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Temple

This is an article I wrote several years ago that explain the steps I take in researching any item within the Temple. This same process can be used for any topic, whether related to the Temple or not.

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In the more than 1900 years since its destruction the trail of the Temple has dimmed for many reasons. There are so many obstacles to over come that it might seem impossible. There is neither a clear archaeological foot print to pinpoint the location of the buildings nor a complete Biblical or Rabbinical record that ascertains there position, size or even appearance. An analysis of the problem is the first step toward a solution.

 

The First Temple was built by Shlomo and added to over the years by the later kings until the layout of the buildings and courtyards that had been received by David was completed. Then in 586 B.C.E. the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Har haBayit (the Temple Mount) was burned and left as a pile of rubble. Har haBayit is described as a 500 amot (cubit) square that in the First Temple period included not only the Temple and its courtyards with all of its side chambers but also the king’s palace, residential gardens and courtyards. When the men from the golah (dispersion) rebuilt the Temple they first had to clear this rubble and build in many cases from the ground up. The area that had been the palace of the king was never reconstructed as before but became an area for new structures or an open outer courtyard used for access to the inner courtyards. In the building of the Second Temple by Zerubbabel this entire area of the palace was erased from the Mount. The Hasmoneans and Herod repeated this practice of tearing down the earlier structures in order to build new buildings. In many instances the names of reconstructed buildings changed adding confusion to the history of a particular structure. With each reconstruction and expansion the record became more and more diminished. The Roman destruction in 70 C.E. was unprecedented in the sheer amount and scope of its upheaval, further adding to the problem.

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One of the commentaries that I find very helpful in research is the Keil Delitzsch. They present another aspect to the word tachnit in relationship to the word Tzurah. I thought this was worthy to put into the mix.

 

To lead Israel to this goal, Ezekiel is to show them the house (i.e., the temple). In this way are the further words of God in vv. 10-12 attached to what goes before. ‏הַגִּיד  אֶת־הַבַּיִת‎, show or make known the house, is equivalent to proclaim to the people the revelation concerning the new temple. In this were the Israelites to discern the magnitude of the grace of God, that they might blush at their evil deeds, and measure the well-measured building (‏תָּכְנִית‎, as in Ezekiel 28:12), i.e., carefully consider and ponder what the Lord had bestowed upon His people through this sanctuary, so that they might suffer themselves to be brought to repentance by means of its glory. And if they felt shame and repentance on account of their transgressions, Ezekiel was to show them the shape and arrangement of the sanctuary, with all its forms and ordinances, an write them out before their eyes, that they might have the picture of it impressed upon their minds, and keep the statutes thereof. In v. 11 the words are crowded together, to indicate that all the several parts and arrangements of the new temple are significant and worthy of being pondered and laid to heart. ‏צוּרָה‎ is the shape of the temple generally, its external form; ‏תְּכוּנָה‎, the internal arrangement as a whole. Both of these are noticed specifically by the allusion to the goings out and in, as well as to the forms (‏צוּרֹות‎) of the separate parts, and their statutes and laws. ‏חֻקֹּות‎ are the precepts concerning the things to be observed by Israel when appearing before the Lord in the temple, the regulations for divine worship. ‏תֹּורֹות‎, the instructions contained in these statutes for sanctification of life. The second ‏וְכָל־צוּרֹתָו‎ is omitted in the lxx and some of the Hebrew Codd., and has therefore been expunged as a gloss by Dathe, Hitzig, and other critics; but it is undoubtedly genuine, and in conformity with the intentional crowding together of words.—The admonition to keep and to observe everything carefully is closed in v. 12 with a statement of the fundamental law of the temple; that upon the lofty mountain the whole of its domain round about is to be most holy. ‏עַֹל־ראשׁ  הָהָר‎ does not belong to ‏הַבַּיִת‎ in the sense of the house which is to be built upon the top of the mountain, but to the contents of the thorâh of this house. It is to stand upon the top of the mountain, and to be most holy in all its domain. ‏רֹאשׁ  הָהָר‎ is to be understood in accordance with Ezekiel 40:2; and ‏גְּבֻלֹו‎ points back to ‏הַבַּיִת‎. Both by its situation upon a very high mountain, and also by the fact that not merely the inner sanctuary, and not merely the whole of the temple house, but also the whole of its surroundings (all its courts), are to be most holy, the new sanctuary is to be distinguished from the earlier one. What has been already stated—namely, that the temple shall not be profaned any more—is compressed into this clause; and by the repetition of the words, “this is the law of the house,”‘ the first section of this vision, viz., the description of the temple, is rounded off; whilst the command given to the prophet in vv. 10 and 11, to make known all the statutes and laws of this temple to the house of Israel, forms at the same time the transition to the section which follows.

