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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 2, Beit Habechirah - Chapter 3, Beit Habechirah - Chapter 4

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Beit Habechirah - Chapter 2

1

The Altar is [to be constructed] in a very precise location,1 which may never be changed,2 as it is said (II Chronicles 22:1): "This is the Altar for the burnt offerings of Israel."

Isaac was prepared as a sacrifice on the Temple's [future] site, as it is said (Genesis 22:2): "Go to the land of Moriah,"3 and in Chronicles (II 3:1), it is said: "Then, Solomon began to build the House of the Lord in Jerusalem, on Mt. Moriah, where [the Lord] appeared to David, his father, in the place that David had prepared,4 in the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite."

א

הַמִּזְבֵחַ מְקוֹמוֹ מְכֻוָּן בְּיוֹתֵר. וְאֵין מְשַׁנִּין אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לְעוֹלָם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברי הימים א כב א) "זֶה מִזְבַּח לְעוֹלָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל". וּבַמִּקְדָּשׁ נֶעֱקַד יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית כב ב) "וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה". וְנֶאֱמַר בְּדִבְרֵי הַיָּמִים (דברי הימים ב ג א) "וַיָּחֶל שְׁלֹמֹה לִבְנוֹת אֶת בֵּית ה' בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם בְּהַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה אֲשֶׁר נִרְאָה לְדָוִיד אָבִיהוּ אֲשֶׁר הֵכִין בִּמְקוֹם דָּוִיד בְּגֹרֶן אָרְנָן הַיְבוּסִי":

2

It is universally accepted5 that the place on which David and Solomon built the Altar,6 the threshing floor of Ornan, is the location where Abraham built the Altar on which he prepared Isaac for sacrifice.

Noah built [an altar] on that location when he left the ark.7 It was also [the place] of the Altar on which Cain and Abel brought sacrifices.8 [Similarly,] Adam, the first man, offered a sacrifice there and was created at that very spot,9 as our Sages said: "Man was created from the place where he [would find] atonement."10

ב

וּמָסֹרֶת בְּיַד הַכּל שֶׁהַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ דָּוִד וּשְׁלֹמֹה הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בְּגֹרֶן אֲרַוְנָה הוּא הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ אַבְרָהָם הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְעָקַד עָלָיו יִצְחָק. וְהוּא הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה בּוֹ נֹחַ כְּשֶׁיָּצָא מִן הַתֵּבָה. וְהוּא הַמִּזְבֵּחַ שֶׁהִקְרִיב עָלָיו קַיִן וְהֶבֶל. וּבוֹ הִקְרִיב אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן קָרְבָּן כְּשֶׁנִּבְרָא וּמִשָּׁם נִבְרָא. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אָדָם מִמְּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא:

3

The dimensions of the Altar must be very precise. Its design has been passed down from one to another [over the course of the generations].

The altar built by the exiles [returning from Babylon] was constructed according to the design of the Altar to be built in the Messianic age.11 We may not increase or reduce its dimensions.12

ג

מִדּוֹת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מְכֻוָּנוֹת הַרְבֵּה וְצוּרָתוֹ יְדוּעָה אִישׁ מֵאִישׁ. וּמִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁבָּנוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה כְּעֵין מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָתִיד לְהִבָּנוֹת עָשׂוּהוּ וְאֵין לְהוֹסִיף עַל מִדָּתוֹ וְלֹא לִגְרֹעַ מִמֶּנָּה:

4

Three prophets returned to [Eretz Yisrael] with the people:13 one attested to the site of the Altar;14 the second, to its dimensions;15 and the third attested to [the Halachah permitting] all sacrifices to be offered on that Altar, even though the Temple itself was not [built] there [yet].16

ד

וּשְׁלֹשָׁה נְבִיאִים עָלוּ עִמָּהֶם מִן הַגּוֹלָה. אֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מְקוֹם הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מִדּוֹתָיו. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן שֶׁמַּקְרִיבִין עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַזֶּה כָּל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בַּיִת:

5

The Altar constructed by Moses, and, [similarly,] that built by Solomon, and that erected by the [returning] exiles, and that to be built [in the Messianic age] are all ten cubits high.17 Though the Torah states [Exodus 27:1]: "Its height will be three cubits," [that refers to] the surface on which the wood for the sacrifices was arranged.18

The length and breadth of the Altar built by the [returning] exiles and, similarly, the one to be built in the Messianic Age, is 32 cubits by 32 cubits.19

ה

מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשָׂה משֶׁה וְשֶׁעָשָׂה שְׁלֹמֹה וְשֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְשֶׁעָתִיד לְהֵעָשׂוֹת כֻּלָּן עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת גֹּבַהּ כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן. וְזֶה הַכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כז א) "וְשָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת קוֹמָתוֹ" מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה בִּלְבַד. וּמִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְכֵן הֶעָתִיד לְהִבָּנוֹת מִדַּת אָרְכּוֹ וְרָחְבּוֹ ל''ב אַמּוֹת עַל ל''ב אַמּוֹת:

6

The 10 cubits of the Altar's height [were not measured in a consistent manner.]20 Sometimes the measure of a "cubit" was six handbreadths, while in other cases, the cubit's measure was five handbreadths.21 In all other cases, the cubits mentioned in the dimensions of the Temple are six handbreadths.

The height of the entire Altar22 was 58 handbreadths.23

ו

עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת שֶׁל גֹּבַהּ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מֵהֶן בְּאַמָּה בַּת חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים וּמֵהֶן בְּאַמָּה בַּת שִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וּשְׁאָר כָּל אַמּוֹת הַבִּנְיָן בְּאַמָּה בַּת שִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וְגֹבַהּ כָּל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ נ''ח טְפָחִים:

7

The [Altar's] dimensions and design were as follows:24 Five handbreadths up and five handbreadths in25 [form a step called] the base. Thus, the [remaining area of the Altar] was 30 cubits and two handbreadths by 30 cubits and two handbreadths.26

Thirty handbreadths [further] up and 5 handbreadths [further] in is [called] the surrounding ledge.27

Thus, its area was 28 cubits and four handbreadths by 28 cubits and four handbreadths.28

Go up eighteen handbreadths, place a hollow, rectangular structure in each corner of this surface [thus, creating the Altar's] four horns.

The area encompassed by the horns was one cubit by one cubit on all sides.29 Similarly, the space for the priests to walk was a cubit on all sides.30

[Thus,] the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged31 was 24 cubits and four handbreadths by 24 cubits and four handbreadths.32

ז

וְכָךְ הָיְתָה מִדָּתוֹ וְצוּרָתוֹ. עָלָה חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים וְכָנַס חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים זֶהוּ יְסוֹד. נִמְצָא רֹחַב שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה וּשְׁנֵי טְפָחִים עַל רֹחַב שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה וּשְׁנֵי טְפָחִים. עָלָה שְׁלֹשִׁים טְפָחִים וְכָנַס חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים זֶהוּ סוֹבֵב [עָלָה י''ח טְפָחִים זֶהוּ מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה] נִמְצָא רָחְבּוֹ שְׁמוֹנֶה וְעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים עַל שְׁמוֹנֶה וְעֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים [עָלָה י''ח טְפָחִים וְכוֹנֵס לְקֶרֶן זָוִית שֶׁל הַי''ח בִּנְיָן חָלוּל מְרֻבָּע לְכָל אַרְבַּע קְרָנוֹת] וּמְקוֹם הַקְּרָנוֹת אַמָּה מִזֶּה וְאַמָּה מִזֶּה סָבִיב. וְכֵן מְקוֹם רַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים אַמָּה סָבִיב. נִמְצָא מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה רָחְבּוֹ עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים עַל עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת וְאַרְבָּעָה טְפָחִים:

8

Each horn was five handbreadths high.33 The area of each horn was a cubit by a cubit. [All] four horns were hollow.34

Thus, the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged was 18 handbreadths above [the surrounding ledge.]

Half of the Altar's height [began] 6 handbreadths below the end of the surrounding ledge.35

ח

גֹּבַהּ כָּל קֶרֶן וְקֶרֶן חֲמִשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וְרִבּוּעַ כָּל קֶרֶן אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה. וְאַרְבַּע הַקְּרָנוֹת חֲלוּלוֹת הָיוּ מִתּוֹכָן. וְגֹבַהּ מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה י''ח טְפָחִים. נִמְצָא חֲצִי גֹּבַהּ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כ''ט טְפָחִים מִסּוֹף הַסּוֹבֵב וּלְמַטָּה:

9

A scarlet band36 is girded around the middle of the Altar six handbreadths below the surrounding ledge to separate between the blood [to be cast on] the upper [portion of the Altar]37 and the blood [to be sprinkled on] the lower [portion of the Altar].38

Thus, the distance from the earth to the surface on which [the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged was a handbreadth less than nine cubits.39

ט

וְחוּט שֶׁל סִקְרָה הָיָה חוֹגֵר בְּאֶמְצַע הַמִּזְבֵּחַ [כְּשִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים מִסּוֹף הַסּוֹבֵב וּלְמַטָּה] לְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין דָּמִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לְדָמִים הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים. וְנִמְצָא גָּבְהוֹ מִן הָאָרֶץ עַד מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה תֵּשַׁע אַמּוֹת פָּחוֹת טֶפַח:

10

The ledge encircled the Altar on all four sides. The base did not.40 The base encompassed the entire northern41 and western42 sides [of the Altar], and consumed one cubit on the South side and one cubit on the east side.43[Thus,] the southeast corner [of the Altar] did not have a base.

י

יְסוֹד הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא הָיָה מַקִּיף מֵאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹתָיו כְּמוֹ הַסּוֹבֵב. אֶלָּא הָיָה הַיְסוֹד מָשׁוּךְ כְּנֶגֶד כָּל רוּחַ צָפוֹן וּמַעֲרָבִי וְאוֹכֵל בַּדָּרוֹם אַמָּה אַחַת וּבַמִּזְרָח אַמָּה אַחַת. וְקֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית לֹא הָיָה לָהּ יְסוֹד:

11

There were two holes in the southwest corner [of the Altar's base],44 resembling two thin nostrils. They were called Shittin.45 The blood46 [which was poured onto the Altar] would run off through them and be mixed together in the drainage canal in that corner.47 From there, it would flow out to the Kidron River.48

יא

וּבְקֶרֶן מַעֲרָבִית דְּרוֹמִית הָיוּ שְׁנֵי נְקָבִים כְּמִין שֵׁנִי חֳטָמִין דַּקִּין. וְהֵן הַנִּקְרָאִין שִׁיתִין שֶׁהַדָּמִים יוֹרְדִין בָּהֶן וּמִתְעָרְבִין בְּאוֹתָהּ הַקֶּרֶן בָּאַמָּה וְיוֹצְאִין לַנַּחַל קִדְרוֹן:

12

Below, in the floor of that corner of the Altar, was a place, a cubit by a cubit, [covered by] a block of marble, with a ring affixed to it.49 They would descend there to the Shittin and clean them.50

יב

וּלְמַטָּה בָּרִצְפָּה בְּאוֹתוֹ הַקֶּרֶן הָיָה מְקוֹם אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה וְטַבְלָא שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ וְטַבַּעַת קְבוּעָה בָּהּ שֶׁבּוֹ יוֹרְדִין לַשִּׁיתִין וּמְנַקִּין אוֹתוֹ:

13

The ramp51 was constructed to the south of the Altar.52 Its length was 32 cubits, and its width, sixteen cubits. It consumed 30 cubits on the ground adjacent to the Altar, and extended [further, covering] one cubit of the base and one cubit of the surrounding ledge.53

There was a small space54 between the ramp and the Altar so that the limbs [of the sacrifices] would have to be tossed to reach the Altar.55

The height of the ramp was nine cubits minus a sixth of a cubit. It equaled that of [the surface on which the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged.56

יג

וְכֶבֶשׁ הָיָה בָּנוּי לִדְרוֹמוֹ שֶׁל מִזְבֵּחַ. אָרְכּוֹ שְׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם אַמָּה עַל רֹחַב ט''ז אַמָּה וְהָיָה אוֹכֵל בָּאָרֶץ שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה מִצַּד הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וּפוֹרֵחַ מִמֶּנָּה אַמָּה עַל הַיְסוֹד וְאַמָּה עַל הַסּוֹבֵב. וַאֲוִיר מְעַט הָיָה מַפְסִיק בֵּין הַכֶּבֶשׁ לַמִּזְבֵּחַ כְּדֵי לִתֵּן הָאֵיבָרִים לַמִּזְבֵּחַ בִּזְרִיקָה. וְגֹבַהּ הַכֶּבֶשׁ תֵּשַׁע אַמּוֹת פָּחוֹת שְׁתוּת עַד כְּנֶגֶד הַמַּעֲרָכָה:

14

Two small ramps extended from it. One led to the base,57 and the other to the surrounding ledge.58 They were set off from the Altar by a hair's breadth.

