Room 49 – Virtual Mishnah, a Translation, Commentary, Visual Aids to Tractate Midoth – Chapter 2 of 5

CHAPTER 2

 

MISHNAH 1:

THE TEMPLE MOUNT(1) WAS BY FIVE HUNDRED. THE GREATER PART OF [THE OPEN AREA] WAS TO THE SOUTH. THE SECOND [GREATEST OPEN AREA] WAS TO THE EAST. THE THIRD [GREATEST OPEN AREA] WAS TO THE NORTH. THE LEAST [OPEN AREA] WAS TO THE WEST. THE GREATER [THE OPEN AREA], THE MORE IT WAS USED.

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TEMPLE MOUNT- Though the Mishna makes no mention of the walls around the Temple Mount, there were retaining walls built around the entire mountain. A few years before the Common Era, the Judean King, Herod, expanded the Temple Mount and its walls. These are the walls we see today.

FIVE HUNDRED CUBITS- This was the halachic minimum size of the sacred area of the Temple Mount. It is approximately 565,000 square feet. Throughout its history it was enlarged until the era of Herod when the area was at its greatest, approximately 1,600,000 square feet.

GREATER PART- The walls of the Temple Mount were square, 500 cubits by 500 cubits. The Azarah was a rectangle 135 cubits by 187 cubits. It was not centered on top the mountain but was near the northwest quarter. The greatest distance between the walls of the Azarah and the walls of the Temple Mount was to the south.

OPEN AREA- The open area was not bare. The were many buildings constructed here that pertained to the Temple Service and charitable institutions. Some of the buildings were the Beth Medresh, Tool Chamber, Charity Room, Trumah Donation Chamber, Ma’aser Donation Chamber, Infirmary, Treasury, Synagogue, Lower Court Chamber, Shekalim Donation Chamber, among others.

USED- used for the construction of chambers mentioned in the preceding note.

MISHNAH 2:

ALL WHO ENTERED THE TEMPLE MOUNT ENTERED ON THE RIGHT AND WENT ROUND, EXITING TO THE LEFT, EXCEPT FOR ONE TO WHOM SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED. HE ENTERED AND WENT ROUND TO THE LEFT. [IF HE WAS ASKED], WHY DO YOU GO ROUND TO THE LEFT, [HE ANSWERED] BECAUSE I AM A MOURNER. [THEY SAID TO HIM], MAY HE WHO DWELLS IN THIS HOUSE COMFORT THEE. [IF HE SAID] BECAUSE I AM EXCOMMUNICATED. [THEY SAID] MAY HE WHO DWELLS IN THIS HOUSE INSPIRE THEM TO BEFRIEND THEE. SO SAID REBBE MEIR. REBBE YOSSI SAID TO HIM: YOU MAKE IT SEEM THAT THEY TREATED HIM UNJUSTLY. WHAT THEN SHOULD THEY SAY? MAY HE WHO DWELLS IN THIS HOUSE INSPIRE THEE TO LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF THY COLLEAGUES SO THAT THEY MAY BEFRIEND THEE.

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RIGHT- The flow of pedestrian traffic on the Temple Mount was towards the right.

LEFT- the left side of where he entered

HAPPENED- as will be explained

MISHNAH 3:

WITHIN [THE WALLS SURROUNDING THE TEMPLE MOUNT] WAS A LOW FENCE(6) TEN HANDBREADTHS HIGH. THERE WERE THIRTEEN BREACHES THERE, BREACHED BY THE KINGS OF GREECE. [THE RABBIS] THEN WENT AND REPAIRED THEM. THEY DECREED THAT THIRTEEN PROSTRATIONS SHOULD BE MADE OPPOSITE THEM.

BETWEEN [THE LOW FENCE AND THE AZARAH WALL] WAS THE CHEL(7), WHICH WAS TEN CUBITS [BROAD]. THERE WERE TWELVE STEPS THERE. THE HEIGHT OF EACH STEP WAS HALF A CUBIT AND ITS DEPTH WAS HALF A CUBIT.

ALL THE STEPS IN THE TEMPLE WERE HALF A CUBIT HIGH WITH A DEPTH OF HALF A CUBIT, EXCEPT THOSE OF THE HALL(33) [IN FRONT OF THE SANCTUARY(34,35)].

ALL THE DOORWAYS AND GATEWAYS THAT WERE THERE WERE TWENTY CUBITS HIGH AND TEN CUBITS WIDE EXCEPT THE HALL(33) [IN FRONT OF THE SANCTUARY(34,35)].

