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Beit Habechirah - Chapter 4

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 4

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The Ark was placed on a stone1 in the western portion of the Holy of Holies.2 The vial of manna3 and Aharon's staff4 were placed before it.

When Solomon built the Temple, he was aware that it would ultimately be destroyed. [Therefore,]5 he constructed a chamber, in which the ark could be entombed below [the Temple building] in deep, maze-like vaults.

King Josiah6 commanded that [the Ark] be entombed in the chamber built by Solomon, as it is said (II Chronicles 35:3): "And he said to the Levites who would teach wisdom to all of Israel: 'Place the Holy Ark in the chamber built by Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel. You will no [longer] carry it on your shoulders. Now, serve the Lord, your God.'7

When it was entombed, Aharon's staff, the vial of manna, and the oil used for anointing were entombed with it. All these [sacred articles] did not return in the Second Temple.

Similarly, the Urim V'Tumim that existed in the Second Temple did not answer with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine inspiration)8 and questions were not asked of them, as stated [in Ezra 2:63]: "until a priest will arise with the Urim V'Tumim."9 [In the Second Temple,] they only made them to fulfill the requirement of eight garments for the High Priest.10 Thus, the High Priest would not lack one of the required garments.11


אבן היתה בקדש הקדשים במערבו שעליה היה הארון מונח ולפניו צנצנת המן ומטה אהרן ובעת שבנה שלמה את הבית וידע שסופו ליחרב בנה בו מקום לגנוז בו הארון למטה במטמוניות עמוקות ועקלקלות ויאשיהו המלך צוה וגנזו במקום שבנה שלמה שנאמר ויאמר ללוים המבינים לכל ישראל הקדושים ליי' תנו את ארון הקדש בבית אשר בנה שלמה בן דויד מלך ישראל אין לכם משא בכתף עתה עבדו את י"י אלהיכם וגו' ונגנז עמו מטה אהרן והצנצנת ושמן המשחה וכל אלו לא חזרו בבית שני ואף אורים ותומים שהיו בבית שני לא היו משיבין ברוח הקדש ולא היו נשאלין בהן שנאמר עד עמוד כהן לאורים ותומים ולא היו עושין אותן אלא להשלים שמנה בגדים לכהן גדול כדי שלא יהא מחוסר בגדים:


The First Temple had a one-cubit thick wall which separated the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.12 When the Second Temple was constructed, they were unsure whether the width of that wall was included in the measure of the Sanctuary or the Holy of Holies.13 Therefore, the Holy of Holies was made a full twenty cubits long, and the Sanctuary a full forty cubits long, and one additional cubit was left between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.14

They did not build a wall in the Second Temple.15 Rather, they hung two curtains, one from the side of the Sanctuary and one from the side of the Holy of Holies, with a cubit between them16 in place of the width of the wall of the First [Temple].17 However, in the First Temple, there was only one curtain,18 as [Exodus 26:33] states: "The curtain will divide for you [between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.]"


בבית ראשון היה כותל מבדיל בין הקדש ובין קדש הקדשים עביו אמה וכיון שבנו הבית שני נסתפק להם אם עובי הכותל היה ממדת הקדש או ממדת קדש הקדשים לפיכך עשו קדש הקדשים עביו עשרים אמה תמימות ועשו הקדש ארבעים אמה תמימות והניחו אמה יתירה בין הקדש ובין קדש הקדשים ולא בנו כותל בבית שני אלא עשו שתי פרוכות אחת מצד קדש הקדשים ואחת מצד הקדש וביניהן אמה כנגד עובי הכותל שהיה בראשון אבל במקדש ראשון לא היתה שם אלא פרכת אחת בלבד שנאמר והבדילה הפרכת לכם וגו':


The Temple building constructed by the exiles [returning from Babylon] was one hundred cubits long, one hundred cubits wide, and one hundred cubits high. The measurement of its height can be described as follows:19

They built a solid base six cubits high resembling a foundation for it;20

the Sanctuary, 40 cubits high;21

an ornate ceiling, one cubit high;22

above that, two cubits were left empty to allow dripping [water] to collect [and to be drained off];23 this was called the Beit Dilpa;24

the roof above the Beit Dilpa was a cubit thick;

the plaster, a cubit high;

an upper storey was built on it; its walls were 40 cubits high;

its roof included an ornate ceiling one cubit high;

a Beit Dilpa, two cubits high;

a roof, one cubit high;

plaster, one cubit high;

a guard rail, three cubits high;25

a sheet of iron resembling a blade, a cubit high, was placed all around the guard rail so that birds will not rest upon it. It was called the Kaleh Orev.26

The total of the above is 100 cubits.27


ההיכל שבנו בני גולה היה מאה אמה על מאה אמה על רום מאה וכן היתה מדת רומו בנו גובה שש אמות אטום סתום כמו יסוד לו ורום כותלי הבית ארבעים אמה ורום הכיור שבתקרה אמה ועל גביו גובה שתי אמות פנוי שיכנס בו הדלף והוא הנקרא בית דילפא ועובי התקרה שעל גבי בית דילפא אמה ומעזיבה גובה אמה ועלייה בנויה על גביו גובה כותליה ארבעים אמה ובגגה גובה אמה כיור ואמתים גובה בית דילפא ואמה תקרה ואמה מעזיבה וגובה המעקה שלש אמות וטס של ברזל כמו סייף גובהו אמה על גבי המעקה סביב כדי שלא ינוחו עליו העופות והוא הנקרא כלה עורב הרי הכל מאה אמה:


From the west to the east,28 there were 100 cubits as follows:29

There were four walls, one within the other, with three vacant spaces between them:

Between the western wall and the wall inside of it, five cubits,

Between the second and third walls, six cubits,

Between the third and fourth walls, six cubits.