There was an aperture on the west side59 of the ramp, a cubit by a cubit. It was called the Rivuvah.60 There, fowl that had been disqualified for use as sin offerings would be placed until their form decomposed, at which time they could be taken out to be burnt.61

יד

וּשְׁנֵי כְּבָשִׁים קְטַנִּים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁבָּהֶם פּוֹנִים לַיְסוֹד וְלַסּוֹבֵב וּמֻבְדָּלִין מִן הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כִּמְלֹא נִימָא. וְחַלּוֹן הָיְתָה בְּמַעֲרָבוֹ שֶׁל כֶּבֶשׁ אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה וּרְבוּבָה הָיְתָה נִקְרֵאת. שֶׁבָּהּ נוֹתְנִין פְּסוּלֵי חַטַּאת הָעוֹף עַד שֶׁתַּעֲבֹר צוּרָתָהּ וְתֵצֵא לְבֵית הַשְּׂרֵפָה:

15

Two tables were [placed] on the left side of the ramp:

One of marble, on which the limbs [of the sacrifices to be offered on the Altar] were placed,62 and

One of silver, on which sacrificial vessels were placed.

טו

וּשְׁנֵי שֻׁלְחָנוֹת הָיוּ בְּמַעֲרַב הַכֶּבֶשׁ אֶחָד שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עָלָיו אֶת הָאֵיבָרִים וְאֶחָד שֶׁל כֶּסֶף שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עָלָיו כְּלֵי הַשָּׁרֵת:

16

When we build the Altar, it must be made as one solid block, resembling a pillar. No empty cavity may be left at all.63

We must bring whole stones, both large and small.64 Then we must create a liquid with lime, pitch, and molten lead, and pour it [over the stones] into a large mold of its dimensions.65 We must build it in this manner, ascending [level by level].66

We must place a block of wood or stone in the southeast corner of the structure, equal to the measure of [the missing portion of the Altar's] base.67 Similarly, [blocks] must be placed in each horn until the building is completed.68 Then, the blocks may be removed from the structure, thus leaving the southeast corner without a base, and the horns, hollow.

טז

כְּשֶׁבּוֹנִין הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בּוֹנִין אוֹתוֹ כֻּלּוֹ אָטוּם כְּמִין עַמּוּד וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין בּוֹ חָלָל כְּלָל. אֶלָּא מֵבִיא אֲבָנִים שְׁלֵמוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת וּקְטַנּוֹת וּמֵבִיא סִיד וְזֶפֶת וְקוּנְיָא וּמְמַחֶה וְשׁוֹפַךְ לְתוֹךְ מַלְבֵּן גָּדוֹל כְּמִדָּתוֹ וּבוֹנֶה וְעוֹלֶה. וְנוֹתֵן בְּתוֹךְ הַבִּנְיָן גּוּף שֶׁל עֵץ אוֹ אֶבֶן בְּקֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית כְּמִדַּת הַיְסוֹד. וְכֵן נוֹתֵן בְּתוֹךְ כָּל קֶרֶן וְקֶרֶן עַד שֶׁיַּשְׁלִים הַבִּנְיָן וְיָסִיר הַגּוּפִים שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ הַבִּנְיָן כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּשָּׁאֵר קֶרֶן דְּרוֹמִית מִזְרָחִית בְּלֹא יְסוֹד וְיִשָּׁאֲרוּ הַקְּרָנוֹת חֲלוּלִין:

17

The four horns, the base, and a square shape are absolute requirements for the Altar. Any Altar which lacks [either] a horn, a base, a ramp, or a square shape, is unfit for use, for these four are absolute requirements.69

However, the measures of length, width, and height, are not absolute requirements,70 provided they are not less than a cubit by a cubit [in area,] and three cubits high. [The latter were] the dimensions of the surface [on which the wood for the sacrifices] was arranged for the altar [in the Sanctuary that accompanied the Jews] in the desert.71

יז

אַרְבַּע קְרָנוֹת שֶׁל מִזְבֵּחַ וִיסוֹדוֹ וְרִבּוּעוֹ מְעַכְּבִין. וְכָל מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֶרֶן יְסוֹד וְכֶבֶשׁ וְרִבּוּעַ הֲרֵי הוּא פָּסוּל שֶׁאַרְבַּעְתָּן מְעַכְּבִין. אֲבָל מִדַּת אָרְכּוֹ וּמִדַּת רָחְבּוֹ וּמִדַּת קוֹמָתוֹ אֵינָן מְעַכְּבִין. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִפְחֹת מֵאַמָּה עַל אַמָּה בְּרוּם שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת כְּשִׁעוּר מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה שֶׁל מִזְבַּח מִדְבָּר:

18

[The following laws apply when] the structure of the Altar is damaged. If a handbreadth of its structure is damaged, it is unfit for use.72 If less than a handbreadth [is damaged], it is acceptable,73 provided none of the remaining stones are damaged.74

יח

מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁנִּפְגַּם מִבִּנְיָנוֹ אִם נִפְגַּם מִבִּנְיָנוֹ טֶפַח פָּסוּל פָּחוֹת מִטֶּפַח כָּשֵׁר וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה בַּנִּשְׁאָר אֶבֶן פְּגוּמָה:

Footnotes
1.

As emphasized by the various events mentioned in this and the following halachot.

The location of the Altar within the Temple Courtyard is discussed in Chapter 5, Halachot 12-16.

2.

In this context, we can understand the Rambam's choice of words, when describing the achievements of the Mashiach (Hilchot Melachim 11:1): "He will build the Sanctuary in its place." There, he does not state "its precise location," for although the Messianic Temple in its entirety will also be built on Mt. Moriah, certain aspects of it will not correspond exactly to the Temples. Nevertheless, even then, the Altar in particular will be positioned in precisely the same location as before.

3.

Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer relates that the altar which Abraham constructed on Mt. Moriah had twelve stones. Later, when Jacob journeyed to Charan (Genesis, ch. 28), he slept on Mt. Moriah and "took from the stones of the place and put them at his head." The stones he collected were the twelve used by Abraham. God fused them all into a single stone and the unified rock was embedded in the very foundation of the earth. That stone was referred to as Even HaShtiah, (see also Chapter 4, Halachah 1) "the foundation stone." It was located in the Holy of Holies.

Thus, Abraham's altar was apparently not built on the site of the altar to be built by his descendants, but rather, at the ultimate location of the Holy of Holies. However, this difficulty can be resolved. Jacob "took from the stones," and moved them from their original place, the Altar's future site, to a different location, that of the Holy of Holies.

4.

Though David was not allowed to build the Temple, he purchased the site, constructed an altar, and offered sacrifices there.

Zevachim 62a relates that David used prophetic vision in choosing the site of the altar. According to one opinion, he saw the Heavenly Altar on which the angel Michael offers sacrifices. According to a second view, he saw the ashes of Isaac.

5.

The commentaries explain that this phrase refers to the Gentiles. Even they recognized the holiness of the Altar's site.

The fact that the Gentiles were aware that the site of the Altar is holy is Halachically relevant. The pagans living in Eretz Yisrael before its conquest by the Jewish people were so idolatrous that our Sages declared: "Wherever you see a lofty mountain ...or a leafy tree, know that idols were worshipped there." Since the Temple Mount was also a high mountain, surely it would have been considered an appropriate place for pagan rites.

However, since the holiness of the Altar's site was universally accepted, even the Gentiles did not profane its sanctity with idol worship.

6.

David and Solomon did not build the same Altar. Rather, David chose the site as the future location of the Temple, and constructed an Altar and offered sacrifices. Later, when Solomon built the Temple, he erected a new Altar at the same site.

8.

See ibid. 4:3-5.

9.

The Rambam entitled this collection of Halachot, Hilchot Beit HaBechirah, the Laws of God's Chosen House, implying that God did not select Mount Moriah as the Temple site because of its inherent holiness, but because of His own choice and desire. That choice was clearly expressed in the previous Halachah which states: "the place of the Altar is extremely exact... as it is said: 'This is the altar for the burnt offerings of Israel.'

As such, it can be explained that the Rambam does not recount the various historical events mentioned in this Halachah just to bring further proof of the holiness of the Altar's site. That is unnecessary. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate that many righteous men were aware of the uniqueness of the Altar's site through prophetic vision, and for this reason, they made efforts to offer their sacrifices there.

Why does the Rambam relate all these historical events? As he clearly states in his introduction to the Mishneh Torah, his goal is not to summarize the Talmud's teachings regarding a particular subject, but to describe how to carry out the various mitzvot. These historical facts do not seem to facilitate his objective.

The need for these additions may be explained by comparison to the Rambam's decisions regarding the right to the monarchy. In that context, the Rambam writes that although God chose David and his descendants as kings and endowed them with the monarchy forever, there was a Halachic legitimacy to the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes). Since the first king, Jereboam, was appointed by a prophet, his regal power must be recognized. (Hilchot Melachim 1:7,8).

It could be inferred that a similar ruling might apply in regard to the altar: i.e. the Altar on Mount Moriah would remain holy forever, however, another altar of similar status could also be established. In order to eliminate that presumption, the Rambam presents a number of examples, illustrating that throughout the generations, from the time of Adam, the prophets had tried to bring sacrifices on this site alone. These efforts clearly imply that there is not, nor will there be, another place with a similar degree of holiness (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 19, p.140-7).

10.

This statement is somewhat problematic. Though the Rambam's statements have a basis in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 14:8), according to Sanhedrin 38b, Adam appears to have been created in the Garden of Eden, a considerable distance from this location. Generally, when a conflict arises between sources, the decision is based upon the Babylonian Talmud. Hence, one might ask why the Rambam favored the other sources in this case.

11.

Its dimensions differed from the altar built by King Solomon in the First Temple. As mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 4, the fundamental design of the Second Temple resembled that of Solomon's Temple. However, certain aspects were altered to conform with Ezekiel's vision of the Messianic Temple. The dimensions and design of the altar are mentioned in Ezekiel 43:13-17 and were followed by the exiles when they returned to Jerusalem.

12.

As explained in Halachah 17, the Altar is acceptable even if its dimensions are not exact. Nevertheless, as an initial preference, an attempt must be made to conform exactly to the plan mentioned below.

13.

Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

14.

For, as mentioned in Halachah 1, the Altar's site must be precise.

15.

Note the previous halachah.

16.

The Rambam's statements are taken from Zevachim 62a. However, the terminology in that source regarding Malachi's testimony is different. According to the Talmud, the prophet stated that "all the sacrifices may be offered, even though the Temple was not [built];" and the Rambam adds the phrase "on that Altar."

Later commentaries have explained the significance of that addition, based on the following episode. In the Middle Ages, the Sage, Rabbi Chayim (according to other sources, Rabbi Yechiel) of Paris made Aliyah and settled in Jerusalem. He wanted to offer sacrifices on the Temple Mount. In analyzing this account, the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De'ah, Responsum 336) explained that this must have referred to the Pascal sacrifice, which could be offered in a state of ritual impurity and yet, did not have to be purchased with communal funds.

Among the reasons the commentaries have given why such a sacrifice could not be offered is that we are lacking an Altar with its proper size and dimensions. In contrast, the exiles who returned from Babylon were allowed to offer sacrifices on the altar built according to the prophets' directives.