ALL THE DOORWAYS THAT WERE THERE HAD DOORS IN THEM EXCEPT THE HALL(33).

ALL THE GATEWAYS THAT WERE THERE HAD [HORIZONTAL] LINTEL STONES EXCEPT THAT OF TADDI GATE(4) WHICH HAD TWO STONES LEANING ONE UPON THE OTHER.

ALL THE GATEWAYS WERE [LATER] CHANGED [AND PLATED] WITH GOLD EXCEPT THE GATES OF NICANOR(14), BECAUSE A MIRACLE WAS OCCURRED WITH THEM. SOME SAY IT WAS BECAUSE THE COPPER OF THEM GLISTENED [LIKE GOLD].

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LOW FENCE- The low fence consisted of a stone wall one cubit high. On top the stone was a wooden lattice fence ten handbreaths high. The wooden lattice fence was supported by small stone columns. Where ever there was an opening in the low fence, stone markers were placed. These markers were written in Greek and Latin warning non-Jews not to pass beyond that point. The markers were attached to the stone wall near the opening.

THIRTEEN BREACHES- There were 13 openings in the low fence, opposite gateways into the Azarah. There were 13 sets of markers warnings non-Jews not to pass beyond that point. When the Greeks captured the Temple grounds, before the miracle of Chanukah occurred, they tore down the sections of wall that had the markers attached to them.

PROSTRATIONS- as a sign of acknowledging Hashem’s help in regaining the Temple.

CHEL- The 10 cubit space between the low fence and the Azarah wall was called the Chel. The first 4 cubits of the Chel was level ground. Occupying the remaining six cubits of the Chel were 12 steps. Each step was 1/2 cubit high and 1/2 cubit deep.

EXCEPT THOSE OF THE HALL- which are discussed in Chapter 3, Mishna 6.

EXCEPT THE HALL- which was 40 cubits high and 20 cubits wide.

EXCEPT THE HALL- an embroidered curtain hung over the doorway.

TWO STONES LEANING- Some say the Taddi Gateway was shaped like an inverted “V.” Others say that the door posts were parallel as the other gateways. Whereas the other gateways had a single horizontal lintel stone, the Taddi Gateway had two stones forming an inverted “V.”

CHANGED- during the later part of the Second Temple era.

MIRACLE- Nicanor’s two copper doors were fashioned in Alexandria, Egypt. While they were being brought to Eretz Yisroel by ship, a storm broke out. One of the great doors had to be cast overboard. When the ship docked in the harbor, the crew witnessed a miracle. There in the harbor was the great copper door that had been cast overboard.

MISHNAH 4:

ALL THE WALLS THAT WERE THERE WERE HIGH EXCEPT THE EASTERN WALL SO THAT THE PRIEST WHO BURNT THE RED HEIFER MIGHT WHILE STANDING ON THE TOP OF THE MOUNT OF ANNOINTING COULD GAZE CAREFULLY AND SEE THE DOOR OF THE SANCTUARY AT THE TIME OF THE SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD.

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HIGH- The Mishna does not mention the height. Some of the various opinions are- 22, 40, 60, 70 cubits.

SEE- The priest would gaze over the low eastern wall, through the eastern gateway of the Women’s Courtyard, through the Nicanor Gateway, into the doorway of the Sanctuary.

MISHNAH 5:

THE WOMEN’S COURTYARD(8) WAS A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE CUBITS LONG BY A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE WIDE. IT HAD FOUR CHAMBERS IN ITS FOUR CORNERS, EACH OF FORTY CUBITS.

THEY WERE NOT ROOFED, AND SO THEY WILL BE IN THE FUTURE [TEMPLE]. AS IT SAYS, THEN HE BROUGHT ME FORTH INTO THE OUTER COURT, AND CAUSED ME TO PASS BY THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE COURTYARD, AND BEHOLD IN EVERY CORNER OF THE COURTYARD THERE WAS [ANOTHER] COURTYARD IN THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE COURTYARD, THEY WERE “SMOKEY.” “SMOKEY” MEANS THAT THEY WERE NOT ROOFED.

FOR WHAT WERE THEY USED? THE SOUTHEASTERN ONE WAS THE CHAMBER OF THE NAZIRITES(10) WHERE THE NAZIRITES USED TO COOK THEIR PEACE-OFFERINGS AND SHAVE THEIR HAIR AND THROW [THE HAIR INTO THE FIRE] UNDER THE POT [IN WHICH THE PEACE-OFFERING WAS COOKING].