 

—Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

In the last post we were looking at Ezekiel 43 and the command to measure/know the Temple. Below are some of the comments made by different scholars through the ages. Note that it was believed that a model of the Temple was to be built preceding the actual re-building of the Temple. That whoever would see this model would see the Coming of the Mashiach and the resurrection of the righteous. Let them measure its plan Let them make measurements through you, for you will show the measurements of the building plan. – [Addendum to Rashi] They will measure the design of the form of the House which you will show them, and they will understand it is a sign that they will yet rebuild the Temple in the future when the Redeemer comes and the dead are resurrected. They will understand it as a sign that those who see this form will be alive when the Temple is rebuilt in the future, and this is proof of the resurrection of the dead. – [Redak] The Book of Ezekiel,  Volume Two, A New Translation of the Text, Rashi and a Commentary Digest., Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, The Judaica Press, New York, 1991, Pg. 381.    וּמָדְד֖וּ אֶת־תָּכְנִֽית    – And measure the design. From Redak it seems they were to make a three-dimensional model to symbolize that eventually they would build the actual Temple. Tosafos Yom Tov in his Introduction to Tzuras HaBayis also maintains that the people were expected to make a model of the Temple. He deduces this from the seemingly redundant word  צֽוּרֹתָ֡ו  , literally its forms, in verse 11. Yechezkel. The Book of Ezekiel / A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized From Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources, Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Moshe Eisermann, Mesorah Publications, ltd., Brooklyn, New York, 2003. Pgs. 672-673. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, make known unto them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof, and write it in their sight; that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. (Eze 43:11 JPS) Look at how this was translated in the Septuagint.

And they shall bear their punishment for all the things that they have done: and thou shalt describe the house, and its entrances, and the plan thereof, and all its ordinances, and thou shalt make known to them all the regulations of it, and describe them before them: and they shall keep all my commandments, and all my ordinances, and do them. (Eze 43:11 LXE).

And another translation of the Tanach.

When they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the plan of the Temple and its layout, its exits and entrances — its entire plan, and all the laws and instructions pertaining to its entire plan. Write it down before their eyes, that they may faithfully follow its entire plan and all its laws. (Eze 43:11 TNK)

The Targum on this passage gives an interesting addition:

And if they humble themselves for all they have done when they see it, then make known to them and write down before their eyes, the form of the Temple and its design, and its exits and entrances, and its entire form, all of its ordinances, and its entire framework, and everything to which it is entitled; and write it down before their eyes, that they may observe all of its framework and all of its regulations, and perform them. Targum on Ezekiel 43.11.

The Targum of Ezekiel, Translated with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus and Notes, Samson H. Levy; The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1987. Pg. 117.

The addition to what we see in the Tanach and Septuagint is the phrase ‘and everything to which it is entitled.’

The bottom line of this passage through all the translations and commentaries is that we are to know basically everything about the Temple and anything that would even remotely relate to it. This would be the floorplan and layout of all of its buildings, gates, chambers, courtyards, furniture, vessels, etc. We should know the daily services, festival services, special services (such as the Parah Adumah- Red Heifer, Sotah -a woman accused of adultery, metzora – someone healed of tzaraat – Biblical leprosy, etc.). We must know all the laws that must be performed before the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting), the korbanot – offerings, music and how it was performed, administration, court proceedings, and many more  items.

So where do we begin?

Just a few thoughts on a beginning.

1. To learn the history and progression of the Temple – From the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the Wilderness, The Mishkan across the Jordan, The First Temple, The Second Temple in its three stages (Ezra/ Zerubbabel, Hasmonean, Herodian) and the Coming Ezekiel Temple.

2. To learn the layout of each of these stages – knowing its courtyards, buildings, gates and entrances. Along with this you must factor in was this layout functional and within the guidelines of halachah.

I would not attempt to understand ceremonies until these two perquisites have somewhat been mastered. Understand that there is a difference in studying how a ceremony was performed and interpreting the meaning of ceremonies. In order to understand how the Temple functioned and to try a layout the ceremonies must be put into the equation. The danger is that everyone wants to interpret everything about the Temple before they know what they are talking about.