17.

See Ezekiel 43:13 and commentaries.

18.

See Zevachim 59b, which records a dispute among the Sages concerning the height of Moses' (and hence, all subsequent) Altar(s).

Among the proofs brought for the opinion accepted by the Rambam are the following:

a) an analogy drawn between the sacrificial altar and the incense altar. Just as the latter's height was twice its length, so, too, the height of the sacrificial altar (10 cubits) was twice its length (5 cubits).

b) The height of Moses' Altar had to equal that of the Sanctuary that accompanied the Jews in the desert, which was 10 cubits high.

19.

This measurement refers to the dimensions of the Altar's base and not to its upper surface, as explained in the following Halachah.

20.

Kellim 17:10 relates that a cubit used in building was generally six handbreadths long. In contrast, the cubit used to measure utensils was five handbreadths long. An exception to this principle was made in regard to the Altar.

21.

A handbreadth is the width of the four fingers of the hand when they are closed loosely. There is a debate among the Rabbis regarding the equivalent of this amount in modern measurements. Some authorities consider a handbreadth as 8 centimeters and others, as large as 9.6 centimeters.

22.

Including its horns.

23.

I.e., two cubits were five handbreadths long, while the remaining eight were six handbreadths long, as explained in the following halachot.

24.

The Rambam actually included a diagram in his text of the Mishneh Torah. The accompanying diagram is based on the Rambam's original.

This entire Halachah is based on the Rambam's interpretation of Ezekiel's vision. Rashi interprets that prophecy differently, and many Rabbinic opinions follow his view. See the Kessef Mishneh and other commentaries.

25.

In this instance, five handbreadths were considered as a cubit.

26.

As mentioned above, the Altar was 32 cubits long and 32 cubits wide. Each cubit was six handbreadths long. When the five handbreadths of the base were subtracted from each side, the following equation determines the remaining length and width: 32 cubits minus 10 (i.e., 5 on either side) handbreadths, equals 30 cubits and two handbreadths.

27.

This name was chosen because, in contrast to the base, the ledge surrounded the altar on all four sides (Tifferet Yisrael).

The height of thirty handbreadths is considered as five cubits, for this cubit is measured by six handbreadths.

28.

This figure is reached when 10 handbreadths (5 on either side) are subtracted from 30 cubits and 2 handbreadths.

29.

In this case, the cubits contained six handbreadths. Each of the horns was a cubit long and a cubit wide. The space in between them was left hollow, thus, reducing both the length and the width of the upper surface of the altar by two cubits.

30.

Here too, the cubit had six handbreadths, thus reducing both the length and the width of the upper surface of the altar by two cubits.

31.

I.e., the upper surface of the altar.

32.

The Ra'avad explains that the Altar's horns were slanted inward, thus, consuming an additional four handbreadths of space and reducing the surface to exactly 24 cubits. It must be noted that both Rashi and Tosefot (Sukkah 45a) concur with the Rambam's opinion that the horns stood directly perpendicular to the Altar.

33.

The horns were a cubit high when using the measure of five handbreadths to the cubit.

34.

Zevachim 54b derives this concept as follows: The prophet Zechariah declared: "And they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the Altar." Thus, that vision implies that the horns located on the Altar's corners can serve as receptacles.

35.

The height of the altar can be summarized as follows:

a) the base - 1 cubit - 5 handbreadths

b) the surrounding ledge - 5 cubits - 30 handbreadths

c) the Altar's surface - 3 cubits - 18 handbreadths

d) the horns - 1 cubit - 5 handbreadths, a total of 58 handbreadths. Thus half of its height was 29 handbreadths. The surrounding ledge was 30 cubits high and the base, five. Thirty plus five minus six equals 29.

36.

The altar in the Sanctuary in the desert had a copper net screen which served this function. See Exodus 27:4-5 and Zevachim 53a.

37.

The blood of a fowl brought as a burnt offering had to be cast on the upper portion of the Altar (Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 6:20).

38.

The blood of a bird brought as a sin offering was sprinkled on the lower portion of the Altar (ibid. 7:6). Similarly, the blood of animals brought as burnt, guilt, or peace offerings was sprinkled in the same place (ibid. 5:6).

39.

As mentioned above, the Altar's horns were 1 cubit high. Thus, one cubit may be subtracted from the ten cubit height mentioned previously. Since the Altar's base measured five handbreadths and not six, an additional handbreadth is subtracted, leaving the figure mentioned in this Halachah.

40.

Zevachim 53b explains that although a major portion of the Temple Mount was in Judah's inheritance, the Altar was to be positioned in the tribal inheritance of Benjamin. (Note the Targum on Genesis 49:27.)

A small stretch of land extended out of the inheritance of Judah into that of Benjamin, and occupied a portion of the space that should have been taken by the Altar's base. That space was left empty to insure that the entire structure of the Altar was in the inheritance of Benjamin. Note the commentary to Chapter 7, Halachah 14.

41.

The side to one's right as one faced the Holy of Holies.

42.

The side of the Altar closest to the Temple building.

43.

Thus the Altar's base only extended one cubit on each of its southern and eastern sides.

This interpretation of the Rambam's text is based on the diagrams accompanying his commentary on the Mishnah published by Rav Kapach. Rashi's commentary (Zevachim, ibid. ) expresses the same concept. See the accompanying diagram.

44.

The blood from the sacrifices was either poured on the south or the west side of the Altar, depending on the nature of the offering. These holes were positioned in the southwest corner to facilitate drainage. (See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Middot 3:2.)

45.

That name was derived from the word shotet meaning "flow." The blood from the Altar flowed away through these holes.

46.

And also the wine and water libations (see Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 10:7).

47.

The drainage canal passed through the entire Temple courtyard and was used when the priests wanted to clean the courtyard floor. They would plug the drain, flooding the entire courtyard with water, and then unplug the drain and let the water flow out through the canal.

48.

Because of the large amount of blood that would flow into that river, its water was sold as fertilizer (Commentary of the Rosh to Middot, ibid.).

49.

The ring facilitated the lifting of the marble block.

50.

Lest the blood coagulate and cause them to become clogged.

51.

See Chapter 1, Halachah 17.

52.

I.e., on one's left when facing the Holy of Holies.

53.

The ramp was not built as a right triangle. Rather, the wall on the right side was slanted slightly, so that the ramp would cover the base and the surrounding ledge, which together protruded two cubits beyond the edge of the Altar itself.

The phrase "its length" does not refer to the length of the ramp's surface, (the hypotenuse of the triangle), but the space it occupied on the ground, as well as the two additional cubits with which it overlapped the base and the surrounding ledge. The actual length of the ramp's surface was slightly longer.

54.

Larger than the hair's breadth mentioned in the following halachah.

55.

The wood piles upon which the Altar's fire were to be kindled were arranged on the south side of the Altar, so that the priests would be able to ascend the ramp and place the sacrificial limbs directly on those pyres. However, the ramp did not reach the edge of the Altar. The priests were thus prevented from placing the limbs directly on the fire and were required to toss them.

Zevachim 62b explains the necessity to toss the limbs, as follows: The Torah draws an analogy between the flesh of an offering and its blood, as it is written (Deuteronomy 12:27): "You shall sacrifice your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood." The blood must be tossed on the Altar, as it is written (Leviticus 1:5): "And they shall toss the blood on the Altar." Hence, the limbs must also reach the pyre in that fashion.

See also Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 6:4.

56.

As mentioned in Halachah 7, the cubit measurement for the base had only five handbreadths. Thus, the Altar's - and consequently, the ramp's - height was eight and five-sixths cubits, when calculated in cubits of six handbreadths.

The Rambam's phrasing at the beginning of the Halachah, "[covering] one cubit of the base and one cubit of the surrounding ledge" requires clarification, because the base itself did not run under the ramp. However, the space for it was left vacant.

See the accompanying diagram for a depiction of the concepts mentioned in this Halachah.

57.

This small ramp was placed on the west side of the altar, the side closest to the Temple building. After the blood of the sin offerings were sprinkled as required, the rest of the blood was poured on the west side of the Altar's base. This ramp allowed the priests to reach that position.

58.

The ramp leading to the surrounding ledge was on the east side of the Altar. When the priests circled the Altar to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering on the Altar's horns, they ascended using this ramp.

The above follows the opinion expressed by Rashi (Zevachim, loc. cit.). Some other authorities maintain that both smaller ramps were situated on the west side of the Altar. Though the Rambam does not state his opinion explicitly, from his description of the sacrificial proceedings (Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot: 6:20, 7:10), it appears that he accepts the first opinion.

59.

The aperture was placed there because sin-offerings were offered on the southwest corner of the Altar (Rashi, Pesachim 34a).

It appears that this aperture was located on the wall of the ramp, and not on its upper surface (Tifferet Yisrael).

60.

13Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura explains that this word means "hollow place."

The Ra'avad explains that there were two openings: one called the aperture, and the second, the Rivuvah. His opinion is not accepted by most authorities, as explained in the Kessef Mishneh.

61.

Generally, a sin-offering that is disqualified for use must be removed from the Altar and burned immediately. However, if there are no severe factors to invalidate the sacrifice, it would appear disrespectful to dispose of the sacrifice in that manner. Rather, the sacrifice is left overnight - an act which obligates a sacrifice to be removed and burnt - and disposed of the next morning (Rashi, loc. cit..).

A woman who gave birth was obligated to bring a bird as a sin offering. Hence, it was a very common sacrifice. The Rivuvah was constructed to store the birds which had become disqualified. It thus prevented confusion between those birds which were disqualified, and those which were fit to be sacrificed (Tifferet Yisrael).

62.

The communal sacrifices were brought directly from the slaughtering area to the top of the Altar by a number of priests. Thus, there was no need to set aside a place for the limbs to be placed. However, sometimes private sacrifices were offered by only one priest, who could not possibly carry all the limbs at one time. This table was useful on such occasions.

Though generally an effort was made to use precious metals in the Temple, this table was made of marble. The sages feared that a metal table would conduct heat and cause the sacrificial meat to spoil. Marble is better for this purpose, since it is a very poor conductor of heat. See Shekalim 6:4, and Tamid 31b.

63.

In the sanctuary of the desert, the Altar was a hollow structure filled with earth (Exodus 27:8, Mechilta). However, such a structure was not acceptable for the Temple.

64.

See Chapter 1, Halachot 14-16.

65.

As mentioned in the following halachah, the Altar must be entirely square, yet we were forbidden to cut or file it to size. Wooden molds were employed in order to create such a shape.

66.

Zevachim 54a describes the Altar's construction in detail: First, a mold 32 cubits by 32 cubits, and one cubit high, was brought to create the base. The mixture of stones, lime, pitch, and molten lead was poured into it. Then, the mold for the second level, the surrounding ledge, was placed down. This mold was 30 cubits by 30 cubits and five cubits high. After the mixture was poured into it, the mold for the Altar's upper surface was brought. That mold, 28 cubits by 28 cubits, was three cubits high. Once it was filled, four molds, each a cubit by a cubit and one cubit high, were placed in each corner for the horns.

The measures mentioned above were all rounded off. As mentioned in Halachot 6-7, additional handbreadths must be added or subtracted for all these measures.

67.

See Halachah 10.

68.

For the horns must be hollow, as mentioned in Halachah 8.

69.

Regarding these four elements, the Torah uses the expression hamizbeiach, the Altar, implying that the Altar can only be called an Altar if it possesses these elements. If even one is lacking, the Altar is incomplete (Rashi, Zevachim, 62a):

In regard to the horns, it is written (Leviticus 4:18): "the horns of the Altar."

In regard to the base, it is written (ibid.:34): "to the base of the Altar."

In regard to the ramp, it is written (ibid. 6:7): "to the face of the Altar." This phrase refers to the ramp, for it faces the Altar and allows access to it.

In regard to the Altar's square shape, it is written (Exodus 27:1): "The Altar shall be square."

70.

See Halachah 3.

71.

See Halachah 5.

72.

In Chapter 1, Halachah, the Rambam writes: "Any stone which is damaged to the extent that a nail will become caught in it [when passing over it], as is the case regarding a slaughtering knife, is disqualified for [use in the] Altar or the ramp, as it is written (Deuteronomy 27:6): 'You shall build the Altar of the Lord with whole stones.'