THE NORTH-EASTERN ONE WAS THE WOOD CHAMBER(11) WHERE PRIESTS WITH A PHYSICAL DEFECT USED TO SORT OUT THE WOOD WHICH HAD WORMS. EVERY PIECE WITH A WORM IN IT BEING UNFIT FOR USE ON THE ALTAR.

THE NORTH-WESTERN ONE WAS THE CHAMBER OF THE LEPERS(12).

AS FOR THE SOUTHWESTERN ONE, REBBE. ELIEZER BEN YAAKOV SAID: I FORGET WHAT IT WAS USED FOR. ABBA SAUL SAYS: THEY USED TO STORE THERE WINE AND OIL, AND IT WAS CALLED THE OIL [STORAGE] PLACE CHAMBER(9).

[THE WOMEN’S AZARAH] HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN SMOOTH BUT [SUBSEQUENTLY] THEY SURROUNDED IT WITH A BALCONY SO THAT THE WOMEN COULD LOOK FROM ABOVE WHILE THE MEN WERE BELOW, AND THEY SHOULD NOT MIX TOGETHER.

FIFTEEN STEPS(13) LED UP FROM [THE WOMEN’S COURTYARD] TO THE ISRAELITE COURTYARD(17), CORRESPONDING TO THE FIFTEEN [SONGS OF] ASCENTS MENTIONED IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS. THE LEVITES USED TO CHANT PSALMS ON THESE. THE [STEPS] WERE NOT RECTANGULAR BUT [SEMI]CIRCULAR LIKE THE HALF OF A ROUND THRESHING FLOOR.

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FOUR CHAMBERS IN ITS FOUR CORNERS- While most commentaries explain that the four chambers were located inside the Women’s Courtyard, some say they were located outside the courtyard near the corners.

FORTY CUBITS- All agree that each chamber was 40 cubits in length, going from east to west. Some say that their width, from north to south, was also 40 cubits. Others say that the widths were only 30 cubits.

SMOKEY- In the future Temple these four chambers will all be used for the cooking of the sacrificial meat. Therefore, the chambers will not have roofs in order that the smoke from the fire will disperse. The Second Temple also had this feature though only two of the rooms were used for cooking.

NAZIRITES- after the days of the nazirite’s period had been completed.

UNFIT FOR USE ON THE ALTAR- However, the wood could be used for the cooking of the sacrificial meat.

LEPERS- A mikva was located in this chamber for use by the leper. (Note: “Mi’tzorah” is commonly but inaccurately translated as leper.) There were also stoves for cooking the meat of the leper’s sacrifices.

I FORGET WHAT IT WAS USED FOR- This tractate was compose by Rebbe Eleazer ben Yaakov who was recalling from memory what he had seen in the Temple. Where ever his memory failed him, he duly makes note of it.

SMOOTH- Some say the word implies there was no wall surrounding the Women’s Courtyard. Others say the word implies that there was a wall but it did not have a balcony.

BALCONY- The balcony was only constructed for the festival of Succos.

THE ISRAELITE COURTYARD- The first 11 cubits of width of the Azarah was called the Israelite Courtyard. The Israelites would stand in this area and observe the priests offering the Israelites’ sacrifices.

CHANT PSALMS- during the Water Drawing ceremony on Succos. For the daily chanting of Psalms the Levites had a special platform or stage upon which they stood. That platform is mentioned in the next Mishna.

MISHNAH 6:

THERE WERE CHAMBERS UNDERNEATH THE ISRAELITE COURTYARD WHICH OPENED INTO THE WOMEN’S COURTYARD. THERE THE LEVITES USED TO KEEP LYRES AND LUTE AND CYMBALS AND ALL KINDS OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.

THE COURT OF THE ISRAELITES(17) WAS A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE CUBITS IN LENGTH BY ELEVEN IN WIDTH.

SIMILARLY THE COURTYARD OF THE PRIESTS(18) WAS A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE CUBITS IN LENGTH BY ELEVEN IN WIDTH. PROJECTING BEAMS [OF WOOD] SEPARATED THE COURTYARD OF ISRAELITES FROM THE COURTYARD OF THE PRIESTS. REBBE ELEAZER BEN YAKOV SAYS: THERE WAS A STEP [BETWEEN THE COURTYARD OF THE ISRAELITES AND THE COURTYARD OF THE PRIESTS] ONE CUBIT HIGH. ON IT WAS PLACED A PLATFORM. IT CONSISTED OF THREE STEPS EACH OF HALF A CUBIT [HIGH].