There is a commandment in the book of Ezekiel to know the Temple inside and out. Regrettably, this has not been realized within Judaism, the non-Jewish Torah world or Christianity. In fact, the truth is that it is not on most peoples important to know list. Another major problem is that much of the information that most people have of the Temple is in many ways inaccurate. Little by little I would like to address this problem. The commandment to know the Temple is below.

And I heard one speaking unto me out of the house (Temple Building); and a man stood by me. And He said unto me: ‘Son of man, this is the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever; (Eze 43:6-7 JPS)

Thou, son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure accurately. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, make known unto them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof, and write it in their sight; that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. This is the law of the house:(Eze 43:10-12 JPS).

This passage is so important I am including commentary on its content.

Ezekiel 40.7 – this is the place of My throne …: Specifically the Kodesh haKodashim (Holy of Holies) was understood to be the literal throne of Hashem on earth. This is supported by Jeremiah 17.12 Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, thou place of our sanctuary (Mikdashnu – Our Sanctuary or Temple). (Jer 17:12 JPS). Another reference is of critical importance in understanding the impact of the Temple upon the worshippers coming to and praying towards the Temple. In Bereishit 2 we are told: And the L-RD G-d planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Gen 2:8 JPS). the question to ask is “eastward from where? The answer is from the Seat of Hashem. This places the Inner Courtyard of the Temple in a new and elevated perspective. If the Kodesh haKodashim was the Throne of Hashem then the Temple building and the surrounding courtyard, its layout and ceremonies are thought to be a return to Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) which is the perfect environment created for man and the earth.

 the place of the soles of My feet: this expression is understood to be where Hashem states that the Temple and its courtyards are literally his possession. Look at the passage from Devarim (Deuteronomy) where this same expression is used in regards to Israel.  Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the hinder sea shall be your border. (Deu 11:24 JPS).

It is in this light that the Temple is several times referred to as the Birah which can be translated as  Palace or Fortress.

Seven days before the burning of the cow, the kohen who is to burn the cow is taken away from his home to a chamber in the birah —north-east — which was called House of Stone. They sprinkle upon him, on each of these seven days, from all the purification waters that are there. R. Yose says, They sprinkle upon him only on the third and seventh. R. Hanina, superintendent of the kohanim, says, Upon the kohen who burns the cow — they sprinkle on each of the seven days; but upon the one of Yom Kippur — they sprinkle only on the third and seventh days. (Kehati translation of Mishnah Parah 3.1)

If the whole or the greater part of it became unclean it must be burned before the birah with wood of the woodpile. If the smaller part of it became unclean, and the notar— they must burn it in their courtyards or on their rooftops, with their own wood. The misers burn it before the birah, in order to derive benefit from the wood of the woodpile. (Kehati translation of Mishnah Pesachim 7.8)

At three sites, the kohanim stand guard in the Temple: In Bet Avtinas, in Bet Hanitzotz, and in Bet Hamoked. Bet Avtinas and Bet Hanitzotz were balconies, and the youngsters would stand guard there. Bet Hamoked was a dome, and it was a large building, surrounded by stone slabs, and the elders of the bet av would sleep there, and the keys of the azarah were in their hands. And the young kohanim, each one with his cushion on the ground — they would not sleep in the holy garments, but rather would take off, fold up, and place them under their heads, and cover themselves with their own covering. If one of them had a seminal emission, he would go out and walk through the passage that goes under the Birah, and the candles would be burning from this side and from that side, until he would reach the place of immersion. And there was a fire there, and a place with a chair of dignity, and this was its dignity: If he found it locked, he would know that there was a person there; open, he would know that there was no person there. He went down and immersed, came up and dried off, and he warmed himself near the fire. He came and sat near his brothers, the kohanim, until the gates were opened. He would go out and walk away. (Kehati translation of Mishnah Tamid 1.1).

There was a place there, an amah by an amah, and a slab of marble, and a ring was fixed to it, and a chain, on which were hanging the keys. When the time for locking arrived, he lifted up the slab by the ring, and took the keys from the chain. The kohen locked up from inside, and a Levite slept outside. When he finished locking up, he returned the keys to the chain, and the slab to its place. He placed his garment on it. He went to sleep. If one of them had a seminal emission, he would depart and walk through the passage that went under the birah, and the candles would burn on this side and on that side, until he reached the place of immersion. R. Eliezed b. Yaakov says: Through the passage that went under the Cheil, he departed, walking through Tadi. (Kehati translation of Mishnah Middot 1.9). I will dwell (eshkan) in the midst of the children of Israel for ever: The Mikdash is always linked to this concept of the Dwelling Place on earth of Hashem among the children of Israel. This is seen in the initial command to build the Mishkan (derived from the same word Sh’kan -to dwell, the word shekinah -dwelling presences comes from the same root).