These measurements include the width of the wall and the space between it and the following wall.30

The length of the Holy of Holies was 20 cubits.31

Between the two curtains separating the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary, one cubit.32

The length of the Sanctuary was 40 cubits.

The width of the eastern wall in which the entrance was positioned was six cubits.33

The Entrance Hall was eleven cubits [long].

The wall of the Entrance Hall was five cubits thick.34

Thus, the total is 100 cubits.35


מן המערב למזרח מאה אמה וזהו חשבונן: ארבעה כתלים זה לפנים מזה וביניהן שלשה מקומות פנויין בין הכותל המערבי ובין הכותל שלפנים ממנו חמש אמות ובין כותל שני ושלישי שש אמות ובין כותל שלישי ורביעי שש אמות ואלו המדות הן של עובי הכותל עם המקום הפנוי שבין שני כותלים ואורך קדש הקדשים עשרים אמה ובין שתי הפרוכות המבדילות בינו ובין הקדש אמה ואורך הקדש ארבעים אמה ועובי הכותל המזרחי שבו השער שש אמות והאולם אחת עשרה אמה ועובי כותל האולם חמש אמות נמצא הכל מאה אמה:


From north to south, there were 100 cubits:36

The width of the wall of the Entrance Hall was five cubits.37

There were ten cubits from the wall of the Entrance Hall until the wall of the Sanctuary.38

The Sanctuary had six walls, one within the other, with five vacant places between them:39

Between the outer wall and the second [wall], there were five cubits;40

Between the second and the third, three cubits;41

Between the third and the fourth, five;42

Between the fourth and the fifth, six;43 and

Between the fifth and the sixth, six.44

Thus, these [walls and chambers encompassed] a total of forty cubits on both sides [of the Temple building.] The width of the Temple inside was 20 cubits.45

The total was 100 cubits.


מן הצפון לדרום מאה אמה עובי כותל האולם חמש אמות ומכותל אולם עד כותל הקדש עשר אמות וכותלי הקדש ששה כתלים זה לפנים מזה וביניהן חמשה מקומות פנויין בין כותל חיצון ובין השני חמש אמות ובין שני ושלישי שלש אמות וחמש בין שלישי ורביעי ובין רביעי וחמישי שש ובין חמישי וכותל הפנימי שש נמצא הכל ארבעים אמה מצד זה וארבעים אמה מצד שכנגדו ורוחב הבית מבפנים עשרים הרי מאה אמה:


A wicket is a small gateway. The Sanctuary had two wickets on the sides of the great gate in the middle, one on the north and one on the south.46

No one ever entered through the southern [wicket]. Explicit [reference] to this [is made] by [in the Book of] Ezekiel [44:2]: "This gate will be closed. It will not be opened."47

[Every morning, the priests] would enter [through the wicket] on the north and proceed between the two walls until reaching an opening to the Sanctuary on the left. [From there], they would enter the Temple, proceed to the great gate, and open it.48


הפשפש והוא שער הקטן ושני פישפשין היו להיכל מצדי השער הגדול שבאמצע אחד בצפון ואחד בדרום שבדרום לא נכנס בו אדם מעולם ועליו הוא מפורש על ידי יחזקאל השער הזה סגור יהיה לא יפתח ושבצפון בו נכנסין ומהלך בין שני הכתלים עד שמגיע למקום פתוח לקדש משמאלו ונכנס לתוך ההיכל ומהלך עד שער הגדול ופותחו:


The great gate49 was ten cubits wide and twenty cubits high.50 It had four doors: two to the inner [chamber,] and two to the outside.51 The outer gates opened into the doorway, covering the breadth of the walls.52 The inner [gates] opened into the Sanctuary, covering the [wall space] behind the doors.53


השער הגדול היה רחבו עשר אמות וגובהו עשרים אמה וארבע דלתות היו לו שתים בפנים ושתים בחוץ החיצונות נפתחות לתוך הפתח לכסות עוביו של כותל והפנימיות נפתחות לתוך הבית לכסות אחורי הדלתות:


The opening to the Entrance Hall was forty cubits high and twenty [cubits] wide.54 It did not have gates.55

Five oak beams56 were [positioned] above this entrance.57 The bottom [beam] extended beyond the entrance, one cubit on either side. Each of the five [beams] extended one cubit on either side of the [beam] below it. Thus, the uppermost beam was thirty cubits [long].58 There was a tier of stones between each beam.59


פתחו של אולם היה גבוה ארבעים אמה ורוחב עשרים ולא היה לו שערים וחמש מלתריות של מילא היו על גבי פתחו מלמעלה התחתונה עודפת על הפתח אמה מזה ואמה מזה וכל אחת מחמשתן עודפת על שלמטה ממנה אמה מזה ואמה מזה נמצאת העליונה שלשים אמה ונדבך של אבנים היה בין כל אחת ואחת:


The structure of the Temple was wide in its front and narrow in its rear, like a lion. 60

Balconies61 [extended] from the wall of the winding stairwell and surrounded the Temple on all sides.62 The lowest balcony was five [cubits long.] The pavement above it was six cubits long. The middle projection was six cubits, and the pavement above it seven cubits. The upper balcony was seven cubits, as it is said (I Kings 6:6): "The lowest balcony...."63 Thus, three balconies surrounded the Temple from three sides.64

Similarly, [there were projections] from bottom to top, around the wall of the Entrance Hall. The [pattern] was as follows:65

one vacant cubit,

a projection of three cubits,

one vacant cubit, and then,

a projection of three cubits.

