Room 49 – Virtual Mishnah, a Translation, Commentary, Visual Aids to Tractate Midoth – Chapter 4 of 5

CHAPTER 4

 

MISHNAH 1:

THE DOORWAY OF THE SANCTUARY(34) WAS TWENTY CUBITS HIGH AND TEN WIDE. IT HAD FOUR DOORS, TWO ON THE INNER SIDE [OF THE DOORPOST], AND TWO ON THE OUTER SIDE. AS IT SAYS, THE SANCTUARY AND TEMPLE HAD TWO DOORS.

THE OUTER ONES OPENED INTO THE INTERIOR OF THE DOORWAY SO AS TO COVER THE THICKNESS OF THE WALL [OF THE DOORPOSTS], WHILE THE INNER ONES OPENED INTO THE SANCTUARY SO AS TO COVER THE SPACE BEHIND THE DOORS.

THE ENTIRE ROOM WAS PLATED WITH GOLD EXCEPT THE SPACE BEHIND THE DOORS.

REBBE YEHUDAH SAYS: THE DOORS WERE PLACED WITHIN THE DOORWAY. THEY RESEMBLED FOLDING DOORS. FOLDING BACK TO BACK. EACH WAS TWO CUBITS AND A HALF AND HALF A CUBIT OF DOORPOST ON EITHER SIDE. AS IT SAYS: AND THERE WERE TWO DOORS FOR THE DOORS, TWO TURNING DOORS. TWO DOORS FOR ONE AND TWO DOORS FOR THE OTHER.

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TEN WIDE- Its walls were 6 cubits thick. There were two doors at one end of the 6 cubit thick doorway and two doors at the other end of the 6 cubit thick doorway. Each door was 5 cubits wide.

SANCTUARY AND TEMPLE HAD TWO DOORS- The words “Sanctuary and Temple” seem to be redundant since both words refer to the same doorway. The Mishna is explaining that the first set of doors in the doorway are the Sanctuary doors and the second set of doors are the Temple doors.

COVER THE SPACE BEHIND THE DOORS- See diagram #7.

FOLDING BACK TO BACK- See diagram #8.

MISHNAH 2:

THE GREAT DOORWAY HAD TWO SMALL DOORWAYS, ONE TO THE NORTH AND ONE TO THE SOUTH. THE ONE TO THE SOUTH NO MAN EVER WENT IN. CONCERNING THIS IT WAS EXPLAINED THROUGH EZEKIEL, AS IT SAYS, AND THE LORD SAID UNTO ME: THIS GATE SHALL BE SHUT, IT SHALL NOT BE OPENED, NO MAN ENTER IT, FOR HASHEM THE L-RD OF ISRAEL ENTERED THROUGH IT THOUGH IT WAS SHUT.

[THE PRIEST] WOULD TAKE THE KEY AND OPENED THE [NORTHERN] SMALL DOORWAY AND WENT IN TO THE COMPARTMENT. FROM THE COMPARTMENT HE WENT IN TO THE SANCTUARY. REBBE YEHUDAH SAYS: HE USED TO WALK ALONG THROUGH [A PASSAGE] IN THE THICKNESS OF THE WALL UNTIL HE CAME TO THE SPACE BETWEEN THE TWO GATES. HE USED TO OPEN THE OUTER DOORS FROM WITHIN AND THE INNER DOORS FROM WITHOUT.

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GREAT DOORWAY- referring to the doorway of the Santuary(34), not the Hall. Though the doorway of the Hall was much larger than the doorway of the Sanctuary, the doorway to the Sanctuary is called the great doorway because the Sanctuary contained the holiest items of the Temple.

NOT BE OPENED- during the week. It opened by itself on the Sabbath and the New Moon.

THE THICKNESS OF THE WALL- See Diagram #9.

MISHNAH 3:

THERE WERE THIRTY-EIGHT COMPARTMENTS(36) THEREFIFTEEN ON THE NORTH [WALL OF THE SANCTUARY], FIFTEEN ON THE SOUTH, AND EIGHT ON THE WEST.