And let them make Me a sanctuary (Mikdash), that I may dwell (shkanti) among them. According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle (Mishkan), and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Exo 25:8-9 JPS).

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them – it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary (Mikdashi) in the midst of them for ever. My dwelling-place (mishkani) ‘also shall be over them; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people. (Eze 37:26-27 JPS).

Ezekiel 43.10 –  show the house: Translated as show the word Haggaid means to tell, to declare.

 that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: this is a remarkable phrase as it reveals that knowledge of the Temple would turn an individual or a group from its sins. This is an indication that the Temple is more than a collection of buildings.

 let them measure accurately:  U’maddu et tachnitוּמָדְד֖וּ אֶת־תָּכְנִֽית ׃

This is a commandment to measure the Temple. It will be extended to the ENTIRE House of Israel. An interesting aspect is that it is implied that it is a continuing phrase as the teshuvah (repentance) generated from the study of the Temple makes the way for further study. The tractate Middot (Measurements) comes from this phrase.

 Ezekiel 43.11 – make known unto them the form: tzurat (form)

the fashion thereof: techunato (i.e. the arrangement of the house) comes from the word (Tachnit). This word is a very powerful word in Hebrew. It is best understood in English by the word Blueprint. A Blueprint is an exact layout, where measurements are critical and specifications are the order. The word is synonymous  with Tavnit as seen in the following verses.

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, the pattern (tavnit) of the tabernacle, and the pattern (tavnit) of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Exo 25:8-9 JPS).

Tavnit also would best be translated into English as a Blueprint. Notice the stipulation that the tavnit or the blueprint may not be altered. This is explicit in the command “even so shall ye make it”.

Another passage:

Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern (tavnit) of the porch (ulam) of the temple, and of the houses thereof (Temple Building), and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper rooms thereof, and of the inner chambers thereof, and of the place of the ark-cover (Holy of Holies); and the pattern (tavnit) of all that he had by the spirit, for the courts of the house of the L-RD (there are three primary courts), and for all the chambers round about (Each court has buildings attached, these will be most important in the buildings attached to the Inner Courtyard/Azarah), for the treasuries of the house of God, and for the treasuries of the hallowed things; also for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and for all the work of the service of the house of the L-RD, and for all the vessels of service in the house of the L-RD:

of gold by weight for the vessels of gold, for all vessels of every kind of service; of silver for all the vessels of silver by weight, for all vessels of every kind of service; by weight also for the candlesticks of gold, and for the lamps thereof, of gold, by weight for every candlestick and for the lamps thereof; and for the candlesticks of silver, silver by weight for every candlestick and for the lamps thereof, according to the use of every candlestick; and the gold by weight for the tables of showbread, for every table; and silver for the tables of silver; and the flesh-hooks, and the basins, and the jars, of pure gold; and for the golden bowls by weight for every bowl; and for the silver bowls by weight for every bowl; and for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern (tavnit) of the chariot, even the cherubim, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the L-RD.

All this do I give thee in writing, as the L-RD hath made me wise by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern (tavnit).’ (1Ch 28:11-19 JPS)

I separated the verses in this passage into three groupings as I wanted to emphasize that Hashem gave by His Spirit the Tavnit (blueprint) the entire design of the Temple, all buildings, walls, etc., the division of the kohanim (Priests) and Leviim (Levites), their rotation, the totality of the services (avodah) of the Temple. He gave specific weight for the vessels and furniture, materials that were to be used. All of this Hashem gave to David by the Spirit in writing.

What we learn from this is that the Temple and all associated with it came from Hashem. This could not be altered.

In part two of this article we will learn the specifics of what we are supposed to know.

In our last posts we learned that the traditional location (in both Christianity and Judaism) for the Kior will not work for two reasons.

1. No one, not even the Kohan Gadol (High Priest was allowed into this area until he had already washed his hands and feet at the Kior. Therefore it had to be some where other than here. It must be between the Ulam (Porch of the Temple building) and the Mizbeiach (Altar). The Mishnah (Middot) gave this area as 22 amot (cubits).

2. The requirement to empty the water out each evening because the water became impure in the vessel overnight. A thought over the ages was that a machine (mukni) built by Ben Katin allowed them to lower the Kior into a cistern next to it. There was no cistern here or anywhere beneath the Azarah proper. It would have been impossible due to the weight of the Kior full of water as well as porticoes and buildings between this location and the nearest cistern.