This pattern was followed until the top [of the wall.] Thus, the projections surrounded the walls.66 Each projection67 was three cubits wide until the top [of the wall], and between each projection was a [vacant] cubit. The uppermost projection was four cubits wide.68


ההיכל היה בניינו רחב מלפניו וצר מאחוריו כמו ארי ויציעים היו מקיפין לבית כולו מסביב חוץ לכותל המסיבה ויציע התחתונה חמש ורובד על גבה שש ויציע אמצעית שש ורובד על גבה ז' והעליונה ז' שנאמר היציע התחתונה וגו' וכן היו השלש יציעים מקיפים לבית משלשה רוחותיו וכן סביב לכתלי האולם מלמטה עד למעלה כך היו אמה אחת חלק ורובד שלש אמות ואמה חלק ורובד שלש אמות עד למעלה ונמצאו הרובדין מוקפין לכתלים רוחב כל רובד שלש אמות עד למעלה ובין כל רובד ורובד אמה ורובד העליון היה רוחבו ארבע אמות:


All the vacant spaces between the walls are called cells.69 Thus, five cells surrounded the Sanctuary on the north, five on the south, and three on the west.

There were three levels [of cells,] one level above the other.70 Thus, there were fifteen cells on the south; five above five, with five above them. Similarly, in the north, there were fifteen cells.

There were eight cells in the west; three above three, with two above them on one level.71 Thus, there were a total of 38 cells.72


כל אלו המקומות הפנויים שבין הכתלים הם הנקראים תאים נמצאו התאים המוקפין למקדש חמשה מן הצפון וחמשה מן הדרום ושלשה מן המערב ושלש דיוטות היו דיוטא על גבי דיוטא נמצאו ט"ו תאים בדרום חמשה ע"ג חמשה וחמשה על גביהן וכן בצפון חמשה עשר ושמונה תאים היו במערב שלשה על גבי שלשה ושנים על גביהן בדיוטא אחת הכל ל"ח תאים:


Each cell had three entrances: one to the cell on the right, another to the cell on the left,73 and one to the cell above it.74

The cell in the northeast corner of the second storey had five entrances:75 one to the cell on its right,76 one to the cell above it,77 one to the winding stairwell,78 one towards the cell with the wicket,79 and one to the Temple.80


ג' פתחים היו לכל אחד ואחד מן התאים אחד לתא מן הימין ואחד לתא מן השמאל ואחד לתא שעל גביו ובקרן מזרחית צפונית בתא שבדיוטא האמצעית היו חמשה פתחים אחד לתא מימין ואחד לתא שעל גביו ואחד למסיבה ואחד לתא שיש בו הפשפש ואחד להיכל:


The winding stairwell with which one would ascend to the roofs of the cells81 began its rise from the northeast corner towards the northwest corner [of the Temple]. One ascended on the winding stairwell facing the west and traversed the entire length of [the Temple's] northern side82 until reaching the west.83

When he reached the west, he would turn towards the south. He walked across the entire length of the western side84 until he reached the south.85 When he reached the south, he turned to the east. He walked eastward86 until reaching the entrance to the Temple's upper storey, since the entrance to the upper storey87 was on the south.88


ומסיבה היתה עולה מקרן מזרחית צפונית לקרן צפונית מערבית שבה היו עולין לגגות התאים היה עולה במסיבה ופניו למערב הלך את כל פני הצפון עד שהוא מגיע למערב הגיע למערב הפך פניו לדרום הלך את כל פני המערב עד שהוא מגיע לדרום הגיע לדרום הפך פניו למזרח והיה מהלך לדרום עד שהוא מגיע לפתחה של עלייה שפתחה של עלייה היה פתוח לדרום:


At the entrance to the Temple's upper storey, there were two cedar beams upon which one could climb to the roof of the upper storey.89 Marking posts in the upper storey differentiated between the roof of the Sanctuary and the roof of the Holy of Holies.90

Apertures in the upper storey [led to] the Holy of Holies,91 through which craftsmen92 would be lowered in boxes,93 so that they would not satiate their eyes [gazing at] the chamber of the Holy of Holies.94

Once a year, from Passover to Passover, they coated the Temple building with cement.95


ובפתחה של עלייה היו שתי כלונסות של ארז שבהן עולין לגגה של עלייה וראשי פספסין היו מבדילין בעלייה בין גג הקדש לגג קדש הקדשים ולולין היו פתוחין בעלייה לבית קדש הקדשים שבהן משלשלין את האומנין בתיבות כדי שלא יזונו עיניהם מבית קדש הקדשים ופעם אחת בשנה מפסח לפסח מלבנין את ההיכל:


Yoma 53b refers to that stone as the even hashtiah, "the foundation stone", and explains that it was given that name because it was the foundation upon which God fashioned the world. According to certain views, the Dome of the Rock Mosque is located on the Temple site and the stone around which it is built is the same even hashtiah. Other Rabbinical sources, however, do not accept this claim.


