Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Standing Room in the Courtyard on Erev Pesach

How many people could fit into the Courtyard at one time to bring their Pesach offering?

The Courtyard measured 187 by 135 amos which is 25,245 square amos.

Subtract from this all the parts of the structure that took up some of this space:
The Altar measured 32x32 = 1024 square amos
The Ramp was 30x16 = 480 square amos
The eight dwarf columns were approx. 2x2 each = 32 square amos
The Antechamber was 100x22 = 2200 square amos
The back of the Sanctuary Building was 70x78 = 5460 square amos
The Kiyor was 1.5x1.5 = 2.25 square amos
The Muchni was approx. 1x3 = 3 square amos
Chamber of Pinchas was 12x5= 70 square amos
Chamber of Chavitin was12x5 = 70 square amos
Chambers of Salt/Parvah/Rinsers were approx. 18x7 = 126 square amos
Chambers of Hewn Stone/Well/Parhedrin was approx. 22x23 = 506 square amos
Hall of the Fire was approx. 30x13 = 390 square amos
Chamber of Paroches was approx. 13x8 = 104 square amos
Chamber of Shekalim was approx. 5x8 = 40 square amos
Approx. 25 columns (at approx. 2x2 each) supporting the balconies on the inside of the walls = 100 square amos

All of these together take up 10,607 square amos. Therefore, the amount of space available for people to stand is 14,638 square amos.

A person is one amah wide (Succah 8a) and approximately half an amah thick, or 0.5 square amos. This would mean that 29,276 people could fit into the Courtyard at one time.

Some of these people are the Kohanim doing the sacrificial service. When the Mishnah wishes to use a large number it often picks 300, so let's assume that about 300 Kohanim could service the entire Courtyard, leaving room for about 29,000 people to stand.

Some of the space was also taken up by the offerings. Let us assume that a sheep takes up as much room as a person, which means that the total number of people/offerings that could fit into the Courtyard at one time is 14,500.

The Pesach offering was brought in three shifts. Accordingly, a maximum of 43,500 offerings could have been brought.

By way of comparison, the Gemara (Pesachim 64b) says that one year they counted the number of Pesach offerings brought and it came to 1.2 million. Now, the Gemara does comment that this was a particularly populous year, but even if this were to be ten times the number of a standard year, that is still 120,000 offerings.

Even if my approximation of the standing room in the Courtyard is completely wrong, and that every square amah of space inside the Courtyard walls could somehow be used, that only gets you 25,245 people/offerings at a time, or 75,735 total offerings after all three shifts.

Apparently, the miracle of עומדים צפופים ומשתחווים רווחים applied at other times, too.


  1. I just discovered your blog today, it's marvelous.
    It seems your analysis of standing space refers to *stock*, while your question of korbanot during erev Pesach refers to *flow*. The maximum quantity of korbanot could have depended on how many kohanim were at task at one time and how fast they worked. All the while, if people came in and left quickly after their korban was performed, the courtyard may have been not full at all at any given time.
    Now your analysis assumes that they would let everyone inside before each shift and not let anyone in during the shift. It is reasonable to think this was not the case, rather people flowed in and out during each shift, and the quantity of korbanot performed depended only on the speed of the avoda and quantity of Kohanim working at any given time.

    Yasher koach!

  2. I'm glad you are finding the blog interesting. As to your question, I also think that it would have been reasonable to let people flow through the azarah in order to get more Pesachim slaughtered, especially considering how relatively few animals could have been fit into the azarah as it is. However, the Mishnah (Pesachim 5:5) seems to indicate that this was not the case, since it says that after each group entered and the azarah was filled to capacity, the gates of the azarah would be locked [preventing anyone from leaving or entering].


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