Room 49 – Virtual Mishnah, a Translation, Commentary, Visual Aids to Tractate Midoth – Chapter 3 of 5

CHAPTER 3

 

MISHNAH 1:

THE ALTAR(30) [CONSISTED OF THREE [STONE] PLATFORMS BUILT ONE ATOP THE OTHER. THE BASE] WAS THIRTY-TWO [CUBITS] BY THIRTY-TWO [CUBITS]. IT ROSE UP ONE CUBIT AND WENT IN A CUBIT. THIS [FORMED] THE “YESOD”-FOUNDATION”.

WE FIND [THAT THE SECOND PLATFORM WAS] THIRTY [CUBITS] BY THIRTY [CUBITS]. IT ROSE UP FIVE CUBITS AND WENT IN ONE CUBIT. THIS FORMED THE [MIDDLE PLATFORM CALLED] THE SOVEV.

WE FIND [THAT THE UPPER PLATFORM WAS] TWENTY-EIGHT [CUBITS] BY TWENTY-EIGHT [CUBITS]. THE CORNERS EXTENDED A CUBIT IN EACH DIRECTION, THUS LEAVING [AN UPPER SURFACE OF] TWENTY-SIX [CUBITS] BY TWENTY-SIX [CUBITS].

A CUBIT SPACE ON EVERY SIDE WAS FOR THE PRIESTS TO WALK, THUS LEAVING [AN OPEN SPACE OF] TWENTY-FOUR [CUBITS] BY TWENTY-FOUR [CUBITS] AS THE PLACE OF THE WOOD PILE [FOR THE ALTAR FIRE].

REBBE JOSE SAID: ORIGINALLY [DURING IN THE FIRST TEMPLE] THE [BASE WAS ONLY] TWENTY-EIGHT [CUBITS] BY TWENTY-EIGHT [CUBITS]. IT ROSE IN AND UP WITH THE DIMENSIONS [MENTIONED BEFORE]. THEREFORE, YOU FIND THAT THE SPACE LEFT FOR THE WOOD PILE WAS ONLY TWENTY [CUBITS] BY TWENTY [CUBITS].

*WHEN, HOWEVER, THEY RETURNED FROM THE CAPTIVITY, THEY ADDED FOUR CUBITS ON THE NORTH AND FOUR ON THE WEST LIKE A GAMMA. AS IT IS SAID: AND THE ARIEL SHALL BE TWELVE [CUBITS] LONG BY TWELVE [CUBITS] WIDE, SQUARED. I MIGHT [THINK] THAT IT WAS ONLY TWELVE [CUBITS] BY TWELVE [CUBITS]? WHEN IT SAYS, IN THE FOUR SQUARES THEREOF, THIS SHOWS THAT HE WAS MEASURING FROM THE MIDDLE, TWELVE CUBITS IN EVERY DIRECTION. [THUS THE OPEN SPACE WAS TWENTY-FOUR CUBITS BY TWENTY-FOUR CUBITS AS THE PLACE OF THE WOOD PILE FOR THE ALTAR FIRE.

A RED LINE RAN AROUND IT IN THE MIDDLE TO DIVIDE BETWEEN THE BLOOD [THAT HAD TO BE PUT AGAINST THE] UPPER [PORTION OF THE ALTAR] AND BLOOD [THAT HAD TO BE PUT AGAINST THE] LOWER [PORTION OF THE ALTAR].

THE [ROOF OF THE] FOUNDATION RAN THE WHOLE [LENGTH] OF THE NORTH AND OF THE [WHOLE LENGTH OF THE] WEST SIDE, BUT IT WAS MISSING ONE CUBIT ON THE SOUTH AND ONE ON THE EAST.

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THE “YESOD”-FOUNDATION- See Diagram #2 and Diagram #3.

THIRTY-TWO [CUBITS]- As a general rule, the cubits mentioned in these Mishnayos referring to length and width are 6 handbreaths per cubit. The cubits referring to height are 5 handbreaths per cubit.

SOVEV- The word means “around.” It was possible to walk completely around the Altar on the roof of the Sovev.

CORNERS- called “k’ranos” in Hebrew, singular is “keren.” These were blocks of stone that rose up from each corner. They were hollow inside and were open on top.

TWENTY-SIX- Drawing a box joining the innermost corners of each “keren” would form a square 26 cubits on each side.

PRIESTS TO WALK- Some say this refers to a square trench that was built into the top surface of the Altar. It was 1 cubit wide and 1 cubit deep. The outside length and width of the trench was 26 cubits. Others say it was not a trench but merely a walking area.