There is a slight difficulty in the Rambam's statements. The Jerusalem Talmud (Bava Batra 6:2) states that the Ark was placed in the center of the Holy of Holies. A similar statement is also found in the Midrash Tanchuma (Parshat Kedoshim, sec. 10). However, the latter source states that the Even HaShtiah was placed behind the Ark. Perhaps the resolution is that stone was large. It began in the center of the Holy of Holies, while the ark was placed in its western portion.


Exodus 16:33 commands: "Take a vial and fill it with an omer of manna. Place it before the Lord as a testimonial for your descendants. "

Commenting on that verse, Rashi relates that in the time of Jeremiah, the people rationalized the fact that they did not study Torah, because of the pressures they faced in earning a livelihood. Jeremiah took the vial of manna from before the Ark and exclaimed: "See how God sustained your ancestors for forty years! Do you doubt whether He can sustain you today?"


After Korach's revolt, God commanded all the princes of the tribes to place their staffs in the Sanctuary. Aharon's staff blossomed, and produced leaves and almonds. Then, He commanded that Aharon's staff be placed before the Ark "as a testimonial" (Numbers 17:21-25).


I.e., to preserve the Ark fashioned under the direction of Moses,


The last of Judah's righteous kings. He witnessed the spiritual decline of the Jewish people and foresaw the inevitable destruction of the Temple.


The entombment of the Ark is the subject of a debate among the Sages in the Talmud (Yoma 53b) and the Tosafta (Sotah 13:2). Although some Sages agree that the Ark was entombed as explained above, others maintain that it was one of the sacred articles plundered by the Babylonian conquerors. A third opinion agrees that it was entombed, but argues that it was entombed under the Chamber of Wood in the Woman's Courtyard and not under the Holy of Holies.


Yoma 73b and the commentaries (Nachmanides and Rabbenu Bachai on Numbers 28:21) explain that the Urim V'Tumim were consulted as oracles by the High Priest. They provided guidance on all important questions involving the people as a whole. See the conclusion of Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash for a discussion of this issue.


Yoma 21b mentions the Urim V'Tumim as one of the five miraculous aspects of the First Temple service, which were lacking in the Second Temple. The Rambam quotes that statement in Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash 10:10.

Nevertheless, they were not completely lacking. Exodus 28:43 commands the priests to wear all of the garments prescribed for them during their service in the Sanctuary. If even one garment was lacking, they would be punished by death. Thus, the High Priest had to wear the breastplate with the stones, the Urim V'Tumim. Otherwise, he would lack one of the eight garments he was required to wear. The Rambam explains that although the stones were embedded in the breastplate in the Second Temple as well, they lacked the spiritual dimension that they had possessed in the First Temple.


These garments are described in Exodus, Chapter 28, and in Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash, ch. 8.


The Ra'avad does not accept the Rambam's statements concerning the Urim V'Tumim. He interprets the Urim V'Tumim as being mystical names of God engraved on the breastplate, rather than the stones themselves.

In his Chiddushim, Rav Yaakov Emden questions the reason for including this Halachah: "On the surface, there is apparently no practical relevance to these matters in our behavior....The Rambam generally does not include aspects which have neither Halachic nor ethical significance in this text." Why then is it important for us to know whether or not the ark was entombed and where it was entombed?

Rav Emden then explains the question he posed, based on the Rambam's statements in Chapter 6. There, the Rambam stated that after the exile, the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael was nullified regarding the laws of the Sabbatical year, the tithes, and certain other agricultural rulings. However, the holiness of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount always remained intact because:

The holiness of the Temple and Jerusalem comes about because of the Shechinah, and the Shechinah can never be nullified. Behold, God declared (Leviticus 27:31): "I shall destroy your Sanctuaries." and the Sages commented (Megillah 28a): "Even though they are destroyed, their holiness remains intact. "

The Shechinah's resting place was the Ark. Therefore, had the Ark not been " deep, maze-like vaults," on the Temple Mount, the sanctity of that site would also have been nullified. See also Chatam Sofer, Chullin 7a.

Likkutei Sichot (Vol. 21, p. 156-160) also discusses the same question. It explains that the Ark is a fundamental element of the Temple and the Temple building cannot be complete without it.

Therefore, from the very beginning of the Temple's construction, the Ark had two locations:

a) the place for the ark in the Holy of Holies,

b) the hidden vault where the Ark would be kept in the event of the Temple's destruction.

On this basis, we can see the Sanctuary built by Moses, the two Temples in Jerusalem, and the Messianic Temple, as unified by one essential bond. Since the same Ark was present in all previous structures and they will be revealed again in the Messianic age, all four buildings share the same essence.


As the Rambam states in the conclusion of the halachah, a divider was necessary between the sanctity of the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary. In the Tabernacle in the desert, a curtain, the parochet, alone served this function. In the First Temple, a wall was also built in addition to the curtain.