ON THE NORTH AND ON THE SOUTH THERE WERE FIVE COMPARTMENTS ON TOP OF FIVE AND FIVE AGAIN ON TOP OF THESE. ON THE WEST THERE WERE THREE ON TOP OF ON TOP OF THREE AND TWO ON TOP OF THESE.

EACH HAD THREE DOORWAYS, ONE [DOORWAY LED] TO THE COMPARTMENT ON THE RIGHT AND ONE [DOORWAY LED] TO THE COMPARTMENT ON THE LEFT AND ONE TO THE COMPARTMENT ABOVE.

IN THE [COMPARTMENT AT THE] NORTHEASTERN CORNER THERE WERE FIVE DOORWAYS, ONE [LED] TO THE COMPARTMENT ON THE RIGHT, ONE [LED] TO THE COMPARTMENT ABOVE, ONE [LED] TO THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE(37), ONE TO THE SMALL DOORWAY [TO THE NORTH OF THE SANCTUARY’S GREAT DOORWAY], AND ONE [DOORWAY LED DIRECTLY INTO] TO THE SANCTUARY.

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THERE- surrounding the Sanctuary

TWO- The Mishna gives no reason why only two compartments were here instead of three.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE- Some say it was a ramp. It led to the roof of the western compartments.

MISHNAH 4:

THE LOWEST STORY COMPARTMENT WAS FIVE CUBITS WIDE WITH CEILING OF SIX CUBITS. THE MIDDLE STORY COMPARTMENT WAS SIX CUBITS WIDE WITH A CEILING OF SEVEN. THE TOP STORY COMPARTMENT WAS SEVEN CUBITS WIDE. AS IT SAYS, THE LOWEST SIDE CHAMBER WAS FIVE CUBITS WIDE, AND THE MIDDLE WAS SIX CUBITS WIDE, AND THE THIRD WAS SEVEN CUBITS WIDE.

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WIDE- The compartments surrounded the main Sanctuary and were three stories high. The front wall of the chambers was the wall of the main Sanctuary. This wall rose upward 100 cubits. The thickness of the wall varied. It was widest at the base, being 7 cubits thick and narrowed to 5 cubits thick at the top.

At the bottom, where the wall was 7 cubits thick, the adjacent compartment was 5 cubits from front wall to rear. The Sanctuary wall was 6 cubits thick at the level of the second story. The compartment was 6 cubits, from front wall to rear. The chamber gained an extra cubit as the wall narrowed one cubit. At the level of the third story, the Sanctuary wall was 5 cubits thick, allowing for that level of compartments to reach a width of 7 cubits.

The main part of the Sanctuary, the Holy and the Holy of Holies, was two stories high, each story being about 45 cubits in height. Though the compartments surrounding the main Sanctuary were three stories high, the roof of the third story of compartments was on the same level as the floor of the second story of the main Sanctuary. This will be made obvious in the next Mishna. This would imply that the three stories of compartment had a total height of 45 cubits at the very most.

A CEILING OF SIX CUBITS- The floor of the second story chambers, which was the ceiling of the first story chambers, was 6 cubits from front wall to rear.

Maimonides and Bartenura have a very different interpretation of this Mishna.

MISHNAH 5:

A WINDING STAIRCASE(37) WENT UP FROM THE NORTH-EAST CORNER TO THE NORTH-WEST CORNER BY WHICH THEY USED TO ASCEND TO THE ROOFS OF THE COMPARTMENTS(36).

ONE ASCENDED THE STAIRCASE FACING THE WEST. HE WALKED ALONG THE WHOLE NORTHERN SIDE TILL HE REACHED THE WEST. WHEN HE REACHED THE WEST HE TURNED TO FACE SOUTH. HE THEN WALKED ALONG THE WEST SIDE TILL HE REACHED THE SOUTH. WHEN HE REACHED THE SOUTH HE TURNED TO FACE EASTWARDS. HE THEN WALKED ALONG THE SOUTH SIDE TILL HE REACHED THE DOOR OF THE ATTIC.

 

THE DOOR OF THE ATTIC OPENED TO THE SOUTH. NEAR THE DOORWAY OF THE ATTIC WERE TWO BEAMS OF CEDAR BY WHICH THEY USED TO CLIMB UP TO THE ROOF OF THE ATTIC. IN THE ATTIC THERE WERE BEAMS PROTRUDING [FROM THE WALL] SEPARATING THE HOLY FROM THE PROFANE.