In yesterday’s post we had a hint that the Kior was located in a building (see the reference from Tamid in yesterday’s post.

Today we are going to cover several important topics.

1. To establish briefly that the Lishkat haGazit (Chamber of Hewn Stone where the Sanhedrin Gedolah – Great Sanhedrin sat), the Lishkat haEitz (Chamber of the Wood, also known as the Lishkat Palhedrin and Lishkat Parhedin -Politicians Chamber- a derogatory term for the High Priest as the position was bought in the last 80 years of the Temple – this was the High Priest’s Chamber) and the Lishkat Golah or Gulah (Chamber of the Exiles or Chamber of the Bowl) was on the South side of the Azarah rather than the North side as many commentaries now say.

2. To define better the function of the Lishkat Golah/Gulah.

The Mishnah was completed around the year 200 ce by Yehudah haNasi (Judah the Prince) the Nasi (President of the Sanhedin). It was begun around the beginning of the CE as different rabbi began to copy down different Halachot (How to observe the commandmets). This eventually had led to 2 major collections. The concise, known as the Mishnah and the amplified, known as the Tosefta. These were divided into six major groupings. Seder Zeraim -Seeds – that dealt with the laws of Agriculture. Seder Moed – Appointed Times – that dealt with the Festivals and their observance, Seder Nashim (Women) that dealt with the commandments concerning women. Seder Nezekin – Damages – that dealt with civil laws and court proceedings. Seder Kodashim – (Holy Things) that dealt with commandments concerning the Temple. Seder Taharot – Impurities – that dealt with Clean and Unclean and the commandments concerning these. The Mishnah especially included the final decisions of the Sanhedrin and gave the Halachah. Of the two documents, the Mishnah carries more weight. The Tosefta (Additions) is very valuable and fills in some of the details not found in the Mishnah. The Talmud is made up of the Mishnah plus a commentary on the mishnayot one by one. Not all tractates of the Mishnah are covered. The Talmud Bavli is larger and more authoritative than the Talmud Yerushalmi, but again, there is much that is inn the Yerushalmi that is not found anywhere else.

In practice the Mishnah is supposed to be more authoritative  than the Talmud due to its age and that it is the foundation for the Talmud but in practice that is not the case.

This is very important in understanding how these three chambers were thought to be on the north wall of the Azarah. The Mishnah states.

There were six chambers in the azarah — three in the north and three in the south. Those in the north were Lishkat Hamelach, Lishkat Haparvah, Lishkat Hamedichim. Lishkat Hamelach where they would deposit salt for the sacrifice. Lishkat Haparvah — where they would salt the hides of the consecrated animals, and on its roof there was a place of immersion for the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur. Lishkat Hamedichin — where they would wash the innards of the consecrated animals, and from there a winding passage rose to the roof of Bet Haparvah. (Middot 5.3)

Those in the south were Lishkat Ha’etz, Lishkat Hagolah, Lishkat Hagazit. Lishkat Ha’etz — R. Eliezer b. Yaakov said: I have forgotten what it served. Abba Shaul says: It was the chamber of the kohen gadol, and it was behind both of them, and the roof of the three of them was even. Lishkat Hagolah — where there was a fixed well with a wheel placed over it, from where they would supply water to the entire azarah. Lishkat Hagazit — where Israel’s Great Sanhedrin sat, and judged the kohanim. A kohen in whom a flaw was found would don black and wrap himself in black, and depart and walk away. And one in whom no flaw was found would don white and wrap himself in white, and enter to serve with his brothers the kohanim. And they would make a feast, that no flaw was found in the seed of Aaron the kohen, and this is what they would say: Blessed be God, blessed be He, that no flaw was found in the seed of Aaron, and blessed be He, who chose Aaron and his Sons to stand and minister before God, in the building of the holiest of holies. (Middot 5.4)

In the Talmud Bavli, Yoma 19a, there is a gemara commenting about the activities of the Kohan Gadaol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur. It reads:

. . . . And it was further taught: The high priest (Kohen Gadol) immersed himself five times and performed ten sanctifications on that day, all of them on holy ground on the roof of the Parwah house (Beit haParvah), with the exception of this one, which was on profane ground, on top of the Gate (Shaar haMayim – Water Gate) which latter was beside his own cell. . . . But it could be proven that the Counsellors’ Cell (Lishkat Palhedrin/Parhedrin) was to the south. How? He would get up, relieve nature, immerse himself, turn northward to learn his hafinah practice, enter the Sanctuary (Azarah) and officiate all day at the service; towards evening he would be sprinkled, return southward, immerse himself and rest. . (Talmud Bavli Yoma 19a).