The Kessef Mishneh explains that since the Torah requires whole stones to be used for the Altar, even the slightest damage renders them unfit for use. In contrast, the Torah does not make such a specification regarding the Altar itself. Hence, as long as the damage is not extensive, the Altar is not disqualified.

73.

Chullin 18a records a debate on this subject, between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Elazer ben Yaakov. Rabbi Shimon mentions the measure quoted by the Rambam, while Rabbi Elazer maintains that even smaller damage, the size of an olive, can render the Altar unfit for use. Though generally, halachah is usually decided according to Rabbi Elazer's opinion, the Rambam chose that of Rabbi Shimon.

74.

As mentioned above, the Altar is rendered unfit if there is the slightest damage to its stones.

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 3

1

The design of the Menorah is explicitly [stated] in the Torah.1The [central] shaft of the Menorah had four goblets, two bulbs, and two flowers,2 [Exodus 25:34] states: "The Menorah shall have four embossed goblets, together with its bulbs and its flowers."3 A third flower was close to the Menorah's base, as [Numbers 8:4] states: "to its base, to its flower."4

א

הַמְּנּוֹרָה מְפֹרֶשֶׁת צוּרָתָהּ בַּתּוֹרָה. וְאַרְבָּעָה גְּבִיעִים וּשְׁנֵי כַּפְתּוֹרִים וּשְׁנֵי פְּרָחִים הָיוּ בִּקְנֵה הַמְּנוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כה לד) (שמות לז כ) "וּבַמְּנֹרָה אַרְבָּעָה גְבִעִים מְשֻׁקָּדִים כַּפְתֹּרֶיהָ וּפְרָחֶיהָ". וְעוֹד פֶּרַח שְׁלִישִׁי הָיָה סָמוּךְ לִירֵכָהּ שֶׁל מְנוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר ח ד) "עַד יְרֵכָהּ עַד פִּרְחָהּ":

2

The [Menorah] had three feet.5

Six [diagonal]6 branches extended from three other bulbs in the [central] shaft of the Menorah, three [branches] on one side and three on the other.

Each branch had three goblets, a bulb, and a flower. They were all embossed7 by beating them [in a manner that their surface] resembled [tiny] almonds.8

ב

וְשָׁלֹשׁ רַגְלַיִם הָיוּ לָהּ. וּשְׁלֹשָׁה כַּפְתּוֹרִים אֲחֵרִים הָיוּ בִּקְנֵה הַמְּנוֹרָה שֶׁמֵּהֶן יוֹצְאִים שֵׁשֶׁת הַקָּנִים. שְׁלֹשָׁה מִצַּד זֶה וּשְׁלֹשָׁה מִצַּד זֶה. וּבְכָל קָנֶה וְקָנֶה מֵהֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה גְּבִיעִים וְכַפְתּוֹר וָפֶרַח. וְהַכּל מְשֻׁקָּדִים כְּמוֹ שְׁקֵדִים בַּעֲשִׂיָּתָן:

3

Thus, the total number of goblets was 22;9 of flowers, nine;10 of bulbs, eleven.11 [The absence of] any of these ornaments could render the others invalid.12 Even if one of the 42 [ornaments] was lacking, all [the others] would not be valid.

ג

נִמְצְאוּ כָּל הַגְּבִיעִים שְׁנַיִם וְעֶשְׂרִים. וְהַפְּרָחִים תִּשְׁעָה. וְהַכַּפְתּוֹרִים אַחַד עָשָׂר. וְכֻלָּן מְעַכְּבִין זֶה אֶת זֶה וַאֲפִלּוּ חָסֵר אֶחָד מִן הַשְּׁנַיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים מְעַכֵּב אֶת כֻּלָּן:

4

This applies when the [Menorah] is made of gold.13 [However, if it is made] of other metals,14 it should not have goblets, bulbs, and flowers.15

Also, when the Menorah is made out of gold, its total [weight] including its lamps shall be one talent.16 It must be fashioned entirely by hammering out one block [of gold].17

[In contrast, should it be made from] other metals, there is no need to be precise about its weight.18 Also, it may be hollow.19

ד

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁעֲשָׂאוּהָ זָהָב. אֲבָל שְׁאָר מִינֵי מַתָּכוֹת אֵין עוֹשִׂין בָּהּ גְּבִיעִים כַּפְתּוֹרִים וּפְרָחִים. וְכֵן מְנוֹרָה הַבָּאָה זָהָב תִּהְיֶה כֻּלָּהּ כִּכָּר עִם נֵרוֹתֶיהָ וְתִהְיֶה כֻּלָּהּ מִקְשָׁה מִן הָעֲשָׁתוֹת. וְשֶׁל שְׁאָר מִינֵי מַתָּכוֹת אֵין מַקְפִּידִין עַל מִשְׁקָלָהּ. וְאִם הָיְתָה חֲלוּלָה כְּשֵׁרָה:

5

[The Menorah] should never be made of fragments of broken vessels, whether it was made of gold or of other metals.20

ה

וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָהּ לְעוֹלָם מִן הַגְּרוּטָאוֹת בֵּין שֶׁהָיְתָה שֶׁל זָהָב בֵּין שֶׁהָיְתָה שֶׁל שְׁאָר מִינֵי מַתָּכוֹת:

6

[Though the Menorah's] tongs,21 ash-scoops,22 and oil containers [shall also be made out of pure gold], they are not included in the talent [mentioned above. This decision was made] because, in connection with the Menorah, [Exodus 25:31] states: "pure gold" and afterwards, [ibid.:38) repeats: "Its wick-tongs and ash-scoops shall be made of pure gold."23

The verse does not state: "its lamps shall be of pure gold," for the lamps24 were permanently fixed in the Menorah, and were included in the talent [of gold from which the Menorah was fashioned].25

ו

הַמֶּלְקָחַיִם וְהַמַּחְתּוֹת וּכְלֵי הַשֶּׁמֶן אֵינָן מִכְּלַל הַכִּכָּר שֶׁהֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר בַּמְּנוֹרָה (שמות כה לא) (שמות לז יז) "זָהָב טָהוֹר" וְחָזַר וְאָמַר וּמַלְקָחֶיהָ וּמַחְתֹּתֶיהָ זָהָב טָהוֹר. וְלֹא נֶאֱמַר נֵרוֹתֶיהָ זָהָב טָהוֹר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַנֵּרוֹת קְבוּעִין בַּמְּנוֹרָה וְהֵם מִכְּלַל הַכִּכָּר:

7

The [absence of one of the] seven branches of the Menorah invalidates the others.26 The [absence of one of the] seven lamps invalidates the others. This applies whether [the Menorah was made] of gold or of other metals.27

All the lamps were [permanently] affixed to the branches.28

ז

שִׁבְעַת קְנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה מְעַכְּבִין זֶה אֶת זֶה. וְשִׁבְעַת נֵרוֹתֶיהָ מְעַכְּבִין זֶה אֶת זֶה בֵּין שֶׁהָיְתָה שֶׁל זָהָב בֵּין שֶׁהָיְתָה שֶׁל שְׁאָר מִינֵי מַתָּכוֹת. וְכָל הַנֵּרוֹת קְבוּעִים בַּקָּנִים:

8

The six lamps affixed in the six branches extending out from the Menorah all faced the central lamp which was above the [central] shaft of the Menorah.29 The central lamp faced the Holy of Holies and was called the western lamp.30

ח

שֵׁשֶׁת הַנֵּרוֹת הַקְּבוּעִים בְּשֵׁשֶׁת הַקָּנִים הַיּוֹצְאִים מִן הַמְּנוֹרָה כֻּלָּן פְּנֵיהֶם לַנֵּר הָאֶמְצָעִי שֶׁעַל קְנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה וְזֶה הַנֵּר הָאֶמְצָעִי פָּנָיו כְּנֶגֶד קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא נֵר מַעֲרָבִי:

9

The goblets resembled Alexandrine chalices. They had wide mouths and narrow bases.31 The bulbs were like the apples of Keros which are slightly elongated, [resembling] eggs with both ends rounded.32 The flowers resemble the flowers of a column. They are shaped like bowls, with the edges bent over outward.33

ט

הַגְּבִיעִים דּוֹמִין לְכוֹסוֹת אֲלֶכְּסַנְדְּרִיאָה שֶׁפִּיהֶן רָחָב וְשׁוּלֵיהֶן קָצָר. וְהַכַּפְתּוֹרִים כְּמִין תַּפּוּחִים כְּרוּתִיִּים שֶׁהֵן אֲרֻכִּין מְעַט כְּבֵיצָה שֶׁשְּׁנֵי רָאשֶׁיהָ כַּדִּין. וְהַפְּרָחִים כְּמוֹ פִּרְחֵי הָעַמּוּדִים שֶׁהֵן כְּמִין קְעָרָה וּשְׂפָתָהּ כְּפוּלָה לַחוּץ:

10

The Menorah was eighteen handbreadths high:34

Its feet, [base,] and [bottommost] flower were three handbreadths high,35

There were two empty handbreadths,

The next handbreadth included a goblet, a bulb, and a flower,

Two empty handbreadths [followed],

A handbreadth with a bulb and two branches extending outward from it, one to one side and one to the other, extending outward and ascending until reaching the full height of the Menorah,36

An empty handbreadth,

A handbreadth with a bulb and two branches extending outward from it, one to one side and one to the other, extending outward and ascending until they reached the full height of the Menorah,

An empty handbreadth,

A handbreadth with a bulb and two branches extending outward from it, one to one side and one to the other, extending outward and ascending, until they reached the full height of the Menorah,

and two empty handbreadths

[Thus,] three handbreadths remained, with three goblets, a bulb, and a flower.37

י

גֹּבַהּ הַמְּנוֹרָה הָיָה שְׁמוֹנָה עָשָׂר טֶפַח. הָרַגְלַיִם וְהַפֶּרַח שְׁלֹשָׁה טְפָחִים. וּשְׁנֵי טְפָחִים חָלָק. וְטֶפַח שֶׁבּוֹ גָּבִיעַ כַּפְתּוֹר וָפֶרַח. וּטְפָחַיִם חָלָק. וְטֶפַח כַּפְתּוֹר וּשְׁנֵי קָנִים יוֹצְאִין מִמֶּנּוּ אֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְאֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְנִמְשָׁכִים וְעוֹלִין כְּנֶגֶד גֹּבַהּ הַמְּנוֹרָה. וְטֶפַח חָלָק. וְטֶפַח כַּפְתּוֹר וּשְׁנֵי קָנִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ אֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְאֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְנִמְשָׁכִין וְעוֹלִין כְּנֶגֶד גֹּבַהּ הַמְּנוֹרָה. וְטֶפַח חָלָק. וְטֶפַח כַּפְתּוֹר וּשְׁנֵי קָנִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ אֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְאֶחָד הֵילָךְ וְנִמְשָׁכִין וְעוֹלִין כְּנֶגֶד גֹּבַהּ הַמְּנוֹרָה. וּטְפָחַיִם חָלָק. נִשְׁתַּיְּרוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה טְפָחִים שֶׁבָּהֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה גְּבִיעִים כַּפְתּוֹר וָפֶרַח:

11

A stone with three steps was [placed] before the Menorah.38 The priest stood on it39 and kindled the lamps.40 [Also,] he placed the containers of oil, the tongs, and the ash-scoops upon it while kindling it.