THERE WERE TRAP DOORS IN THE ATTIC OPENING INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES BY WHICH THE WORKMEN WERE LOWERED IN BOXES SO THAT THEY SHOULD NOT FEAST THEIR EYES ON THE HOLY OF HOLIES.

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A WINDING STAIRCASE- The lowest story of the northeast compartment had a back door. That door led into an open area which contained a winding staircase which led to the roof of the uppermost story of the northwest compartment. Some say that it was a ramp, not a winding staircase.

ONE ASCENDED- to examine the roof and ceiling of the Sanctuary to determine if any repairs were required. This was done very infrequently.

DOOR OF THE ATTIC- The main Sanctuary, consisting of the Holy and the Holy of Holies, was two stories high. The upper story was called the Attic. Each story was about 45 cubits high. From this Mishna it seems that the roof of the third story of compartments was on the same level as the floor of the attic. One could go from the roof of the southeast compartment through the doorway into the attic.

NEAR THE DOORWAY- Some say the beams were inside the Attic; others say they were outside the Attic.

TWO BEAMS OF CEDAR- with rungs between them, i.e. a ladder. Or possibly two upright parallel beams with niches cut into them to enable on to climb to the roof of the Sanctuary.

BOXES- The box was completely enclosed except for a window-like opening which faced the wall it was being lower against. In that manner the workmen would only be able to see a small area of wall at a time and not feast their eyes on the splendor of the entire Holy of Holies.

MISHNAH 6:

THE SANCTUARY WAS A HUNDRED [CUBITS] BY A HUNDRED WITH A HEIGHT OF A HUNDRED. [THIS IS THE RECKONING OF THE ONE HUNDRED CUBITS OF HEIGHT.] THE FOUNDATION WAS SIX CUBITS [HIGH]. [THE SANCTUARY WALLS] ROSE UP FORTY [CUBITS]. [THERE WAS] A CUBIT [HEIGHT] OF ORNAMENTATION, TWO CUBITS FOR THE BEAMS, A CUBIT OF CEILING AND A CUBIT FOR THE PLASTERING.

THE HEIGHT OF THE ATTIC WAS FORTY CUBITS. THERE [TOO] WAS A CUBIT [HEIGHT] OF ORNAMENTATION, TWO CUBITS FOR THE BEAMS, A CUBIT OF CEILING, AND A CUBIT FOR THE PLASTERING.

THREE CUBITS FOR THE PARAPET AND A CUBIT FOR THE SPIKES. REBBE YEHUDAH SAYS THE SPIKES WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE MEASUREMENT, [INSTEAD] THE PARAPET WAS FOUR CUBITS.

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A HUNDRED [CUBITS] BY A HUNDRED- According to most commentaries the north-south length of the Hall in front of the Sanctuary was 100 cubits. The north-south dimension of the Sanctuary itself was only 70 cubits. The east-west length of the building was 100 cubits. According to Maimonidies and Bartenura, even the north-south dimension of the Sanctuary was 100 cubits. See diagrams #.

WITH A HEIGHT OF A HUNDRED- Only the main section of the Sanctuary, the Holy and Holy of Holies, rose up 100 cubits. The other sections of the building were considerably lower.

FOUNDATION- The bedrock of Mount Moriah protruded above the surface of the mountain where the Sanctuary was to be located. It was an uneven and rocky area. In order to have a level flooring upon which to construct the Sanctuary, the area was encased by a 6 cubit high foundation upon which the flooring and the remainder of the structure was built. Only in the Holy of Holies did the bedrock still protrude above the level of the flooring by 3 finger breaths.

Whether the foundation also supported the compartments that surrounded the Sanctuary on three sides or if the compartments were built on the flooring of the Azarah is a matter of dispute among the commentaries.

THERE- referring to the ceiling.

ORNAMENTATION- The ceiling contained exquisite decorative ornamentation. Some say it was deeply engraved wood that was plated with gold. Others maintain that a cubit thick layer of plaster that was deeply engraved covered the ceiling. Still others maintain that the height of the room was actually 41 cubits. Encircling the top of the wall was a decorative strip of molding, 1 cubit high, that seems to support the ceiling.