I Kings 6:2 states: "And the length of the Temple Solomon built was 60 cubits." The narrative continues (ibid.:17, 20): "The Sanctuary was 40 cubits long...and the space for the ark was 20 cubits long." Since the combined length of both chambers was only 60 cubits, the width of the wall had to be included in the measure of one of the chambers. However, it was not clear from which chamber it should be built (Jerusalem Talmud, Kelayim 8:4; see also Yoma 52a for a slightly different explanation).


The Marginita D'Rabbi Meir asks why the builders of the Second Temple were willing to add an extra cubit between the two chambers, when they hesitated to increase the width of the dividing wall. In resolution, it is explained that originally the eastern wall built by Solomon was seven cubits thick, while in the Second Temple, it was only six cubits thick. Thus, there was no change in the total length of the Temple building.


Bava Batra 3a,b explains that they did not build a wall because the Second Temple was higher than the First. The First Temple was only 30 cubits high. The Second Temple was 100 cubits high. A wall only a cubit thick would not be sturdy if built to such a height. Nevertheless, the width of the wall was not increased, because its original width was established by Ruach HaKodesh, Divine revelation. Thus, they returned to the pattern established in the Sanctuary of Moses and utilized curtains as dividers.


Yoma 52b relates that the external curtain had an opening on the south and the inner curtain had an opening on the north. Thus, to enter the Holy of Holies, the High Priest had to go through the entire width of the Temple between the two curtains.


Tosafot (Yoma, ibid.) asks why they were not able to resolve their dilemma by hanging one curtain, a cubit in width.

In response, the commentary states that both curtains were necessary because the verse quoted above, "the curtain shall divide..." clearly implies that the sanctity of the Holy of Holies begins with the outer surface of the curtain. Thus, based on the possibility that the wall of the First Temple was included within the 20 cubits of the Holy of Holies, an additional cubit would have been included in this sacred area if only one curtain was used. From this perspective, the inner curtain had to be a distinct entity, marking the beginning of the most sacred chamber.

Conversely, based on the view that the wall had been included in the measure of the Sanctuary and that the wall and the Holy of Holies encompassed 21 cubits, a thick curtain would have been unnecessary, since the outer curtain was located where the division was required to be made.


The Kessef Mishneh explains that the expression "First Temple" refers to the Sanctuary, for the First Temple itself had a wall rather than a curtain. However, Rav Yaakov Emden disputes this issue, quoting Yoma 54a which brings a number of Aggadot concerning the Ark and the curtain in the First Temple. The Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Middot 4:7) specifically states that there was a curtain in addition to the wall in the First Temple.


The source for the Rambam's statements is Middot 4:6.


The Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah states that this base was embedded in the ground. In contrast, Rabbenu Shemaya explains that the base actually stood above the ground.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that the addition of the word "resembling" in this halachah might imply that the Rambam changed his mind and adopted an interpretation similar to that of Rabbenu Shemaya.

Tosafot Yom Tov objects to the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah, explaining that it would be inappropriate to include the measure of this base in the height of the Temple. He also explains that in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam adopted a different perspective. He thus, defines the base as an extension of the steps leading to the Entrance Hall. These steps were six cubits high, the height of the base.

Tzurat HaBayit relates that there was a functional aspect to the base, and explains that it contained the lowest floor of the cells mentioned in Halachah 10.


Although the total height of Solomon's Sanctuary was 30 cubits, the returning exiles built the Second Temple higher, basing their decision on Haggai 2:9: "The glory of this later house will be greater than that of the former."


The Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah indicates that builders made designs of cement and stone in the ceiling. Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura explains that the ceiling was coated with gold and that designs were engraved inside.


Rather than seep through to the ornate ceiling.


In this text and in the commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam merely writes that the empty space was left for water to collect. The Ra'avad mentions the concept of drainage, implying that the Rambam had not conceived of it. However, it may be assumed that this was the Rambam's intention, since it is difficult to conceive why one would leave a space for water to collect without installing a drainage system.

Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura and other commentaries on the Mishnah render the term "Beit Dilpa" differently, explaining that it refers to a solid wooden base which supported the roof.


Deuteronomy 22:8 commands: "When you build a new house, you shall construct a guard rail for the roof." Though, in general, synagogues are not required to have a guardrail, because they are not owned by one individual and are not used as a dwelling (Chullin 136a), a guard rail was constructed for the Sanctuary.


The Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah translates that term as "the raven decimator" and explains that the sharp blade would cut off the birds' feet.


Note the accompanying diagram, copied from the Rambam's commentary to the Mishnah published by Rav Kapach.


I.e., from the far end of the Temple to its entrance.


The Rambam's statements are based on the Mishnah, Middot 4:7. However, his interpretation of the Mishnah varies from the literal meaning.

The Mishnah relates all the measurements from the wall of the Entrance Hall, the easternmost point of the Temple building, until the end of the Holy of Holies. Afterwards, it continues: "The wall of the Temple was six [cubits], the cell was six [cubits], and the wall of the cell was five [cubits]."

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Middot 4:3), the Rambam explains that unlike the northern, southern, and eastern external walls of the Temple, the two walls mentioned in the above Mishnah were not solid. Rather, each wall mentioned by the Mishnah refers to two walls, each a cubit thick, with a vacant space in between. Thus, there were really four walls, with three vacant spaces between. The vacant spaces are called cells, ta'im, in Hebrew and discussed in Halachah 10. In particular, the measurements of these vacant spaces are slightly different, as the Rambam explains.


As mentioned above, the width of all these walls was one cubit.


