Thursday, November 23, 2023

Yoma 31b – 33b: Placing the Menorah and the Shulchan

The Gemara describes the arrangement of the vessels in the Kodesh: The Shulchan stood in the north, the Menorah stood in the south, and the Mizbeyach Hazahav was centered between them and placed slightly further to the east. A more detailed explanation is given in Menachos (98b) where we learn that the arrangement was more complicated — and crowded — than our Gemara implies.

The interior of the Heychal measured 20 amos wide (north to south) and 61 amos long (east to west): 40 amos for the Kodesh, one amah for the amah traksin (a set of two curtains), and 20 amos for the Kodesh Hakodashim. The Menorah, Shulchan, and Mizbeyach Hazahav were placed in the middle third of this area as shown in the cross-section diagram.
In the Second Beis Hamikdash each of these vessels was an exact replica of those built by Moshe for the Mishkan (the originals were hidden before the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdash and have remained hidden ever since). For the First Beis Hamikdash, Shlomo Hamelech had fashioned ten copies of both the Menorah and the Shulchan that were arranged in rows of five on either side of the originals. This practice was followed in the Second Beis Hamikdash as well, and these rows of five ran east-to-west and were placed to the north and south of the originals at a distance of 2½ amos from the walls of the Kodesh. Unlike the Menorah that was centered between its two rows of copies, the Shulchan stood to the west of them “like a teacher at the head of his rows of students.” All of the vessels within the Kodesh were oriented with their length aligned with the length of the Heychal (i.e., running from east to west).

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