יא

וְאֶבֶן הָיְתָה לִפְנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה וּבָהּ שָׁלֹשׁ מַעֲלוֹת שֶׁעָלֶיהָ כֹּהֵן עוֹמֵד וּמֵיטִיב אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת וּמַנִּיחַ עָלֶיהָ כְּלֵי שַׁמְנָהּ וּמַלְקָחֶיהָ וּמַחְתּוֹתֶיהָ בִּשְׁעַת הֲטָבָה:

12

The Table [for the Showbread] was twelve handbreadths long and six handbreadths wide.41 Its length was positioned in parallel with the length of the Sanctuary42 and its width was positioned in parallel with the width of the Sanctuary.43

Similarly, the length and width of all the articles in the Sanctuary except for the Ark paralleled the length and width of the Sanctuary. The length of the Ark was placed to the width of the Sanctuary.44

The lamps of the Menorah were also positioned in parallel with the width of the Temple, from north to south.45

יב

הַשֻּׁלְחָן הָיָה אָרְכּוֹ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר טֶפַח וְרָחְבּוֹ שִׁשָּׁה טְפָחִים. וְהָיָה מֻנָּח אָרְכּוֹ לְאֹרֶךְ הַבַּיִת וְרָחְבּוֹ לְרֹחַב הַבַּיִת. וְכֵן שְׁאָר כָּל הַכֵּלִים שֶׁבַּמִּקְדָּשׁ אָרְכָּן לְאָרְכּוֹ שֶׁל בַּיִת וְרָחְבָּן לְרֹחַב הַבַּיִת חוּץ מִן הָאָרוֹן שֶׁהָיָה אָרְכּוֹ לְרֹחַב הַבַּיִת. וְכֵן נֵרוֹת הַמְּנוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד רֹחַב הַבַּיִת בֵּין הַצָּפוֹן וּבֵין הַדָּרוֹם:

13

The Table46 had four side frames of gold which were Y-shaped at their heads.47 They supported the two arrangements of the showbread,48 two for each arrangement. The Torah49 calls them "its kesot."50

יג

אַרְבָּעָה סְנִיפִין שֶׁל זָהָב הָיוּ לַשֻּׁלְחָן מְפֻצָּלִין בְּרָאשֵׁיהֶן שֶׁהָיוּ סוֹמְכִין בָּהֶן שְׁתֵּי הַמַּעֲרָכוֹת שֶׁל לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים. שְׁנַיִם מִסֵּדֶר זֶה. וּשְׁנַיִם מִסֵּדֶר זֶה. וְהֵם הַנֶּאֱמָרִים בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כה כט) "וּקְשׂוֹתָיו":

14

There were 28 rods of gold. Each resembled half of a hollow reed.51 Fourteen [were used] for one arrangement and fourteen for the other arrangement.52 [The Torah]53 calls them "its minakiot."

There were two incense bowls. The frankincense was placed inside them on the Table, on the side of the arrangements [of Showbread].54 [The Torah]55 calls them "its kapot."

The molds used to make the Showbread56 are called57 "its ke'arot."

יד

וּשְׁמוֹנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים קָנִים שֶׁל זָהָב כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן כַּחֲצִי קָנֶה חָלוּל הָיוּ לוֹ. אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְסֵדֶר זֶה וְאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְסֵדֶר זֶה. וְהֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים (שמות כה כט) "מְנַקִּיּוֹתָיו". וּשְׁנֵי הַבְּזִיכִין שֶׁמַּנִּיחִין בָּהֶן הַלְּבוֹנָה עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן בְּצַד הַמַּעֲרָכוֹת הֵן הַנִּקְרָאִין (שמות כה כט) "כַּפּוֹתָיו". וְהַדְּפוּסִין שֶׁעוֹשִׂין בָּהֶם לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים (שמות כה כט) "קְעָרוֹתָיו":

15

The 28 rods mentioned above [were used as follows]: The first loaf was placed on the Table itself.58 Three rods were placed between the first and the second loaves. Similarly, three rods were placed between each [of the following] loaves. Between the fifth and the sixth loaf, there were only two rods, for another loaf is not placed upon the sixth.59 Thus, each row [of loaves] required fourteen rods.60

טו

אֵלּוּ הָאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר קָנִים נוֹתֵן הַחַלָּה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה עַל עַצְמוֹ שֶׁל שֻׁלְחָן וְנוֹתֵן בֵּין רִאשׁוֹנָה וּשְׁנִיָּה שְׁלֹשָׁה קָנִים. וְכֵן בֵּין כָּל חַלָּה וְחַלָּה שְׁלֹשָׁה קָנִים. וּבֵין שִׁשִּׁית וַחֲמִישִׁית שְׁנֵי קָנִים בִּלְבַד לְפִי שֶׁאֵין עַל הַשִּׁשִּׁית אַחֶרֶת. נִמְצְאוּ אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר בְּכָל מַעֲרָכָה וּמַעֲרָכָה:

16

There were two tables in the Entrance Hall, near the entrance to the Temple building.61 One was made of marble.62 The Showbread was placed upon it before it was brought in.63 The other was made of gold. The bread was placed upon it when it was brought out.64 [The rationale for the use of different substances is that] with regard to holy matters, one must always ascend, and may not descend.65

טז

וּשְׁנֵי שֻׁלְחָנוֹת הָיוּ בָּאוּלָם מִבִּפְנִים עַל פֶּתַח הַבַּיִת. אֶחָד שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ נוֹתְנִין עָלָיו לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים בִּכְנִיסָתוֹ. וְאֶחָד שֶׁל זָהָב נוֹתְנִין עָלָיו לֶחֶם בִּיצִיאָתוֹ. שֶׁמַּעֲלִין בַּקֹּדֶשׁ וְלֹא מוֹרִידִין:

17

The incense altar66 was one cubit by one cubit square.67 It was placed in the Sanctuary, exactly [midway] between north and south,68 between the Table and the Menorah, towards the outside. These three were all placed beyond the first third of the Temple building, in front of the Parochet, which divided the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies.69

יז

מִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת הָיָה מְרֻבָּע אַמָּה עַל אַמָּה. וְהוּא נָתוּן בַּהֵיכָל מְכֻוָּן בֵּין הַצָּפוֹן לַדָּרוֹם מָשׁוּךְ בֵּין הַשֻּׁלְחָן וְהַמְּנוֹרָה לַחוּץ. וּשְׁלָשְׁתָּן הָיוּ מֻנָּחִין מִשְּׁלִישׁ הַהֵיכָל וְלִפְנִים כְּנֶגֶד הַפָּרֹכֶת הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּבֵין קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים:

18

The washbasin70 had twelve taps,71 so that all the priests who were involved in offering the daily sacrifice72 could sanctify [their hands and feet] at one time.73

A mechanism was made so that it could be filled with water at all times. [The mechanism itself] was not sacred, and thus, the water remaining in it did not become invalidated [for future use] because the night passed. [This was necessary] because the washbasin was a sacred vessel and sanctified [its contents].74 Anything which is sanctified by a sacred vessel becomes invalidated [for future use] after the night passes.75

יח

הַכִּיּוֹר הָיוּ לוֹ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר דָּד כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כָּל הַכֹּהֲנִים הָעוֹסְקִים בַּתָּמִיד מְקַדְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ כְּאֶחָד. וּמוּכְנִי עָשׂוּ לוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בָּהּ הַמַּיִם תָּמִיד. וְהִיא חֹל כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ הַמַּיִם שֶׁבָּהּ נִפְסָלִין בְּלִינָה שֶׁהַכִּיּוֹר מִכְּלֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּמְקַדֵּשׁ וְכָל דָּבָר שֶׁיִּתְקַדֵּשׁ בִּכְלִי קֹדֶשׁ אִם לָן נִפְסַל:

Footnotes
1.

See Exodus 25:31-40. See also Menachot 28b for a description of the Menorah.

2.

See Halachah 9 for a definition of the terms "goblets, bulbs, and flowers." The position of the ornaments in the Menorah's shaft is described in Halachah 10.

3.

Since the Torah refers to the plural form for these ornaments, yet it does not specify a number, two bulbs and two flowers are required.

4.

Although this flower was not mentioned in the description of the Menorah's construction in Exodus, the Menachot, loc. cit. and all the commentaries include it in their design.

5.

The Torah does not mention feet in its description of the Menorah's construction. Their presence is recorded in the Talmud (Menachot, loc. cit.), but no specific number of feet is mentioned. Nevertheless, all major commentaries have described the Menorah as having three feet. It must be noted that Josephus' description of the Menorah and the depiction of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus both lack feet. However, there are other inconsistencies in those sources.

6.

The Rambam implies that the branches of the Menorah extended diagonally from its central shaft. He depicts the Menorah's branches in this way in the drawings he added to his commentary on the Mishnah. See Rav Kapach's edition.

Similarly, the Rambam's son, Rav Avraham, writes in his commentary on the Torah (Exodus 25:32): "The six branches of the Menorah extended upward as straight lines, as depicted by my father, of blessed memory, and not as depicted by others."

Other commentaries, including Rashi (Exodus 25:32) agree with the Rambam on this matter. It is thus difficult to comprehend why most popular portrayals of the Menorah show its branches as semicircles. That form was, indeed, used on the Arch of Titus, but, as mentioned above, there were other imprecisions in that monument. Furthermore, there is no reason to favor the portrayal of the Menorah made by a Gentile to celebrate Jerusalem's downfall over the description offered by our Torah leaders.

7.

In Hebrew, the verse requiring embossment (ibid.:34) reads: "The Menorah had four goblets embossed with bulbs and flowers." Yoma 52a lists five verses in the Torah for which the Sages were unsure of the proper interpretation. This is one of them. The Sages did not know whether the adjective "embossed" described the goblets mentioned before it or the bulbs and flowers mentioned afterwards.

Because of this quandary, the Rambam decided that all three ornaments were to be embossed. Nothing would be lost by employing this technique to fashion certain ornaments, even though the Torah did not require them to be made in this manner. However, if one ornament was not embossed, a direct command of the Torah might not have been fulfilled (Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Corcus).

8.

In his commentary to the Mishnah (Menachot, op. cit.), the Rambam writes: "The word meshukadim ("embossed") means 'a craft of almonds' (shikeidim). This technique is popular among coppersmiths. They beat a sheet with a hammer until its [surface appears to be] covered with almonds."

The accompanying diagram is a copy of the depiction of the Menorah by the Rambam which accompanies his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.).

9.

Three on each branch, bringing the total to 18, and four on the central shaft. Rabbenu Bachai (Exodus 25:31) notes that the number of goblets equals the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

10.

One on each branch and three on the central shaft.

11.

One on each branch, three on the central shaft from which the branches extended outward, and two on the middle portion of the central shaft.

12.

Menachot, ibid., explains that since each ornament is mentioned in the Torah, the Menorah is not considered complete without them.

13.

Menachot 28a explains Exodus 25:31: "You shall make a Menorah of pure gold ...its goblets, its bulbs, and its flowers," as follows: "When you make a Menorah of gold, then you shall make its goblets, bulbs, and flowers."

14.

See Chapter 1, Halachah 19 and the commentary, which explains that if the Jewish people are poor, the Menorah and the other vessels of the Sanctuary need not be made of gold. Indeed, when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple, they made the Menorah of iron, coated with tin.

15.

The Mishneh LiMelech explains that the Rambam writes: "[Should it be made from] other metals, there is no need to be precise about the weight [of the Menorah]." However, regarding the ornaments, the Rambam specifically states that "we should not make goblets, bulbs, or flowers." That statement implies that not only are these ornaments not required if the Menorah is made of other metals, but that it is prohibited to add them.

16.

The Torah (Exodus 25:39) specifically states: "He shall make it have a talent of pure gold with all its vessels."

A talent, kikar in Hebrew, was equal to 3000 shekels, or approximately 68.5 kilograms (153.5 pounds) in modern measure.

The "lamps" mentioned by the Rambam are discussed in Halachah 6, which also explains the meaning of the term "vessels" in this verse.

17.

Exodus 25:36 states: "Their bulbs and branches must be made from it. They shall all be hammered out of one piece of pure gold."

18.

Its weight may equal more or less than a talent, as explained above.

19.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that when the Menorah is made of other metals, it need not be fashioned by beating out one block of metal, as is required when it is made of gold. 16The Mishneh Limelech explains that even if the Menorah is made of other metals, it is preferable that it be beaten out of one solid block of metal. Otherwise, it is only acceptable after the fact.

20.

When the Menorah was made of gold, it was not acceptable if it was fashioned in this manner. However, the Mishneh Limelech indicate that if the Menorah was made of other metals, after the fact, it is acceptable if assembled from fragments even though it is not desirable to do so as an initial preference.

