos, 70 amos, or 28 amos.
Tiferes Yisrael to Middos 4:7 does not state anything regarding this matter. This alone might be the single most convincing argument that he follows the "default" view that the face of the Antechamber was 100x100 amos since, in general, his commentary does not rely on the old maxim "it goes without saying," for he is prone to delving into great detail rather than leave anything unmentioned.
In the key to his diagram of the Temple #54 he states that the eastern Antechamber wall measured 100 amos wide from north to south and was as tall as the Sanctuary [i.e., 100 amos]. Taken simply, this certainly sounds like the wall was 100 amos tall along its entire width.
In #59, in defining the Chambers of the Knives, he describes them as spaces within the interior of the Antechamber, and he goes on to provide their length and width. He does not state their height because, as he said earlier, they are simply spaces within the Antechamber whose height was 100 amos.
In trying to find more evidence one way or the other I had the idea to revisit my sun study of the Temple walls (and also here). In those posts I discussed how the morning and afternoon Tamid offerings were slaughtered in specific rings (of the 24 rings located north of the Altar) so as to avoid the shadows cast by the Courtyard walls, the Altar, and the Sanctuary Building. The Mishnah (Tamid 4:1) states that the morning Tamid was slaughtered near the northwest corner [of the Altar] in the second ring (A5 in the diagram below), while the afternoon Tamid was slaughtered near the northeast corner [of the Altar] in the second ring (D5).
In the afternoon, the Tamid must be slaughtered in one of the eastern-most rings (column D), since, as he writes, "we must distance the place of slaughter as much as possible from the shadow of the Sanctuary Building located to the west of the rings." As in the morning, ring D6 could not be used since the shadow of the Altar would still be shading it.
In the morning there is no difference, since the only consideration is the shadow of the eastern Courtyard wall. As can be seen below, after the sun clears the wall and casts it light onto the rings of column A, it is ring A5 which is closest to the Altar and still in direct sunlight.
|Morning: the sun has just passed over the eastern Courtyard wall.
|Afternoon: ring D5 is the last to remain in direct sunlight
when the Antechamber walls are not indented inward.
|Afternoon: ring D4 is the last to remain in direct sunlight
when the Antechamber walls are indented inward.