IN THIS WAY THE COURTYARD OF THE PRIESTS(18) WAS TWO AND A HALF CUBITS HIGHER THAN THE COURTYARD OF THE ISRAELITES.

THE WHOLE OF THE AZARAH COURTYARD(48) WAS A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN CUBITS IN LENGTH BY A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE IN WIDTH.

THIRTEEN PROSTRATIONS WERE MADE THERE. ABBA YOSE BEN CHANAN SAYS: THEY WERE MADE FACING THE THIRTEEN GATESWAYS.

THE SOUTHERN GATEWAYS, [BEGINNING] NEAR THE WESTERN [WALL], THERE WERE THE UPPER GATE(46), THE GATE OF KINDLING(45), THE GATE OF THE FIRST BORN OFFERING(44), AND THE WATER GATE(43).

WHY WAS IT CALLED THE WATER GATE? BECAUSE THEY BROUGHT IN THROUGH IT THE PITCHER OF WATER FOR POURING DURING THE FESTIVAL [OF SUCCOS]. REBBE ELIEZER BEN YAAKOV SAYS: IN IT THE WATER TRICKLED AND IN THE TIME TO COME THEY WILL FLOW FORTH FROM UNDER THE THRESHOLD OF THE TEMPLE.

CORRESPONDING TO THEM IN THE NORTH, [BEGINNING] NEAR THE WESTERN [WALL] WERE THE GATE OF YECHONIAH(39), THE GATE OF THE SACRIFICE(40), THE WOMEN’S GATE(41), THE GATE OF SONG(42).

WHY WAS IT CALLED THE GATE OF YECHONIAH? BECAUSE [KING] YECHONIAH WENT FORTH INTO CAPTIVITY THROUGH IT.

ON THE EAST WAS THE GATE OF NICANOR(14); IT HAD TWO SMALL [ADJACENT] GATEWAYS, ONE ON ITS RIGHT AND ONE ON ITS LEFT.

THERE WERE TWO GATES IN THE WESTERN [WALL] WHICH HAD NO NAME(47).

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CHAMBERS UNDERNEATH THE ISRAELITE COURTYARD- There were 15 steps which led up from the Women’s Courtyard(8) to the Courtyard of the Israelites(17). Each steps was 1/2 cubit high. Therefore, the Courtyard of the Israelites was 7 1/2 cubits higher than the Women’s Courtyard. The Mishna is referring to chambers that were under the Israelite Courtyard which opened into the Women’s Courtyard. The doorway leading into the chambers were located near the sides of the steps.

COURTYARD OF THE PRIESTS- The next 11 cubits of width of the Azarah was called the Courtyard of the Priests.

PROJECTING BEAMS- Some say the beams projected from the northern and southern walls of the Azarah. Others say that the beams projected from the floor across the width of the Azarah. These beams marked the end of the boundary of the Israelite Courtyard.

PLATFORM- See diagram #1.

WHOLE – including the Courtyard of the Israelites and the Courtyard of the Priests.

THERE- opposite the 13 breaches in the low fence mentioned in Mishna 3.

FACING – Abba Yose ben Chanan says that the prostration took place not in front of the breach in the low fence but rather in front of the actual gateway.

UPPER GATE- This was the highest point of the Temple Mount. Also, this part of the Temple Mount belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. It was the highest point in the land of Benjamin. On occasion the Nicanor Gate is also referred to as the Upper Gate.

GATE OF KINDLING- The firewood for the Altar was carried into the Azarah through this gateway.

GATE OF THE FIRSTBORN OFFERING- All “kodoshim kalim,” such as the first-born offerings, were brought into the Azarah through this southern gateway. These sacrifices did not have the restriction of “kodoshai kodoshim” which had to be slaughtered north of the Altar

WATER TRICKLED- A tiny stream of water flowed from the foundation of the Sanctuary westward and out of the azarah by way of the Water Gate. When the Temple was destroyed the tiny stream dried up.

GATE OF YECHONIAH- also called the Spark Gate. King Yechoniah march into exile to Babylonia commenced from this gateway.

WOMEN’S GATE- Women were not permitted in the Courtyard of the Israelites. That was reserved for the men. Women who brought sacrifices would stand in an area in the vicinity of the Women’s Gate.

GATE OF SONG- It is uncertain where this gate was located. Logic would say that it is another name for the Hearth Gate, but why would it be given the name Gate of Song? Possibly, below the Hearth Gate was another gate that led under the Azarah to the chambers where the Levites stored their instruments. See earlier in this Mishna.

 

NO NAME- Since these gates were used so infrequently, they had no name by which they were referred.

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