BEAMS- support beams for the floor above. Some say it was also a holding tank between the floor to contain the runoff water from the roof. The water would then be conducted to the place of the water descent mentioned in the next Mishna.

CEILING- wooden boards that were laid atop the beams. A thick layer of plaster or cement was put on top the wooden boards. Stones tiles were set into the plaster. This was the floor of the Attic.

PARAPET- a fence surrounding the roof of the Sanctuary.

SPIKES- lit. raven-enders. Metal spikes were set into the railing of the parapet to prevent birds from alighting on the roof and soiling the Sanctuary. Some say it was a continuous upright thin sheet of metal.

MISHNAH 7:

FROM EAST TO WEST WAS A HUNDRED CUBITS. [THIS IS THE RECKONING OF THE ONE HUNDRED CUBITS OF LENGTH.] THE [THICKNESS OF THE] WALL OF THE HALL WAS FIVE CUBITS. THE [INTERIOR OF THE] HALL WAS ELEVEN. THE [FRONT] WALL OF THE SANCTUARY WAS SIX CUBITS. THE INTERIOR [OF THE HOLY WAS] FORTY. A CUBIT FOR THE PARTITION [BETWEEN THE HOLY AND THE HOLY OF HOLIES. TWENTY CUBITS FOR [INTERIOR OF THE] HOLY OF HOLIES. THE [BACK] WALL OF THE SANCTUARY WAS SIX CUBITS. THE [INTERIOR OF THE] COMPARTMENT WAS SIX CUBITS. THE [BACK] WALL OF THE COMPARTMENT WAS FIVE.

[THIS IS THE RECKONING OF THE ONE HUNDRED CUBITS OF WIDTH.] FROM NORTH TO SOUTH [MOST OF ITS WIDTH WAS CONTAINED WITHIN] SEVENTY CUBITS. [THIS IS THE RECKONING OF THE SEVENTY CUBITS.] THE WALL OF THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE WAS FIVE CUBITS. THE [WIDTH OF THE] SPIRAL STAIRCASE ITSELF WAS THREE. THE WALL OF THE COMPARTMENT WAS FIVE. THE [INTERIOR OF THE] COMPARTMENT ITSELF SIX. THE WALL OF THE SANCTUARY SIX CUBITS.THE INTERIOR WAS TWENTY. THE [OPPOSITE] WALL OF THE SANCTUARY SIX. THE COMPARTMENT SIX. ITS WALL FIVE. THE PLACE OF THE WATER DESCENT(38) WAS THREE CUBITS [WIDTH]. ITS WALL FIVE CUBITS.

THE HALL EXTENDED BEYOND THIS FIFTEEN CUBITS ON THE NORTH AND FIFTEEN CUBITS ON THE SOUTH. THIS [AREA] WAS CALLED THE KNIFE-HOUSE(49) WHERE THEY USED TO STORE THE [SLAUGHTERERS’] KNIVES.

THUS, THE SANCTUARY WAS NARROW BEHIND AND BROAD IN FRONT, RESEMBLING A LION. AS IT SAYS, OH, ARIEL, ARIEL, THE PLACE WHERE DAVID ENCAMPED. JUST AS A LION IS NARROW BEHIND AND BROAD IN FRONT, SO THE SANCTUARY WAS NARROW BEHIND AND BROAD IN FRONT.

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PARTITION- In the First Temple, from the beginning of the Holy to the end of the Holy of Holies was 60 cubits. A wall with a door, one cubit thick separated the two areas. When the Second Temple was built, there was a doubt whether the 1 cubit thick wall was located in the Holy or in the Holy of Holies. They solved the problem by making the distance from the beginning of the Holy to the end of the Holy of Holies 61 cubits in length. A questionable area, 1 cubit wide was marked with two curtains, one a the beginning of the 1 cubit and another at the end.

COMPARTMENT WAS SIX CUBITS- the middle story compartment. The bottom story was 5 cubits wide and the uppermost story was 7 cubits wide.

WATER DESCENT- The runoff rain water was conducted by pipes to a large cistern located on the southern side of the Sanctuary. The cistern was called Place of the water descent.

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