THE PLACE OF THE WOOD PILE- See Diagram #4.

GAMMA- “L”-shaped

MISSING ONE CUBIT- See diagram #3.

MISHNAH 2:

AT THE SOUTH-WESTERN CORNER [ON THE ROOF OF THE FOUNDATION] THERE WERE TWO OPENINGS LIKE TWO NARROW NOSTRILS THROUGH WHICH THE BLOOD WHICH WAS POURED ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE FOUNDATION AND ON THE SOUTHERN SIDE FLOWED DOWN TILL THE [TWO STREAMS OF BLOOD] BECAME MINGLED IN THE CHANNEL, THROUGH WHICH THEY MADE THEIR WAY OUT TO THE VALLEY OF KIDRON.

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OPENINGS- drains

WESTERN SIDE OF THE FOUNDATION- The leftover blood of some sacrifices were to be spilled down the western drain; other sacrifices had the leftover blood spilled down the southern drain.

CHANNEL- The blood flowed down the drains and into a water channel that flow by the Altar. The channel was 1 cubit high and 1 cubit across. It was covered over on top. The blood would be carried out of the Temple grounds into the Kidron Valley, which is east of the Temple Mount.

MISHNAH 3:

ON THE FLOORING [OF THE AZARAH] NEAR THAT CORNER THERE WAS A PLACE A CUBIT SQUARE ON WHICH A MARBLE SLAB [WAS PLACED] WITH A RING FIXED IN IT. AND THROUGH THIS THEY USED TO GO DOWN TO THE “SHIS” TO CLEAN IT OUT.

THERE WAS A RAMP(29) ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE ALTAR THIRTY-TWO [CUBITS IN LENGTH] BY SIXTEEN [CUBITS] IN WIDTH. IT HAD A CAVITY IN ITS WESTERN SIDE WHERE REJECTED SIN-OFFERINGS OF BIRDS WERE PLACED.

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SHIS”- a sewer, that was part of a natural cave located under the Altar. The blood and the water from the channel flowed into the sewer and out into the Kidron Valley. On occasion the sewer became clogged and had to be cleaned out.

THIRTY-TWO [CUBITS IN LENGTH]- the upper surface of the ramp.

CAVITY- a cubicle, each dimension being 1 cubit.

WESTERN SIDE- Some say on the western face of the ramp; others say on the floor of the ramp’s upper surface, towards the west.

MISHNAH 4:

THE STONES BOTH OF THE RAMP(29) AND THE ALTAR(30) WERE TAKEN FROM THE VALLEY OF BETH KEREM. THEY DUG [DEEP] INTO VIRGIN SOIL AND BROUGHT FROM THERE WHOLE STONES ON WHICH HAD NEVER BEEN TOUCHED BY IRON, SINCE IRON DISQUALIFIES BY MERE TOUCH. LIKEWISE, [IF THE STONE HAD A] SCRATCH, [MADE] BY ANYTHING, IT WOULD DISQUALIFY.

IF ONE OF THE [STONES THAT WAS ALREADY BUILT INTO THE ALTAR] HAD A SCRATCH, IT WAS DISQUALIFIED, BUT THE REST [OF THE STONES] WERE FIT.

THEY WOULD WHITEWASHED [THE ALTAR] TWICE A YEAR, ONCE FOR PASSOVER AND ONCE FOR SUCCOS, AND THE SANTCTUARY WAS WHITEWASHED ONCE A YEAR, AT PASSOVER. RABBI SAYS: THE [ALTAR] WAS [LIGHTLY] WHITEWASHED EVERY FRIDAY WITH A CLOTH ON ACCOUNT OF THE BLOOD STAINS. THE PLASTER WAS NOT LAID [ONTO THE ALTAR] WITH A TROWEL OF IRON, FOR FEAR THAT [THE TROWEL] MIGHT TOUCH AND DISQUALIFY. IRON WAS CREATED TO SHORTEN MAN’S DAYS AND THE ALTAR WAS CREATED TO PROLONG MAN’S DAYS, AND IT IS NOT RIGHT THEREFORE THAT [IRON] WHICH SHORTENS SHOULD TOUCH THAT WHICH PROLONGS.

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DUG- with wooden tools

DISQUALIFIED- and removed and replaced.

