Thursday, September 21, 2023

Yoma 9a – 11a: The Nikanor Gate

The Nikanor Gate was one of seven major gates in the walls surrounding the Azarah. All of these major gates measured ten amos wide and twenty amos tall and had double doors. When the Jews returned from exile to build the Second Beis Hamikdash they were poor and could not afford to spend lavishly on the structure. At some later point when their financial situation had improved they were able to plate all of the doors of the Beis Hamikdash gates with gold. The only exception was the Nikanor Gate whose doors of Corinthian bronze were left untouched, either to serve as a reminder of the great miracles which occurred to these doors (as we will see on 38a) or because their metal shined like gold and thus did not need to be replaced.

In the case of the Har Habayis gates, the area beneath the lintels was not elevated to the same level of sanctity as that of Har Habayis itself. When it came to the gates of the Azarah, though, the Sages imbued the area beneath the lintels with the same sanctity as that of the Azarah. As a result, anyone standing beneath the lintels of these gates was considered as if he were standing in the Azarah. The doors of the gates were therefore hung at the outer edge of the 5-amah-thick Azarah walls to keep people from inadvertently stepping into this sanctified area when the gates were closed. The only exception to this rule was the Nikanor Gate whose lintel was left unsanctified for the sole purpose of allowing a metzora to stand there during his purification process.

Curtains were hung in the gateways to shield the inside of the Azarah from view while the doors of the gates were open. The curtains were woven of the finest linen and embroidered with threads of techeiles, argaman, and tolaas shani, and were also set with precious stones in designs of roses and other flowers.

Printable version of this post for others in your shul or chaburah.

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