21.

Tweezers to adjust and insert the wicks into the lamps. See Rashi, Exodus 25:38. Nachmanides interprets the Hebrew, Melkachayim (tongs), mentioned in the above verse, as "wick-holders" and explains that they were a permanent fixture of the Menorah.

22.

Small scoops to remove the ashes from the lamps. See Rashi, loc. cit. Nachmanides differs and defines the Hebrew Machtot as ash-catchers, maintaining that they were permanently fixed in the Menorah.

23.

The Rambam feels it necessary to elaborate in this instance, because a superficial reading of the Torah's verses might create a different impression. The Torah states (ibid.:38-39): "Its wick-tongs and ash-scoops shall be made of pure gold. He shall make it with a talent of pure gold; all these vessels."

The Hebrew word keilim, translated as "vessels," may also be translated as "utensils." Thus, one might conclude that the Menorah's utensils must also be fashioned by hammering out the same block of gold and hence, are to be permanent parts of the Menorah. Indeed, Nachmanides appears to have understood the meaning of the verses in that manner. However, Menachot 88b explains that here the term keilim refers only to the lamps, and not to the other utensils.

24.

The receptacles in which the oil and wicks were placed.

25.

Menachot, op. cit. records that this statement was the subject of a debate among the Sages. Some maintained that the lamps were separate fixtures which could be removed from the Menorah when necessary.

26.

Exodus 25:32 states, "Six branches extend from its sides." The Menorah's central shaft became the seventh branch. If one branch was missing, the Menorah is considered to be lacking the essential form prescribed by the Torah. Therefore, it is invalidated.

27.

In contrast with the goblets, bulbs, and flowers in Halachah 4.

28.

The Rambam ruled that the lamps were an integral part of the Menorah. Thus, a unique process was employed in their kindling. It was deemed disrespectful to kindle the Menorah from fire that was not sacred. The lamp of the central shaft was to be lit only from the fire of the Altar. All other lamps would be kindled from it or from each other. Since the lamps themselves were permanently affixed in the Menorah, the priests kindled them by extending their wicks with the tweezers until they reached a lamp that was burning. They would then light the wicks and return them to their own lamps. (Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 3:13-14).

It was necessary that every lamp be on a separate branch. If two lamps were made on the same branch, the Menorah was invalid.

29.

Numbers 8:2 commands: "When you kindle the lamps, the seven lamps shall shine towards the center of the Menorah."

Rav Yehudah HaChassid explained that according to the Rambam, the lamps themselves were fashioned so that the wicks would face in that direction. The side of the lamps facing the center shaft slanted inward. The diagrams drawn by the Rambam published in Rav Kapach's edition verify this opinion.

30.

This lamp was not positioned any further westward than the others. Nevertheless, it was given that name because it faced the Holy of Holies, which was situated in the west. The Rambam's decision follows the opinion of Rabbi Eliezar ben Shimon, who maintains that the Menorah's lamps spread across the width of the Sanctuary. Accordingly, there is no one lamp whose position clearly identified it as "the western lamp."

Menachot also mentions that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi did not accept this opinion and maintained that the Menorah was positioned along the length of the Sanctuary, from east to west. Thus, there was one lamp that was "westernmost."

Halachah is usually based on Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi's opinion. Nevertheless, the Rambam favored Rabbi Eliezer's opinion, because there is a verse from the Torah that appears to support it. Leviticus 24:3 states: "Aharon shall prepare [the lights] continuously before the Lord," implying that before kindling the Menorah, it was necessary to prepare the wick to point "before the Lord" (Kessef Mishneh). This difference of opinion was preserved over the generations and many later authorities accepted the view that the lamps of the Menorah extended from east to west.

Shabbat 22a relates that the western lamp was "testimony to the entire world that the Shechinah rests in Israel." Each day, the western lamp was the first lamp kindled. Exactly the same measure of oil was placed in it as in the other lamps, yet it was always the last to burn out. Nevertheless, after the spiritual level of the Jewish people declined, this miracle did not always occur (Yoma 39a).

31.

Rav Kapach's publication of the Rambam's drawing of the Menorah shows the goblets in an inverted position. Note also the drawing accompanying Halachah 2.

Rabbenu Bachai (Exodus 25:31) explains the symbolism of the inverted position. A goblet serves two functions: it enables the collection of liquids, and offers the opportunity of pouring the liquids where desired. Thus, the goblets are symbolic of the Heavenly spheres, which receive influence from Heavenly sources and convey it to our lowly world.

The main purpose of the Menorah was to shed light on the world. This intent was expressed in the design of the Temple itself. Though generally, windows are built slanting inward, King Solomon's Temple windows slanted outwards (I Kings 6:4), so that the Menorah's light would spread to the world at large.

Similarly, the inverted position of the goblets in the Menorah emphasizes that the Menorah was intended to disseminate spiritual influence throughout our world. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 21, p. 164.

32.

In his commentary to the Mishnah (Menachot, loc. cit.), the Rambam also emphasize that the bulbs were not entirely round.

Rabbenu Bachai explained that the bulbs symbolized boundless spiritual pleasure.

33.

Rabbenu Bachai explains that the flowers represent the world's potential for growth and development.

34.

This entire Halachah is a direct quote from Menachot 28b.

Eighteen handbreadths equals between 4.5 and six feet depending on the different conversions to modern measurements.

35.

Tosefot, Menachot, op. cit., questions why all three ornaments were crowded into a handbreadth while generally, the bulbs themselves were a handbreadth in length.

36.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states that all the bulbs were of equal measure. If so, Tosefot's question mentioned above becomes even more difficult. A possible solution is offered by the Tzurat HaBayit, which explains that the branches did not extend from the bulbs themselves, but from the Menorah's central shaft. Thus, the length of the bulb and the branches, and similarly, the bulb, goblet, and flower, could both be one handbreath. However, as mentioned above, the Rambam's diagram of the Menorah depicts the branches as extending out from the bulbs.

See Rashi (Menachot 28b which states that in this handbreadth, the goblet, flower, and bulbs projected from different sides of the Menorah.

37.

One might ask: Why does the Rambam omit mention of the Menorah's lamps? Although his source is the Talmud, it is possible to explain that this Talmudic passage follows the opinion that the lamps could be removed from the Menorah. However, as mentioned in Halachah 6, the Rambam follows the interpretation that the lamps were an integral part of the Menorah's structure. Therefore, they should be mentioned.

38.

The Sifri notes the relationship between the word used in the command to kindle the Menorah (Numbers 8:2), he'alah, and the Hebrew word for steps, ma'aleh, and comments: "Make steps with which to light the Menorah."

In his commentary to Tamid 3:9, Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura explained that three steps were constructed because on three occasions the Torah refers to the kindling of the Menorah in a similar manner: in the verse cited above, in the following verse (ibid.:3), and in Exodus 27:20.

39.

The Menorah was eighteen handbreadths (approximately 5 ft.) high. Thus for an average person to have easy access to the lamps, he would have to stand on a raised platform.

40.

In Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 3:16-17, the Rambam relates that, in the morning, the priest would not light all of the Menorah lamps at once. He entered with a kuz - according to the Har HaMoriah, a large vessel containing the oil containers, the tongs, and the ash scoops. He then lit five candles and left the Sanctuary, placing the kuz on the second step of the stone. Afterwards, he returned to light the two remaining candles and remove the kuz.

41.

The Torah commands (Exodus 25:23): "Make a table... two cubits long and one cubit wide." As mentioned above, in the commentary to Chapter 2, Halachah 6, the Rambam follows Rabbi Meir's opinion, that a cubit was six handbreadths in measure.

42.

I.e., from east to west.

43.

From north to south. See Menachot 96a.

44.

Thus, the staves of the ark bulged out from the curtain dividing the Holy of Holies from the Sanctuary (Yoma 54a).

45.

As mentioned in Halachah 8, this matter was a subject of debate among the Sages of the Mishnah. The Ra'avad notes the differing opinions in his commentary.

The Nodah BiYhudah (Orach Chayim, Responsum 122) notes that Menachot derives its knowledge of the position of the Showbread Table from the position of the Menorah, and that they were placed in parallel. On that basis, he questions the Rambam's statements that they were positioned perpendicular to each other. He explained that the Talmud's statement was made only in the preliminary stages of debate, and according to the final opinion, there is no contradiction with the Rambam's decision.

Note the accompanying diagram which was based on the Rambam's drawings in his commentary on the Mishnah, Menachot 11:6.

46.

The design of the Table described by the Rambam differs greatly from popularly accepted diagrams, usually based on the text, Ma'aseh Choshev. In order to clarify the Rambam's opinion, this and the following two Halachot will be explained in brief and a more general explanation will be provided later.

47.

This Halachah is quoted from Menachot 11, Mishnah 6. The Hebrew word translated as "Y-shaped" used by the Rambam and the Mishnah is mifutzalim, which means split or forked. Our description is based on the diagrams drawn by the Rambam himself which accompany Rav Kapach's edition of his commentary to the Mishnah. Note the drawing accompanying this Halachah.

48.

The Torah declares (Leviticus 24:5-6): "You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it.... Place them in two rows, six per row, on the pure Table before the Lord." According to the Rambam, the loaves were arranged on the Table itself. As their name implies, the side frames were placed at its sides for support.

50.

Rashi (Menachot 97a) explains that this name relates to the word kesheh, meaning hard, or firm. The sideframes supported the showbreads, prevented them from crumbling, and allowed them to become firm.

51.

Like half of a bamboo shoot.

52.

As explained in the following Halachah.

53.

Exodus, loc. cit.

54.

This command to bring the Showbread continues (Leviticus 24:7): "Place pure frankincense near each arrangement."

In Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 5:9, the Rambam explains that two handbreadths remained between the two arrangements of showbread for the two incense bowls. Other opinions state that the incense bowls were placed on top of the bread, one in each row.

55.

This command to bring the Showbread continues (Leviticus 24:7): "Place pure frankincense near each arrangement."

In Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 5:9, the Rambam explains that two handbreadths remained between the two arrangements of showbread for the two incense bowls. Other opinions state that the incense bowls were placed on top of the bread, one in each row.

56.

Note Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 5:8 which relates that there were three molds. One was used to prepare the dough, one to bake the loaves, and one in which they were left to cool. According to the Rambam, all three were made of gold. Other opinions, including Rashi, disagree, and maintain that the loaves were baked in an iron mold.

57.

This command to bring the Showbread continues (Leviticus 24:7): "Place pure frankincense near each arrangement."

In Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 5:9, the Rambam explains that two handbreadths remained between the two arrangements of showbread for the two incense bowls. Other opinions state that the incense bowls were placed on top of the bread, one in each row.

58.

As explained above, the purpose of the rods was to allow air to pass between the loaves and to preserve their freshness. Thus, one might suggest that rods be placed under the bottom most loaves for that same reason. However, the surface of the Table itself was gold, and thus remained cool. Hence, no other measures were necessary.

59.

Since these rods had to support a lesser weight, their number could be reduced.

60.

As indicated above, the Rambam's concept of the Table differs from that of the other commentaries. The major differences refer to the definition of the Kasot, the side frames. Rashi, Tosafot and the Rashbam each have slightly different concept of the sideframes. However, all three explanations depict the sideframes as sturdy structures which supported the rods. The latter, in turn, supported the weight of the loaves. Thus, these commentaries interpret the word mifutzalin used by the Mishnah to mean that they possess grooves or holes. The rods were inserted through these grooves or holes, and were able to support the loaves.

As explained in brief in the above Halachot, and at length in Chapter 5 of Rambam's Hilchot Temidim U'Musafim, the twelve Showbreads were stacked on top of each other, their weight being supported only by the Table itself and the rods. According to his conception, the side frames were thin Y-shaped rods which were intended to keep the arrangements straight and to support them from the sides. However, they did not bear any of the weight of the loaves.

There are two advantages to the explanation offered by the Rambam:

a) According to the Rambam, the term mifultzalin used by the Mishnah is interpreted more precisely.

b) According to the other explanations, it is difficult to comprehend why only two rods were used for the uppermost row. Since the loaves did not rest upon each other and their weight was borne by the side frames as well, there is no difference between the top row and the others?