MISHNAH 5:

THERE WERE RINGS(25) TO THE NORTH OF THE ALTAR, SIX ROWS OF FOUR EACH, OR, ACCORDING TO SOME, FOUR ROWS OF SIX EACH. THEY WERE USED TO SLAUGHTER THE SACRIFICIAL ANIMALS. THE BUTCHERING AREA(26) WAS NORTH OF THE ALTAR. THERE WERE EIGHT SHORT PILLARS THERE(27), UPON WHICH WERE BLOCKS OF CEDAR-WOOD. IN THESE WERE SET HOOKS OF IRONTHREE ROWS IN EACH. THEY HUNG [THE CARCASSES] AND FLAYED THEM OVER MARBLE TABLES [WHICH WERE] BETWEEN THE PILLARS.

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RINGS- There were 24 rings, one for each priestly group. The rings were semi-circular hoops the wwere set into the flooring and were able to be swung upward. These were used to hold the heads of the “tamid”-sacrifices steady while they were being slaughtered.

BUTCHERING AREA- where the slaughtered animals were flayed and cut up.

HOOKS OF IRON- to hold up the carcass while it was being flayed

THREE ROWS- There were vertical rows of hooks on each side of the wooden cube, three hooks in each row. The lower hook was used for the smallest animals; the upper hook was used for the largest animals. Some say there were no hooks on the western side of the wooden cube to avoid flaying the carcass with one’s back to the Sanctuary.

MISHNAH 6:

THE LAVER(31) WAS BETWEEN THE HALL(33) [IN FRONT OF THE SANCTUARY(34.35)] AND THE ALTAR(30), A LITTLE TO THE SOUTH. THE SPACE BE TWEEN THE HALL AND THE ALTAR WAS TWENTY-TWO CUBITS. THERE WERE TWELVE STEPS(32) THERE. EACH STEP WAS HALF A CUBIT HIGH AND A CUBIT DEEP. A CUBIT, A CUBIT AND A PLATFORM OF THREE CUBITS, A CUBIT, A CUBIT AND A PLATFORM OF THREE CUBITS, AT THE TOP A CUBIT, A CUBIT AND PLATFORM OF FOUR CUBITS. REBBE YEHUDAH SAYS THAT AT THE TOP THERE WAS A CUBIT, A CUBIT AND A PLATFORM OF FIVE CUBITS.

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PLATFORM OF FOUR CUBITS- See image.

PLATFORM OF FIVE CUBITS- See image.

MISHNAH 7:

THE DOORWAY OF THE HALL(33) WAS FORTY CUBITS HIGH AND ITS WIDTH WAS TWENTY CUBITS. OVER IT WERE FIVE DECORATIVE WOODEN BEAMS. THE LOWEST PROJECTED A CUBIT ON EACH SIDE BEYOND THE DOORWAY. THE ONE ABOVE PROJECTED BEYOND THIS ONE A CUBIT ON EACH SIDE. THUS THE UPPERMOST ONE WAS THIRTY CUBITS LONG. THERE WAS A ROW OF STONES BETWEEN EACH [BEAM] AND THE NEXT.

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DOORWAY OF THE HALL- This was the only gateway that had no door. A huge decorative curtain hung in the doorway.

MISHNAH 8:

THERE WERE CROSSBEAMS OF CEDAR WOOD SET FROM THE WALL OF THE SANCTUARY TO THE WALL OF THE HALL IN ORDER THAT [THE HIGH WALLS] NOT FALL IN.

THERE WERE CHAINS OF GOLD SET INTO THE CEILING OF THE HALL. YOUNG PRIESTS WOULD CLIMB THEM AND SEE THE DECROATIVE ARCHES [ABOVE THE WINDOWS]. AS IT SAYS, AND THE ARCHES SHALL BE TO CHELEM AND TO TOVIAH AND TO YEDIAH AND TO CHEN THE SON OF TZEPHANIAH AS A MEMORIAL IN THE TEMPLE OF THE L-RD.

A GOLDEN VINE STOOD ABOVE THE DOORWAY OF THE SANCTUARY, SUSPENDED FROM POLES. ANYONE WHO PLEDGED A [GOLDEN] LEAF OR A [GOLDEN] GRAPE OR A CLUSTER USED TO BRING IT AND HANG IT. REBBE ELIEZER SON OF REBBE ZADOK SAID: ON ONE OCCASION THREE HUNDRED PRIESTS WERE COUNTED [IN ORDER TO MOVE IT]

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SEE- if any repairs were necessary.

USED TO BRING IT- The donor would give it to a priest who would bring it in.

THREE HUNDRED- meaning- a very large number

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