The length of the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary was the same in the Second Temple and in the First. The length of the Tabernacle built by Moses was one half the combined length of both chambers. However, the same 2:1 ratio was followed regarding the chambers' length.


As explained in Halachah 2.


The intent is actually two walls, each a cubit wide, with empty space between them.


Unlike the other walls mentioned previously, this wall was solid.


See the accompanying diagram taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah.


This Halachah is based on the continuation of the Mishnah (Middot 4:7) cited in the previous Halachah. In this Halachah as well, the Rambam does not follow a perfectly literal rendition of the Mishnah.


This was a solid wall with no vacant space in between, extending the entire length of the northern and southern sides of the Temple.


This and the previous line reflect one of the major differences between the Rambam's concept of the Temple building and that of Rashi, the Ra'avad, and other commentaries.

The abovementioned Mishnah concludes: "The rear of the Temple was narrow and its front wide, resembling a lion as it is said (Isaiah 29:1): 'Oh Ariel, Ariel (lit. Lion of God), the city where David encamped... '

Rabbenu Shimshon, the Ra'avad and others explain that the Temple building had a T shape. The Entrance Hall and its adjoining chambers were 100 cubits wide. However, the Entrance Hall was only eleven cubits long. The remaining 89 cubits of the Temple's length were only 70 cubits in width. The Mishnah states, "from north to south there were 70 cubits" and lists the division of that area. Afterwards, it concludes: "The Entrance Hall extended fifteen cubits to the north and fifteen cubits to the south..." implying, according to these authorities, that there were two measurements of the Temple's width, one including the Entrance Hall and one without it.

In contrast, the Rambam conceived of the Temple as being shaped like a trapezoid. See the accompanying drawing taken from his Commentary to the Mishnah. See also Halachah 9.

At its easternmost point, the Entrance Hall, it was 100 cubits wide. However, that width was slightly diminished as one proceeded westward, so that it would be "lion-shaped." His opinion is reinforced by the opening statement of Mishnah 4:6, which declares: "The Temple was 100 cubits by 100 cubits and 100 cubits tall," implying that it was shaped like a cube, except for the slight reduction of its width towards the rear.


The abovementioned Mishnah reads:

The wall of the winding stairwell, five; the winding stairwell, three; the wall of the cell, five; the cell, six; the wall of the Sanctuary, six; the [Sanctuary's] enclosed area, twenty; the wall of the Sanctuary, six; the cell, six; the wall of the cell, six; the drainage chamber, three; and the [outer] wall, five.

Again, the Rambam explains that the walls mentioned by the Mishnah were not solid, but rather, each was a cubit thick, with a hollow space in between. The Mishnah can be understood in terms of the Rambam's words according to the clauses that follow:


This refers to the "winding stairwell" mentioned by the Mishnah on the north side and the "drainage chamber" on the south side.


This clause explains why the Rambam does not define "the walls" as solid structures. It is difficult to conceive that a three cubit chamber would be surrounded by two walls, each five cubits in thickness (Tzurat HaBayit).


This refers to "the wall of the cell."


This refers to "the cell."


This refers to "the wall of the Sanctuary."

According to the Rambam, the names for the cells mentioned above refer only to the lowest floor. The equivalent cells in the upper storeys were not called by these names.


In Solomon's Temple as well, the Sanctuary was 20 cubits wide. In the desert, Moses' Tabernacle was only 10 cubits wide. However, its length was also only half that of the Temple's inner chambers.


According to the Rambam's diagrams and Rav Kapach's notes to the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, the two wickets are placed at the entrance to the spaces between the fourth and fifth walls (counting from the outside) on the north and south sides respectively (see the diagram accompanying Halachah 4). This area is referred to as "the cell" in the abovementioned Mishnah.


The verse continues: "because the Lord, God of Israel enters through it." The Midrash Tanchumah explains that this is an expression of God's humility. Rather than enter through the "great gate," God chooses to approach the Sanctuary through the modest wicket.


This halachah quotes Middot 4:2 and explains the manner in which the gates to the Sanctuary were opened each morning. Rather than open them from the front, the priests came in through the Entrance Hall, turned to the right, and entered through the wicket. They continued walking between the walls until reaching an opening from which they could enter the Sanctuary.

According to a diagram that accompanies Rav Kapach's edition of the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, the entrance to the Sanctuary was approximately in the center of the Sanctuary.


The term "great gate" is used because of the importance of its position, leading into the Sanctuary, and not because of the gate's size. We find a similar example in Deuteronomy 1:7 which describes the Euphrates as "the great river," though it is not physically large compared to other major rivers. The commentaries explain that this appellation was used because of its unique importance in marking the eastern boundary of Eretz Yisrael (Tosafot Yom Tov).


This was the standard size of the gates in the Temple (Middot 2:3).


Ezekiel's vision of the Temple (41:23-24) explicitly describes "two doors to the Temple and to the Sanctuary... two doors for each [set of] doors."


Since this passage was six cubits long, the doors, each only five cubits wide, could not cover the walls entirely. Therefore, they were positioned one cubit inside the passageway (Kessef Mishneh). See the accompanying drawing.


Middot 4:1, which is the source for this halachah, continues: "The entire Temple was plated with gold except for the space behind the doors." Thus, when the doors were opened, they were folded against the wall and they covered that space with gold as well.


