Friday, December 5, 2014

Jbrick: Custom, Jewish-Themed LEGO® Sets

I am pleased to announce that Yitzy Kasowitz, a colleague of mine in the field of LEGO®-inspired Jewish education, has started a new company called jbrick which produces custom, Jewish-themed LEGO® sets. Yitzy, who lives in Saint Paul, MN, has the dream job of designing LEGO® sets for Brickmania which specializes in historical and military models. While working at Brickmania, Yitzy has honed his building skills and developed many new and advanced techniques. His work at Brickmania has been featured in museums and LEGO® events throughout the country. Companies such as Brickmania and now jbrick use only authentic LEGO® components and combine these into models that are not available in the standard LEGO® line of sets.

Monday, November 17, 2014

View of the Table of the Fats

Off to the west of the main Altar's ramp, next to the silver table which held the utensils for the sacrificial service, was a marble table known as the Table of the Fats. All portions of sacrificial meat designated to be burned on the Altar were first placed on this table.

Monday, November 10, 2014

View of the Chamber of the Utensils

Each morning the Kohanim would enter the Chamber of the Utensils to retrieve the ninety-three utensils used in the sacrificial service and set them out upon the silver table west of the Altar's ramp (see the last post).

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Thirty-One Daily Vessels of the Sacrificial Service

Off to the west of the main Altar's ramp stood a silver table upon which the Kohanim would set out the ninety-three vessels used in the daily service. These ninety-three vessels were actually three sets of thirty-one vessels, since the Temple kept on hand two backup copies of each of its vessels in case one should become tamei or otherwise unusable. The following is a list of the thirty-one vessels (as recorded in the sefer Ezras Kohanim):

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Musical Magrepha of the Temple

The term magrepha (lit., shovel) appears three times in connection with the daily sacrificial service:
(1) "The Kohanim took magrephas ... and went up to the top of the Altar ... and started piling the ashes onto the tapuach [mound]" (Tamid 2:1-2).
(2) "In Jericho they could hear the sound of the magrepha" (Tamid 3:8).
(3) "One [of the Kohanim] would throw the magrepha into the space between the Antechamber and the Altar, and a person in Jerusalem could not hear his friend speaking on account of the sound of the magrepha" (Tamid 5:6).

From the context, (1) would appear to be describing a shovel. Yet the Gemara (Erchin 11a) describes the magrepha as an intricate musical instrument capable of producing 100 different notes, which might fit with (2). But could such an instrument have been thrown onto a hard stone floor — every day?


Monday, October 13, 2014

Did the Kohanim Eat in a Succah?

The Torah gives us a positive commandment to eat and sleep in a succah for seven days, but did this requirement apply to the Kohanim serving in the Temple as well? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Building of a מקדש מעט

For the busy days before Succos, here is a slight diversion from the Second Temple proper but still something which centers around the building of a Mikdash.

 

Monday, September 29, 2014

View of the Golden Shovel for the Incense

Twice a day the Kohanim would burn incense on the Golden Altar of the Sanctuary Building. The incense would be spread upon a bed of smoldering coals collected from a special fire kindled on the Outer Altar. A Kohen would ascend the ramp with a silver shovel that had a capacity of 4 kav (approximately 350 cubic inches) and scoop up coals from the incense fire located near the southwest corner of the Altar's top. After descending back down the ramp, he would pour the coals into a golden shovel with a capacity of 3 kav (260 cubic inches).
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Height of the Chambers of the Knives


SUMMARY A new sun study of the Courtyard reveals Tiferes Yisrael's opinion on the height of the Chambers of the Knives.


Alert reader U. Weinstein sent in the following comment to an earlier post:
It seems that you did not follow the assumption of the Ezras Kohanim that the 'beis hachalifos' was only as tall as the 'ta'im' and not 100 Amos tall as the Ulam.
Until reading this comment I had not given the matter any thought since, to the best of my knowledge, Tiferes Yisrael in Middos (upon whom my Temple model is based) does not mention anything about the height of the Chambers of the Knives [Beis Hachalifos]. Now, of course, I was curious whether his opinion on the matter could be deduced somehow. It turns out that it can, and one important part of the answer requires looking not at the shape of the building itself, but at its shadow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Preparing the Red Cow on the Mount of Olives

The Torah requires that the preparation of the red cow [parah adumah] be carried out facing the opening of the Sanctuary. While the Tabernacle was still in use as the Jews wandered in the wilderness, the red cow would have been prepared off to the east of wherever the Tabernacle happened to be situated at the time. During the First and Second Temple eras, the procedure was carried out on the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple.

Mount Moriah and the Mount of Olives were separated by the Kidron Valley, and to allow the Kohanim to easily reach one from the other a walkway was constructed starting from the eastern gate of the Temple Mount. This walkway was supported by two levels of arches, with the columns of the upper level located over the airspaces of the lower level (Parah 3:6). This arrangement ensured that anyone standing on the walkway would be completely protected against the tumah of a grave that might be present in the ground below (see this post for more details).
The 71 members of the Great Sanhedrin line the walkway to greet the Kohen bringing the red cow to the Mount of Olives (see Parah 3:7 with Tiferes Yisrael §53).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview of the Temple Mount's Eastern Gateway

Currently I am modeling the eastern gateway of the Temple Mount and the walkway which led from the gateway to the Mount of Olives, further to the east. This gateway was also called the Shushan Gate, named for the depiction of the city of Shushan painted above it which served to remind all those entering this gate that it was the Persian Empire which had granted the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Creating a LEGO® Minifig Kohen

Transforming a standard LEGO minifigure into a Kohen fit for the sacrificial service requires dressing him in the four priestly vestments worn by the Kohanim: pants, robe, belt, and turban.

Pants
It is not necessary to model the pants since they were more like knickers and not visible beneath the robe.

Robe
The simplest way to create a Kohen robed in white is to use a white torso and legs. Although the "robe" look is lost when you reach the legs, this design offers the most flexibility in terms of posing the minifig for different parts of the sacrificial service:

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Keys of the Heichal

The Ninth of Av is a day upon which many tragedies occurred for the Jewish people, foremost among them the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The events surrounding the Temple's destruction are recorded in various historical sources and religious texts, and many of these found their way into the current liturgy of the day. I would like to look at the following incident, referenced in Kinnah 32, which occurred during the final hours of the First Temple era (recorded by the Gemara, Taanis 29a):
Many groups of young Kohanim gathered together with the keys to the Heichal [Sanctuary] in their hands. They ascended to the roof of the Heichal and called out, "Master of the World! Since we have not merited to be faithful treasurers the keys shall be transferred back to You!" They threw the keys heavenward and the form of a hand appeared and took the keys from them. The Kohanim then threw themselves from the roof into the burning remnants of the Temple below.
The Heichal had but one gateway, so if the keys mentioned here were to that gateway why does the Gemara refer to them in the plural? The Gemara also implies that each of the many groups of Kohanim was holding one or more of the keys (otherwise it could have stated simply that "many young Kohanim gathered together...") — just how many keys did the gateway have? And why do the Kohanim refer to themselves as "treasurers" [גזברין]?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Water Rockets and Raven Chasers

Iron roof tile with spikes for the
roof of the Sanctuary Building.
One of our family's pastimes is launching homemade water rockets at the park, and over the past few years we have also been bringing the rockets to our shul's annual barbecue where they have become an unofficial part of the day's activities. About a week before the big day we were out in the front yard doing some test flights when one of the rockets hit an ill wind and was blown off course. This is not really a problem since they are so light that they roll, or bounce, off any roof they land on. Usually.

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.