Note that the Gemara agrees with Middot 5.4 from the Mishnah here. This is very important. If you realize this it will settle a very major controversy.

Let me paraphrase:

The KohanGadol (High Priest) had to immerse in a mikvah 5 times during the Avodah (Service) of Yom Kippur in the Temple. 4 times are on the roof of the Beit haParvah (on the north wall according to Middot 5.3) in the Sanctified end of the building (the part nearest to the Azarah). One time he will immerse on the roof of the Shaar haMayim (Water Gate) in the unsanctified section of the building (nearest to the Cheil). The Shaar haMayim is next to the Kohan Gadol’s chamber which has three names: Lishkat Palhedrin also called Parhedrin in the Tosefta and the Lishkat haEitz (Chamber of the Wood).

We can prove that the Shaar haMayim was on the southern wall of the Azarah at the southeastern corner.

There were chambers under ezrat yisrael which opened to ezrat nashim, where the Levites would deposit lutes and lyres and cymbals, and all musical instruments. Ezrat yisrael was 135 amot long by eleven wide, and similarly, ezrat kohanim was 135 long by eleven wide, and the ends of beams separated ezrat yisrael from ezrat kohanim. R. Eliezer b. Yaakov says: There was a step, and it was an amah tall, and the dukhan was placed on it, and on it three steps of half an amah each. Thus ezrat kohanim was higher than ezrat yisrael by two amot and a half. The entire azarah was 187 long by 135 wide. And there were thirteen prostrations there. Abba Yose ben Hanan says: Corresponding to thirteen gates. The southern gates nearest the west: Shaar Ha’elyon, Shaar Hadelek, Shaar Habekhorot, Shaar Hamayim. And why was it named “Shaar Hamayim”? Because they would bring in through it a pitcher of water for libation on the festival. R. Eliezer b. Yaakov says: In it, the water trickles, and is destined to emerge from under the threshold of the house. Opposite them in the north nearest the west: Shaar Yekhonia, Shaar Hakorban, Shaar Hanashim, Shaar Hashir. And why was it named “Shaar Yekhonia”? Because through it Yekhonia went into exile. In the east: Shaar Nikanor, which had two wickets, one to its right and one to its left. There were two in the west which had no name. (Middot 2.6)

There were seven gates in the azarah: three in the north, and three in the south, and one in the east. Those in the south: Shaar Hadelek; second to it, Shaar Habekhorot; third to it, Shaar Hamayim. That in the east: Shaar Nikanor. And it had two chambers, one on its right and one on its left. One was the Chamber of Pinchas the Outfitter, and one was the Chamber of the Chavitin Makers. (Middot 1.4)

The controversy on these buildings comes from another passage from Yoma 19a:

But if you were to say that the Counsellors’ Cell (Lishkat Palhedrin/Parhedrin) is to the north, he would then get up, relieve nature, turn to the south, immerse himself and learn the hafinah (Incense Service), enter the Sanctuary, perform the service all day, be sprinkled towards evening, return to the south and immerse himself, and then he would have to turn and go to the north to rest. Would we trouble him so much? Why should we not put him to much trouble so that if he be a Sadducee, he will give up; or in order that he become not too overbearing; for if you do not say so, let us place the two [cells] next to each other; or, let one be enough for him. . . . . (Talmud Bavli Yoma 19a)

When reading this in its context you recognize this along the lines of a “wouldn’t it serve the High Priest who was a Sadducee if it were on the north so that he would have to walk further.”

The problem came in when for some unknown reason the Rambam put in Mishneh Torah Hilchot Beit haBechirah that these structures were on the north. The problem is easily resolved with the Rambam by showing that he stated in other texts that the Lishkat Palhedrin/Parhedrin, Lishkat haEitz were definitely on the south next to the Shaar haMayim (Water Gate). Let me mention that I have the highest respect for the Rambam and believe he was one of the greatest commentators of all time.

At any rate, here is the bottom line for this post. These three chambers were on the south and not the north. One concluding point. There was a large building on the southeast corner of the Azarah. This building was 100 amot (cubits) by 50 amot. It was known as the Beit Avtinas and had an opening to the Cheil and to the Azarah. The Shaar haMayim went through this building. In this building were the Lishkat haGazit, the Lishkat haEitz,, and the Lishkat haGolah. This will be a key to locating the Kior and how it operated.

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