This was the largest gateway of the entire Temple complex.


The commentaries explain that this gateway, the entrance to the Temple, was always open. In the same way, each Jew has an open pathway of prayer through which he can approach God at any time. Nevertheless, as stated in Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash 7:17, there was a curtain covering this entrance.


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Middot 3:7), the Rambam notes that attractive designs and forms were carved into these beams.


Chapter 1, Halachah 9, states that we are forbidden to build the Temple with wood that protrudes. The Tosafot Yom Tov notes this apparent contradiction and explains that these beams were embedded into the wall and were thus, not "protruding."


The entrance was twenty cubits wide and the five beams each extended one cubit on each side. Thus, the total length of the uppermost beam was thirty cubits.


To further enhance the appearance of the entrance.

Note the drawing accompanying the following halachah for a depiction of these beams and their position.


See the commentary to Halachah 5.


These balconies are explicitly mentioned in I Kings 6:5-6 and in Middot 4:4. However, the Rambam's conception of these structures differs from that of other commentaries and has been the subject of much debate.


According to the Rambam, these balconies extended outward from the outermost wall of the Temple on every side except the east (the Temple's facade, when approaching from the entrance to the Temple Courtyard).

On the surface, there is some difficulty with the Rambam's statements. As stated above, the Rambam conceived of the Temple building as a trapezoid. The wings of the Entrance Hall continued to the rear of the building, and the wall surrounding them was the Temple's most external wall. If so, it would seem that the balconies mentioned here should have extended out from that wall and not from the wall of the winding stairwell.


A projection served as a roof for the lower balcony, and above it was another balcony having the same length as the projection. See the accompanying diagram which was copied from Rav Kapach's edition of the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah.


From the north, south, and west; corresponding to the right, left, and rear of the Temple when facing it from the entrance to the Temple Courtyard.

As mentioned above, the Rambam's conception of these balconies differs from that of the other commentaries. Rashi and the Ra'avad explain that the verses and the Mishnah mentioned above refer to the cells mentioned in Halachot 4, 5, and 10. According to those commentaries, there were no balconies at all. The Tosafot Yom Tov mentions the Rambam's opinion. However, the diagrams drawn by the Rambam himself and accompanying his Commentary to the Mishnah (as published in Rav Kapach's edition) were not at his disposal. Hence, there may be some imprecision in his interpretation of the Rambam's words.

To understand the Rambam, we must return to the original sources. However, even that is not easy, since most available translations and even most commentaries in Hebrew follow Rashi's view.

The following is a rendition of the verses in Kings, according to the Rambam:

And on the walls of the House, he constructed a side-structure surrounding the walls of the House, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies. He made projections around [the House]. The lowest structure was five cubits wide; the middle one, six cubits wide, and the third, seven cubits wide. He placed structures diminishing in size for the House, surrounding it on its exterior, so that [the people] will not take hold of the House.

The Mishnah interprets those verses as follows:

The lowest [balcony] was five [cubits wide - as mentioned in the verse]. There was a projection of six cubits [the projection mentioned in the verse.] The middle one was six cubits, and there was an additional projection of seven cubits. The upper one was seven cubits wide.

The Rambam's diagrams show a straight outer wall of the Temple, and balconies which diminish in length on their outer side (in contrast to the explanation offered by the Tosafot Yom Tov).

The balconies in the Rambam's drawings were built as a protective measure, to insure that the priests show proper respect for the Temple and do not lean against its walls.


These projections also are the subject of a difference in opinion between Rashi and the Rambam. The source for the debate is the interpretation of Middot 3:6 which states:

There were 22 cubits between the Entrance Hall and the Altar. There were twelve steps there. Each step was half a cubit high and one cubit wide.

A cubit, a cubit; and a protrusion of three; a cubit, a cubit, and a protrusion of three; on the highest level, a cubit, a cubit, and a protrusion of four.

Rashi interprets the entire mishnah as referring to the steps leading to the Entrance Hall. In order to fill the space between the Altar and the Entrance Hall, platforms were inserted into the steps. Thus, there were three empty cubits before the first step, a step, a step, and a platform of three, etc. until one reached the Entrance Hall.

Rav Kapach's translation of the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah sees the mishnah as referring to two separate subjects, the steps which had been mentioned previously and protrusions which he describes as follows:

Afterwards, [the mishnah] states that the wall of the Entrance Hall was built in the following pattern. A cubit long portion of the wall was left vacant as all the other walls...Above it there was a structure protruding from the wall, three cubits high... called a projection. Similarly, the entire height [of the wall] ...had one cubit of [vacant] wall space, a projection of three cubits... until the uppermost projection, which was four cubits high.

Note the accompanying drawing copied from Rav Kapach's edition of the Commentary to the Mishnah. Rather than picture the front wall of the Temple as a flat structure, the Rambam depicts it as being covered with these projections.


All four walls of the Temple were covered with projections to prevent the priests from leaning against them.


Extending out from the front facade.


See the accompanying diagram for an artist's conception of the Temple's front facade.


As mentioned in the commentary on Halachot 4 and 5, the Rambam has a different conception of the cells than the other commentaries.

Middot 4:3 states:

There were 38 cells: five in the north, five in the south, and eight in the west. In the north and in the south, there were five above five, with five above them. In the west, there were three above three, with two above them.

