Monday, February 23, 2015

The Chamber of the Lambs

The southwestern chamber of the Hall of the Fire was known as the Chamber of the Lambs. This room was where the Kohanim maintained a supply of lambs — inspected and found free of blemishes — which would be used for the daily Tamid-offerings. Since the lambs had to be inspected on each of the four days prior to their slaughter, and two lambs were offered each day, how many lambs were kept in the Chamber of the Lambs?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Inspecting the Courtyard in the Morning

Kohanim inspect the Courtyard by torchlight.
Each morning the Kohanim would do a walk-through of the Courtyard to make sure that all the utensils were in place for the day's avodah. The utensils, however, were still safely stored in the Chamber of Utensils at this point, so what, exactly, were the Kohanim inspecting?

Jbrick Introduces New Sets

Jbrick, the company which brings you Jewish-themed custom LEGO sets, is now expanding. They are introducing new sets which you can view on their jewcer crowdfunding page. Join me in helping this one-of-a-kind company reach their goal of creating quality LEGO Judaica.

Monday, February 9, 2015

View of the Chamber of the Lechem Hapanim

The southeastern chamber of the Hall of the Fire was used on Fridays to bake the lechem hapanim [show bread]. In this chamber the Kohanim would knead the dough, shape it into the lechem hapanim's unique shape using a golden form, and then bake the loaves two at a time in an oven. After they finished baking, the loaves were placed into another form to cool. The finished loaves were then transferred to a table within the Antechamber where they stayed until Shabbos when they were taken into the Sanctuary and placed upon the Golden Table. The loaves which had been on the Table from the previous week were removed and distributed among the Kohanim to eat.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Baking the Lechem Hapanim

One of the great mysteries of the Temple era is how the lechem hapanim [show bread] was baked. These were the twelve loaves of unleavened bread which were stored upon the Golden Table within the Sanctuary and distributed among the Kohanim each Shabbos. Only the members of the Garmu family knew how to produce these curiously shaped loaves and they jealously guarded their secret. Even so, from the Mishnah and Gemara we can get a better idea of just how they did it.

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?