Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Views of the Chamber of the Stone House

Finding a red cow that meets all the halachic requirements of a parah adumah was a rare event in Temple times. In fact, from the construction of the Tabernacle through the era of the Second Temple — a period of over 1000 years — only nine such cows were found (Parah 3:5). Since this opportunity came along so infrequently, extreme care was taken to ensure that it was prepared in the utmost sanctity. One of these requirements is that the Kohen who would handle the ashes of the cow must be quarantined within a dedicated chamber in the Temple, and denied all human contact for fear of contracting tumah, for seven days.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chamber of Shushan Habirah

Three 1-amah measuring sticks.
The Chamber of Shushan Habirah [the Capital] served as the repository for two different measuring sticks of the amah. In the northeast corner was a measuring stick that was half a fingerbreadth longer than a standard amah of six handbreadths and in the southeast corner was a stick that was a full fingerbreadth longer than a standard amah. This chamber had a depiction of the city of Shushan on its outer wall and this feature gave the chamber its name.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Introductory Slideshow for Maseches Tamid

On Thursday, December 25, 2014, I presented a slideshow at Kehillas Kol Torah in Baltimore. The head of their night seder chaburah, R' Shlomo Wiener, asked if I could give an introductory shiur on Maseches Tamid which they were to begin the following week.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Justification for Dismantling the Altar

One of the more shocking discoveries made by the Maccabees after expelling the Syrian-Greeks from the Temple was that the Outer Altar had been used for idol worship. Although the stones of the Altar were attached to the ground and legally impervious to the defilement of idol worship, the Jews felt that it was unconscionable to resume the holy sacrificial service on such stones. One of the lesser-known facts of the Chanukah story is that amidst the cleaning up of the Temple, searching for pure oil, and assembling a new Menorah, the Jews also dismantled the entire Altar and rebuilt it using new stones.

I had always been impressed with the lengths that the Sages went through to build a new Altar, but at the same time puzzled since all these efforts were technically unnecessary.

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).