Monday, July 23, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 15

The Tauim and Upper Level of the Sanctuary

Exterior of the Sanctuary Building
as viewed from the southwest
Outside the walls of the Sanctuary were three levels of small storage chambers called tau'im (sing., tau) which held the treasures of the Temple. In the north and south each level was divided into five rooms while in the west there were three rooms on each of the first two levels and two rooms on the top level, for a total of 38 tau'im.

While most of the 38 tau'im had just three openings, the northeastern tau on the middle level had five: one opening east to the Antechamber, one opening west to the adjoining tau, one to the Holy in the south, one to the winding ramp in the north (see below), and one to the tau above. This tau was entered each morning in order to open the Sanctuary doors. First, the Levi unlocked the small eastern door by kneeling down and putting his arm through a hole in the wall near the door and inserting the key into the lock from the inside. Once this door was unlocked, he entered the tau and then unlocked the southern door to the Holy whose lock was directly before him. Now in the Holy, he would remove the bolts and open the keyed locks of the Sanctuary’s inner set of doors and swing them open and then repeat the procedure for the outer doors. Outside this tau’s northern door was a 6-cubit ladder leading down to the foot of the winding ramp at the floor of the Courtyard.

North of the 5-cubit (7½-foot) thick wall around the tau'im was a gap, 3 cubits (4½ feet) wide, which housed the winding ramp. A ramp began here at the floor of the Courtyard in front of the bottom, northeast tau and rose due west to the roof of the top, northwest tau. To the north of the ramp was another 5-cubit wall, equal in height to the top of the tau'im, which acted as a protective fence for those walking on the ramp.

Upon reaching the top of the winding ramp one would find himself on the roof of the top, northwest tau. Like all accessible roofs, those of the tau'im had a fence around their perimeter for safety. From here one would walk south along the roofs of the western tau'im to the southwest corner of the Sanctuary Building. In the south, corresponding to the winding ramp in the north, was a 3-cubit space called the Place of Drainage Water. Rainwater which drained off the roofs of the Sanctuary and tau'im was directed to a pool of water here. To the south of the Place of Drainage Water was a 5-cubit wall like that of the winding ramp, added both for symmetry and support.

Starting at the southwest corner of the Sanctuary Building was a ramp which rose due east from the roof of the top, southwest tau up to the door of the  second story of the Sanctuary. All the dimensions of the second story — height, width, and length — matched those of the first level. The interior was similarly decorated with gold plating and carvings. Opinions vary as to what may have been stored there, from vessels of the Tabernacle to sacred writings. 

Above the Holy of Holies were openings in the floor of the second story spaced an arm’s reach apart. When repair work had to be done in the Holy of Holies, workers would be lowered down through these openings in three-sided boxes so that they would not be able to see any more of the Holy of Holies than absolutely necessary for their work.

Immediately inside the door to the second story were two very thick vertical beams, 40 cubits (60 feet) tall, which were connected by rungs to form a sturdy ladder up to the roof of the Sanctuary Building. This roof was covered with iron tiles, 1 cubit (1½ feet) square, and protruding from these tiles were sharp iron spikes, 1 cubit tall, designed to keep birds from landing on the Sanctuary Building and soiling it.


  1. It seems that you did not follow the assumption of the Ezras Kohanim that they 'beis hachalifos' was only as tall as the 'ta'im' and not 100 Amos tall as the Ulam

    1. Well, truth be told, I had never really given this much thought until you mentioned it, so thank you for the comment. I did look up the Ezras Kohanim to Middos 4:7 and he does, indeed, seem to conclude that the Beis Hachalifos only rose as tall as the tauim. This is also the opinion of R' Zalman Koren in his book The Beit Hamikdash (p.62-63) and he goes on to show how this can be derived from the language of Josephus as well. In my model I strive to follow the view of Tiferes Yisrael and so I went back and tried to find places where he might state, or at least hint to, his opinion on this matter. Consider what he writes in note 54 to his Temple diagram, "The outer wall of the Ulam measured 100 amos from north to south and it was as tall as the Heichal [100 amos]." The most obvious way to understand what he is saying here is that the wall was 100x100. Then in note 59 he says that "the Beis Hachalifos were within the space [חלל] of the Ulam at its northern and southern ends." He does not see them as separate structures standing to the north and south of the Ulam but simply areas within the interior of the Ulam. If Tiferes Yisrael actually held that the roof over the Beis Hachalifos was lower than 100 amos I firmly believe he would have made a point of stating this more explicitly, so I am still inclined to maintain that the eastern wall of the Ulam was a square measuring 100x100 amos.