Middot 4:7 states:

The wall of the winding stairwell, five; the winding stairwell, three; the wall of the cell, five; the cell, six; the wall of the Sanctuary, six; the [Sanctuary's] enclosed area, twenty; the wall of the Sanctuary, six; the cell, six; the wall of the cell, six; the drainage chamber, three; and the [outer] wall, five.

Rashi and the Ra'avad explain the two mishnayot simply: The chamber referred to as "the cell" in mishnah 4:7 was, in fact, divided lengthwise into five cells on the northern and southern sides of the Temple, with three cells on the western side. All the other specific dimensions mentioned by the mishnah can thus be understood without any difficulty.

In contrast, the Rambam explains that the walls mentioned in the mishnah 4:7 were not solid, but rather, double walls, each a cubit in thickness, and with a hollow space in between. The five cells mentioned in 4:3 thus, refer to the five vacant spaces between the walls. These spaces extended the entire length of the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies on the northern and southern sides, and the three cells extended to the three vacant spaces between the walls on the western side.

Note the accompanying drawings copied from Rav Kapach's edition of the Commentary to the Mishnah. The three divisions must be seen as being placed one on top of the other.


The lowest level was six cubits high, equal to the height of the Temple's base. The other two levels were each twenty cubits high. As the Rambam states in Halachah 12, the roof of the cells was on the same level as the upper storey of the Sanctuary.


The addition of the words "on one level" is necessary. Since the pattern of cells differed in the west, one might think that rather than have only three levels as in the north and south, the mishnah's words "two above them" could be interpreted as follows: There were four levels of cells, the latter two each possessing one cell. With this addition, the Rambam prevents this misconception from arising.


They were used for storage.


The source for this Halachah is Middot 4:7. The Rambam's interpretation again differs from that of Rashi.

Rashi would interpret right and left as lengthwise in the row of cells. According to the Rambam, the expressions right and left refer, as they have throughout the discussion of the Temple, to these directions as one faces the Holy of Holies, north and south respectively.


This refers to the bottom floor of cells which had openings to the cells above them and the upper floor which had openings to the cells below. The middle floor of cells had four openings, because it has openings both to the cells below and to the cells above.


This clause, a continuation of the abovementioned mishnah, represents one of the major difficulties in regard to the Rambam's interpretation. The Rambam cannot contradict an explicit mishnah, yet his interpretation of the mishnah's text is by no means straightforward.

According to the Rambam, this cell is positioned above the cell called "the winding stairwell." Though it is not the northernmost cell, it is still referred to as "the cell in the northeast corner."


To the northernmost cell, the cell over "the wall of the winding stairwell."


In the third storey of cells.


The cell below it.


"Towards," but not "to." The cell did not possess an entrance to the cell with the wicket, the latter being the second of the cells and the cell in question being the fourth.


Here, the word Temple is being used loosely. It does not refer to the Sanctuary itself, but to the Entrance Hall. Nevertheless, the latter can also be called the Sanctuary as evidenced by the Rambam's statements in Chapter 1, Halachah 5.

Furthermore, there is an additional problem: The mishnah appeared to intend to single out this cell by the fact that it had five entrances. However, according to the Rambam's interpretation, the cell with the wicket also possessed five entrances: One to the Sanctuary, one to the Entrance Hall, one to the cell above it, one to the cell below it, and one to the cell on its right.


According to the Rambam, one must differentiate between the chamber called the winding stairwell and the winding stairwell itself.

The chamber called the winding stairwell refers to the second cell on the right, on the lowest floor. The winding stairwell began at the easternmost point of this cell (the side closest to the Entrance Hall).


Walking within the cells a distance of approximately 66 cubits.


The stairwell ascended approximately 22 cubits across this length.


Proceeding within the cells a distance of approximately 50 cubits.


Ascending approximately 17 cubits along this length.


Ascending the remaining height (approximately 11 cubits).


Which was on the same level as the roof of the cells


Slightly beyond the dividing line between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.


Which is the roof of the Temple building.


Some commentaries explain that these marking posts were placed on the roof of the upper storey. However, the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Middot 4:5), explicitly states that they were placed on the floor of the top level.

In addition to these marking posts, two curtains were hung in the upper storey, resembling the curtains which divided the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies (Hilchot K'lei HaMikdash 7:17).


Chapter 7, Halachah 23, states that once every seven years, they entered the upper storey so that they could descend from there to inspect the Holy of Holies. Rather than enter the Holy of Holies directly, they used these apertures.


They would try to find craftsmen who were priests for this task. If no qualified priests could be found, they searched for Levites. If they could not find capable Levites, they would assign the task to Israelites (ibid.).


Tosafot Yom Tov writes that the boxes were closed on three sides and open on the fourth.


Pesachim 26a states that one is not required to bring a guilt offering for deriving pleasure by gazing at sacred objects. However, though no offering is required, it was still forbidden to gaze at the Holy of Holies.


The source for the Rambam's statements is Middot 3:4. However, it is difficult to understand which part of the Temple building was to be covered with cement. As explained in Chapter 1, Halachah, the exterior of the Temple building was made of fine marble, and at times, it was coated with gold. Surely, these attractive surfaces would not be covered with simple cement.

There are sources who suggest that it was the Temple ceiling that was coated with cement each year. It is our prayer that the Temple will be rebuilt in the near future and then, we will understand the Rambam's intent.

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