In contrast, according to the Rambam, there is no difficulty. Since the rods bore the weight of the loaves themselves, and the uppermost rods had to support a lesser weight, their number could be reduced.

See the accompanying diagram which depicts the Table according to the Rambam's description.

61.

Generally, these tables are depicted as being positioned apart from each other, one at either side of the entrance.

62.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 6:3) asks why this table was not made of silver. It explains that since the loaves were placed on the Table while they were hot, their heat would raise the temperature of the silver. This could cause mold to grow on the loaves.

63.

The Showbread had to be baked before the Sabbath. However, it was not placed on the Table in the Sanctuary until the Sabbath morning sacrifices were offered. In the interim, the loaves were placed on this marble table (Tosefta, Menachot, Chap. 11).

64.

The loaves from the previous week were removed from the Table in the Sanctuary and placed on this table while the new loaves were being placed on the Table and the frankincense was being offered. Afterwards, the loaves were divided among the priests. If Yom Kippur fell on a Sabbath, the loaves remained on this table for the entire day (Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 5:4-5).

65.

Since the Table upon which the Showbread had been placed was covered with gold, it was not proper to place them on a less precious surface afterwards.

This principle applies to other matters as well. For example, on the basis of this principle, the School of Hillel explains that each night, a new candle should be added to the Chanukah lamps to increase the light connected with the festival.

66.

This altar was also referred to as the "golden altar," because it was coated with an outer surface of gold. It was also called "the inner altar," because it was placed inside the Temple building. This contrasted with the Altar for the sacrifices, which was placed in the Temple Courtyard.

67.

Exodus 30:1-3 commands: "Make an altar out of acacia wood to burn incense. It shall be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, including its horns. Cover it with a layer of pure gold."

68.

Rav Kapach's edition of the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah (Menachot 11:6) indicates that the Rambam originally wrote that the incense altar was positioned slightly to the north. He later amended his text to read as above.

69.

See Exodus 26:33, and Halachah 2 of the following chapter.

70.

The command to construct a washbasin and for the priests to sanctify their hands and feet before participating in the Temple services is found in Exodus 30:18-9.

71.

Originally, the washbasin had only two taps. Afterwards, one of the High Priests, ben Katin, fashioned twelve taps for it. He also constructed the mechanism described later in this Halachah (Yoma 37a).

72.

See Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 4:6.

73.

As mentioned above, before participating in any element of the Temple service, the priests had to sanctify their hands and feet. See Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 5:1.

74.

Once a substance was placed in a sacred vessel, it could no longer be used for mundane purposes.

75.

Once an article is placed in a sacred vessel, it must be used in the Temple service on that day. If the night passes, it becomes invalid for future use and must be disposed of.

Since the washbasin was sacred, all its water became sanctified and could only be used for holy purposes. Were the water to remain in the washbasin overnight, it would become invalid for future use. The Sages felt that it was not fitting to discard a large amount of water every day after it had become sacred, and they tried to devise means of avoiding that difficulty.

Yoma 37a and Zevachim 20a explain that each night the washbasin was lowered into a natural reservoir of water by a pulley-operated crane. Tamid 3:8, explains that the crane was very noisy and it was possible to hear the cranking of its gears as far away as Jericho. Its water was not invalid overnight, and the water it contained when it was lifted up again in the morning, could be used for the Temple service.

Based on the sections of the Talmud mentioned above, the Ra'avad questions the Rambam's description of the washbasin and its mechanism. With the statement, "[The mechanism] was not sacred and thus, the water remaining in it did not become invalid," the Rambam seems to imply that the mechanism itself contained water, but the water did not become disqualified, because the mechanism, unlike the washbasin itself, was not a sacred vessel. This would seem to contradict the Talmudic passages which describe the mechanism as a crane.

This difficulty is further magnified by the fact that in Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 5:14, the Rambam himself writes that each night, the washbasin was submerged in a natural reservoir of water and raised again the next morning.

The Kessef Mishneh explains the Rambam's statements as follows: These Talmudic passages use the expression muchani to refer to the mechanism. Though that expression can be rendered as a pulley-operated crane, as above, it can also be explained as a circular reservoir for water, into which the washbasin was placed. This explanation resolves the contradiction between the Rambam and the Talmud. However, the Kessef Mishneh is also puzzled by the seeming contradiction in the Rambam's own words.

The Tosefot Yom Tov (Tamid 1:4) quotes the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah (Tamid 3:8). It explains that the "mechanism" was a vessel of water which would be raised each morning and submerged each evening by a pulley-operated crane. It would be placed over the washbasin to keep it filled with water.

The Tzurat Habayit maintains that throughout the ages, various techniques were devised to solve the problem of the water which remained overnight in the washbasin. The Mishnah (Eruvin 10:14) relates that pulley-operated cranes were used to draw water during the days of the prophets. Thus, it was likely that a similar technique was employed for the washbasin. Since ben Katin lived in the later years of the Second Temple, it is likely to suppose that his mechanism was more sophisticated.

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 4

1

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

א

אֶבֶן הָיְתָה בְּקֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים בְּמַעֲרָבוֹ שֶׁעָלֶיהָ הָיָה הָאָרוֹן מֻנָּח. וּלְפָנָיו צִנְצֶנֶת הַמָּן וּמַטֵּה אַהֲרֹן. וּבְעֵת שֶׁבָּנָה שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת הַבַּיִת וְיָדַע שֶׁסּוֹפוֹ לֵחָרֵב בָּנָה בּוֹ מָקוֹם לִגְנֹז בּוֹ הָאָרוֹן לְמַטָּה בְּמַטְמוֹנִיּוֹת עֲמֻקוֹת וַעֲקַלְקַלּוֹת וְיֹאשִׁיָּהוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ צִוָּה וּגְנָזוֹ בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁבָּנָה שְׁלֹמֹה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברי הימים ב לה ג) "וַיֹּאמֶר לַלְוִיִּם הַמְּבִינִים לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל הַקְּדוֹשִׁים לַה' תְּנוּ אֶת אֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ בַּבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה שְׁלֹמֹה בֶן דָּוִיד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵין לָכֶם מַשָּׂא בַּכָּתֵף עַתָּה עִבְדוּ אֶת ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם" וְגוֹ'. וְנִגְנַז עִמּוֹ מַטֵּה אַהֲרֹן וְהַצִּנְצֶנֶת וְשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה וְכָל אֵלּוּ לֹא חָזְרוּ בְּבַיִת שֵׁנִי. וְאַף אוּרִים וְתֻמִּים שֶׁהָיוּ בְּבַיִת שֵׁנִי לֹא הָיוּ מְשִׁיבִין בְּרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ. וְלֹא הָיוּ נִשְׁאָלִין בָּהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (עזרא ב סג) (נחמיה ז סה) "עַד עֲמֹד כֹּהֵן לְאוּרִים וְתֻמִּים". וְלֹא הָיוּ עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָן אֶלָּא לְהַשְׁלִים שְׁמוֹנָה בְּגָדִים לְכֹהֵן גָּדוֹל כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא מְחֻסַּר בְּגָדִים:

2

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.]"

ב

בְּבַיִת רִאשׁוֹן הָיָה כֹּתֶל מַבְדִּיל בֵּין הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּבֵין קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים עָבְיוֹ אַמָּה. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁבָּנוּ הַבַּיִת שֵׁנִי נִסְתַּפֵּק לָהֶם אִם עֳבִי הַכֹּתֶל הָיָה מִמִּדַּת הַקֹּדֶשׁ אוֹ מִמִּדַּת קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים לְפִיכָךְ עָשׂוּ קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים עָבְיוֹ עֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה תְּמִימוֹת וְעָשׂוּ הַקֹּדֶשׁ אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה תְּמִימוֹת וְהִנִּיחוּ אַמָּה יְתֵרָה בֵּין הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּבֵין קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים וְלֹא בָּנוּ כֹּתֶל בְּבַיִת שֵׁנִי אֶלָּא עָשׂוּ שְׁתֵּי פָּרוֹכוֹת אַחַת מִצַּד קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים וְאַחַת מִצַּד הַקֹּדֶשׁ וּבֵינֵיהֶן אַמָּה כְּנֶגֶד עֳבִי הַכֹּתֶל שֶׁהָיָה בָּרִאשׁוֹן. אֲבָל בְּמִקְדָּשׁ רִאשׁוֹן לֹא הָיְתָה שָׁם אֶלָּא פָרֹכֶת אַחַת בִּלְבַד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כו לג) "וְהִבְדִּילָה הַפָּרֹכֶת לָכֶם" וְגוֹ':

3

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

ג

הַהֵיכָל שֶׁבָּנוּ בְּנֵי גּוֹלָה הָיָה מֵאָה אַמָּה עַל מֵאָה אַמָּה עַל רוּם מֵאָה. וְכֵן הָיְתָה מִדַּת רוּמוֹ. בָּנוּ גֹּבַהּ שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת אָטוּם סָתוּם כְּמוֹ יְסוֹד לוֹ. וְרוּם כָּתְלֵי הַבַּיִת אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה וְרוּם הַכִּיּוּר שֶׁבַּתִּקְרָה אַמָּה וְעַל גַּבָּיו גֹּבַהּ שְׁתֵּי אַמּוֹת פָּנוּי שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס בּוֹ הַדֶּלֶף וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא בֵּית דִּילְפָא. וָעֳבִי הַתִּקְרָה שֶׁעַל גַּבֵּי בֵּית דִּילְפָא אַמָּה. וּמַעֲזִיבָה גֹּבַהּ אַמָּה. וַעֲלִיָּה בְּנוּיָה עַל גַּבָּיו גֹּבַהּ כְּתָלֶיהָ אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה. וּבְגַגָּהּ גֹּבַהּ אַמָּה כִּיּוּר וְאַמָּתַיִם גֹּבַהּ בֵּית דִּילְפָא וְאַמָּה תִּקְרָה וְאַמָּה מַעֲזִיבָה וְגֹבַהּ הַמַּעֲקֶה שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת וְטַס שֶׁל בַּרְזֶל כְּמוֹ סַיִף גָּבְהוֹ אַמָּה עַל גַּבֵּי הַמַּעֲקֶה סָבִיב כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יָנוּחוּ עָלָיו הָעוֹפוֹת וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא כָּלֶה עוֹרֵב. הֲרֵי הַכּל מֵאָה אַמָּה:

4

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

ד

מִן הַמַּעֲרָב לַמִּזְרָח מֵאָה אַמָּה וְזֶהוּ חֶשְׁבּוֹנָן. אַרְבָּעָה כְּתָלִים זֶה לְפָנִים מִזֶּה וּבֵינֵיהֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה מְקוֹמוֹת פְּנוּיִין. בֵּין הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי וּבֵין הַכֹּתֶל שֶׁלְּפָנִים מִמֶּנּוּ חָמֵשׁ אַמּוֹת וּבֵין כֹּתֶל שֵׁנִי וּשְׁלִישִׁי שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת וּבֵין כֹּתֶל שְׁלִישִׁי וּרְבִיעִי שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת. וְאֵלּוּ הַמִּדּוֹת הֵן שֶׁל עֳבִי הַכֹּתֶל עִם הַמָּקוֹם הַפָּנוּי שֶׁבֵּין שְׁנֵי כְּתָלִים. וְאֹרֶךְ קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים עֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה. וּבֵין שְׁתֵּי הַפָּרוֹכוֹת הַמַּבְדִּילוֹת בֵּינוֹ וּבֵין הַקֹּדֶשׁ אַמָּה. וְאֹרֶךְ הַקֹּדֶשׁ אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה. וָעֳבִי הַכֹּתֶל הַמִּזְרָחִי שֶׁבּוֹ הַשַּׁעַר שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת וְהָאוּלָם אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה אַמָּה. וָעֳבִי כֹּתֶל הָאוּלָם חָמֵשׁ אַמּוֹת. נִמְצָא הַכּל מֵאָה אַמָּה:

5

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.

