Monday, July 21, 2014

Omni Wheels in the Temple

SUMMARY Omni wheels might be what King Solomon had in mind when he built his laver stands with "a wheel within a wheel."

Basic design of a First Temple laver stand.
In the First Temple, King Solomon built ten moveable stands [מְּכֹנוֹת] which supported the ten lavers [כִּיֹּרֹת] that stood in the Courtyard. These stands are described in I Kings 7:27-37 in very cryptic language, although the basic idea which emerges is that the stand was a type of wagon with four wheels and the laver rested on top of it. One drawback of the standard wagon design is that it can only be rolled forward or backward but cannot be steered. If the stand did need to be turned one way or the other, it would have to be done by pushing or pulling on one end, a difficult task considering that the stand was made of copper and quite heavy — just the laver itself, when full of water, weighed over 5000 pounds! While it is possible that a method of steering the stand was built into the design, the verses do not seem to indicate that this was so.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Plating the Sanctuary Building with Gold

The interior of the Sanctuary measured 20 amos wide (from north to south) and 61 amos long (east to west). In the First Temple this room had been plated with gold and magnificently decorated, but the original builders of the Second Temple could certainly not afford such a luxury. At some point during the Second Temple era, however, the following incident occurred which allowed for this chamber to receive the gold plating it deserved:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

View of the Chamber of Hewn Stone

Based on the dimensions worked out in the last two posts, here are some renderings of the interior and exterior of the Chamber of Hewn Stone. In the first picture we are looking at the unconsecrated half of the chamber where the court would meet. A convening of the full court for judicial proceedings was rare, and most of the time the court was involved in confirming the pedigrees of Kohanim and Leviim who came to work in the Temple. I have set up tables and chairs for this purpose where candidates would present themselves before the judges.

A Kohen confirms his pedigree with a judge of the Sanhedrin court.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dimensions of the Chamber of Hewn Stone: Part 2

SUMMARY By modeling the building after a Roman basilica, it becomes much easier to fit the Chamber of Hewn Stone into the Courtyard.

In the last post I concluded that the maximum space available for the Chamber of Hewn Stone in the northeast corner of the Courtyard measures 21×55 amos, or 1155 amos2, far short of the required 1485 amos2. I believe that the solution to this problem lies in the Gemara (Yoma 25a) which describes this chamber as a "large basilica." In Roman times, the term basilica referred to a specific type of building. The following is from A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by Samuel Ball Platner:
Basilica: the name given by the Romans to a very common type of building erected for business purposes and also for the accommodation of the courts. It usually consisted of a rectangular hall, of considerable height, surrounded by one or two ambulatories, sometimes with galleries, and lighted by openings in the upper part of the side walls. The hall often ended in an apse or exedra.
[This citation comes from the website LacusCurtius, run by Bill Thayer, which contains much useful information on the ancient Roman world.]

Here is a very basic layout of what a Roman basilica looked like:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dimensions of the Chamber of Hewn Stone: Part 1

SUMMARY After looking at the numbers, the Chamber of Hewn Stone is, as they say, simply too big to be allowed.

The Chamber of Hewn Stone, in the northeast corner of the Courtyard, was the seat of the 71-member Sanhedrin court. The northern half of the chamber was built outside the Courtyard walls (and thus remained unconsecrated) and the southern half of the chamber was located within the Courtyard. Since the judges and students were seated during the proceedings, and sitting was not permitted in the Courtyard, they sat in the northern, unconsecrated half of the chamber. This Sanhedrin was arranged just like the smaller ones of the Temple Mount and Women’s Courtyard: the judges sat on seats in a semicircle facing south and three rows of students, also in semicircles, sat before them on the ground.

Size of the Judges' Area
The Gemara tells us that a person is one amah wide, so the judges formed a half-circle 71 amos in circumference. A full circle of this size would have a circumference of 142 amos, a diameter of 45.2 amos, and a radius of 22.6 amos. Thus, the amount of space occupied by the judges themselves amounts to an area approximately 45 amos wide (east to west) and 23 amos long (north to south). See diagram.
Area needed to seat 71 judges in a half-circle.