ה

מִן הַצָּפוֹן לַדָּרוֹם מֵאָה אַמָּה. עֳבִי כֹּתֶל הָאוּלָם חָמֵשׁ אַמּוֹת. וּמִכֹּתֶל אוּלָם עַד כֹּתֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת. וְכָתְלֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ שִׁשָּׁה כְּתָלִים זֶה לְפָנִים מִזֶּה וּבֵינֵיהֶן חֲמִשָּׁה מְקוֹמוֹת פְּנוּיִין. בֵּין כֹּתֶל חִיצוֹן וּבֵין הַשֵּׁנִי חָמֵשׁ אַמּוֹת. וּבֵין שֵׁנִי וּשְׁלִישִׁי שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת. וְחָמֵשׁ בֵּין שְׁלִישִׁי וּרְבִיעִי. וּבֵין רְבִיעִי וַחֲמִישִׁי שֵׁשׁ. וּבֵין חֲמִישִׁי וְכֹתֶל הַפְּנִימִי שֵׁשׁ. נִמְצָא הַכּל אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה מִצַּד זֶה וְאַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה מִצַּד שֶׁכְּנֶגְדוֹ וְרֹחַב הַבַּיִת מִבִּפְנִים עֶשְׂרִים. הֲרֵי מֵאָה אַמָּה:

6

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

ו

הַפִּשְׁפָּשׁ וְהוּא שַׁעַר הַקָּטָן. וּשְׁנֵי פִּשְׁפָּשִׁין הָיוּ לַהֵיכָל מִצִּדֵּי הַשַּׁעַר הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבְּאֶמְצַע. אֶחָד בַּצָּפוֹן וְאֶחָד בַּדָּרוֹם. שֶׁבַּדָּרוֹם לֹא נִכְנַס בּוֹ אָדָם מֵעוֹלָם וְעָלָיו הוּא מְפֹרָשׁ עַל יְדֵי יְחֶזְקֵאל (יחזקאל מד ב) "הַשַּׁעַר הַזֶּה סָגוּר יִהְיֶה לֹא יִפָּתֵחַ". וְשֶׁבַּצָּפוֹן בּוֹ נִכְנָסִין. וּמְהַלֵּךְ בֵּין שֵׁנִי הַכְּתָלִים עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעַ לְמָקוֹם פָּתוּחַ לַקֹּדֶשׁ מִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ וְנִכְנָס לְתוֹךְ הַהֵיכָל וּמְהַלֵּךְ עַד שַׁעַר הַגָּדוֹל וּפוֹתְחוֹ:

7

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

ז

הַשַּׁעַר הַגָּדוֹל הָיָה רָחְבּוֹ עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת וְגָבְהוֹ עֶשְׂרִים אַמָּה. וְאַרְבַּע דַּלְתוֹת הָיוּ לוֹ שְׁתַּיִם בִּפְנִים וּשְׁתַּיִם בַּחוּץ. הַחִיצוֹנוֹת נִפְתָּחוֹת לְתוֹךְ הַפֶּתַח לְכַסּוֹת עָבְיוֹ שֶׁל כֹּתֶל וְהַפְּנִימִיּוֹת נִפְתָּחוֹת לְתוֹךְ הַבַּיִת לְכַסּוֹת אֲחוֹרֵי הַדְּלָתוֹת:

8

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

ח

פִּתְחוֹ שֶׁל אוּלָם הָיָה גָּבוֹהַּ אַרְבָּעִים אַמָּה וְרֹחַב עֶשְׂרִים. וְלֹא הָיָה לוֹ שְׁעָרִים. וְחָמֵשׁ מַלְתְּרִיּוֹת שֶׁל מִילָא הָיוּ עַל גַּבֵּי פִּתְחוֹ מִלְּמַעְלָה. הַתַּחְתּוֹנָה עוֹדֶפֶת עַל הַפֶּתַח אַמָּה מִזֶּה וְאַמָּה מִזֶּה. וְכָל אַחַת מֵחֲמִשְׁתָּן עוֹדֶפֶת עַל שֶׁלְּמַטָּה מִמֶּנָּה אַמָּה מִזֶּה וְאַמָּה מִזֶּה. נִמְצֵאת הָעֶלְיוֹנָה שְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה. וְנִדְבָּךְ שֶׁל אֲבָנִים הָיָה בֵּין כָּל אַחַת וְאַחַת:

9

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

ט

הַהֵיכָל הָיָה בִּנְיָנוֹ רָחָב מִלְּפָנָיו וְצַר מֵאֲחוֹרָיו כְּמוֹ אֲרִי. וִיצִיעִים הָיוּ מַקִּיפִין לַבַּיִת כֻּלּוֹ מִסָּבִיב חוּץ לְכֹתֶל הַמְּסִבָּה. וְיָצִיעַ הַתַּחְתּוֹנָה חָמֵשׁ וְרֹבֶד עַל גַּבָּהּ שֵׁשׁ וְיָצִיעַ אֶמְצָעִית שֵׁשׁ וְרֹבֶד עַל גַּבָּהּ שֶׁבַע וְהָעֶלְיוֹנָה שֶׁבַע שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א ו ו) "הַיָּצִיעַ הַתַּחְתֹּנָה" וְגוֹ'. וְכֵן הָיוּ הַשָּׁלֹשׁ יְצִיעִים מַקִּיפִים לַבַּיִת מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה רוּחוֹתָיו וְכֵן סָבִיב לְכָתְלֵי הָאוּלָם מִלְּמַטָּה עַד לְמַעְלָה כָּךְ הָיוּ אַמָּה אַחַת חָלָק וְרֹבֶד שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת. וְאַמָּה חָלָק וְרֹבֶד שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת עַד לְמַעְלָה. וְנִמְצְאוּ הָרְבָדִין מֻקָּפִין לַכְּתָלִים. רֹחַב כָּל רֹבֶד שָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת עַד לְמַעְלָה. וּבֵין כָּל רֹבֶד וְרֹבֶד אַמָּה. וְרֹבֶד הָעֶלְיוֹן הָיָה רָחְבּוֹ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת:

10

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

י

כָּל אֵלּוּ הַמְּקוֹמוֹת הַפְּנוּיִים שֶׁבֵּין הַכְּתָלִים הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים תָּאִים. נִמְצְאוּ הַתָּאִים הַמֻּקָּפִין לַמִּקְדָּשׁ חֲמִשָּׁה מִן הַצָּפוֹן וַחֲמִשָּׁה מִן הַדָּרוֹם וּשְׁלֹשָׁה מִן הַמַּעֲרָב. וְשָׁלֹשׁ דְּיוֹטוֹת הָיוּ דְּיוֹטָא עַל גַּבֵּי דְּיוֹטָא. נִמְצְאוּ ט''ו תָּאִים בַּדָּרוֹם חֲמִשָּׁה עַל גַּבֵּי חֲמִשָּׁה וַחֲמִשָּׁה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן וְכֵן בַּצָּפוֹן חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר. וּשְׁמוֹנָה תָּאִים הָיוּ בַּמַּעֲרָב שְׁלֹשָׁה עַל גַּבֵּי שְׁלֹשָׁה וּשְׁנַיִם עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן בִּדְיוֹטָא אַחַת הַכּל ל''ח תָּאִים:

11

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

יא

שְׁלֹשָׁה פְּתָחִים הָיוּ לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִן הַתָּאִים. אֶחָד לַתָּא מִן הַיָּמִין. וְאֶחָד לַתָּא מִן הַשְּׂמֹאל. וְאֶחָד לַתָּא שֶׁעַל גַּבָּיו. וּבְקֶרֶן מִזְרָחִית צְפוֹנִית בַּתָּא שֶׁבַּדְּיוֹטָא הָאֶמְצָעִית הָיוּ חֲמִשָּׁה פְּתָחִים. אֶחָד לַתָּא מִיָּמִין. וְאֶחָד לַתָּא שֶׁעַל גַּבָּיו. וְאֶחָד לַמְּסִבָּה. וְאֶחָד לַתָּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ הַפִּשְׁפָּשׁ. וְאֶחָד לַהֵיכָל:

12

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

יב

וּמְסִבָּה הָיְתָה עוֹלָה מִקֶּרֶן מִזְרָחִית צְפוֹנִית לְקֶרֶן צְפוֹנִית מַעֲרָבִית שֶׁבָּהּ הָיוּ עוֹלִין לְגַגּוֹת הַתָּאִים. הָיָה עוֹלֶה בַּמְּסִבָּה וּפָנָיו לַמַּעֲרָב הָלַךְ אֶת כָּל פְּנֵי הַצָּפוֹן עַד שֶׁהוּא מַגִּיעַ לַמַּעֲרָב. הִגִּיעַ לַמַּעֲרָב הָפַךְ פָּנָיו לַדָּרוֹם הָלַךְ אֶת כָּל פְּנֵי הַמַּעֲרָב עַד שֶׁהוּא מַגִּיעַ לַדָּרוֹם. הִגִּיעַ לַדָּרוֹם הָפַךְ פָּנָיו לַמִּזְרָח וְהָיָה מְהַלֵּךְ לַדָּרוֹם עַד שֶׁהוּא מַגִּיעַ לְפִתְחָהּ שֶׁל עֲלִיָּה שֶׁפִּתְחָהּ שֶׁל עֲלִיָּה הָיָה פָּתוּחַ לַדָּרוֹם:

13

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

יג

וּבְפִתְחָהּ שֶׁל עֲלִיָּה הָיוּ שְׁתֵּי כְּלוּנְסוֹת שֶׁל אֶרֶז שֶׁבָּהֶן עוֹלִין לְגַגָּהּ שֶׁל עֲלִיָּה. וְרָאשֵׁי פִּסְפְּסִין הָיוּ מַבְדִּילִין בַּעֲלִיָּה בֵּין גַּג הַקֹּדֶשׁ לְגַג קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים. וְלוּלִין הָיוּ פְּתוּחִין בָּעֲלִיָּה לְבֵית קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים שֶׁבָּהֶן מְשַׁלְשְׁלִין אֶת הָאֻמָּנִין בְּתֵבוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יָזוּנוּ עֵינֵיהֶם מִבֵּית קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים. וּפַעַם אַחַת בְּשָׁנָה מִפֶּסַח לְפֶסַח מְלַבְּנִין אֶת הַהֵיכָל:

Footnotes
1.

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.

2.

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.

3.

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?"

4.

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).

5.

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

6.

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

7.

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.

8.

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.

9.

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.

10.

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

11.

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 "entombed...in 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.

12.

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.

13.

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).

14.

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.

15.

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.

16.

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.

17.

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.

18.

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.

19.

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

20.

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.

21.

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."

22.

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.

23.

Rather than seep through to the ornate ceiling.

24.

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.

25.

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.

26.

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.

27.

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

28.

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

29.

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.

30.

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

31.

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.

32.

As explained in Halachah 2.

33.

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

34.

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

35.

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

36.

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.

37.

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

38.

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.

39.

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:

40.

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

41.

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).

42.

This refers to "the wall of the cell."

43.

This refers to "the cell."

44.

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.

45.

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.

46.

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.

47.

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.

48.

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.

49.

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).

50.

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

51.

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."

52.

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.

53.

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.

54.

This was the largest gateway of the entire Temple complex.

55.

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.

56.

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

57.

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."

58.

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.

59.

To further enhance the appearance of the entrance.

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

60.

See the commentary to Halachah 5.

61.

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.

62.

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.

63.

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.

64.

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.

65.

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.

66.

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

67.

Extending out from the front facade.

68.

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

69.

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.

70.

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.

71.

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.

72.

They were used for storage.

73.

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.

74.

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.

75.

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."

76.

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

77.

In the third storey of cells.

78.

The cell below it.

79.

"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.

80.

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.

81.

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).

82.

Walking within the cells a distance of approximately 66 cubits.

83.

The stairwell ascended approximately 22 cubits across this length.

84.

Proceeding within the cells a distance of approximately 50 cubits.

85.

Ascending approximately 17 cubits along this length.

86.

Ascending the remaining height (approximately 11 cubits).

87.

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

88.

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

89.

Which is the roof of the Temple building.

90.

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).

91.

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.

92.

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.).

93.

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

94.

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.

95.

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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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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