THE WHOLE AZARAH(48) COURTYARD WAS ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN [CUBITS] LONG BY A HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE WIDE.
FROM EAST TO WEST IT WAS A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN. THE SPACE IN WHICH THE ISRAELITES STEPPED(17) WAS ELEVEN CUBITS. THE SPACE IN WHICH THE PRIESTS STEPPED(18) WAS ELEVEN CUBITS. THE ALTAR(30) [TOOK UP] THIRTY-TWO. BETWEEN THE HALL AND THE ALTAR WAS TWENTY-TWO CUBITS(32). THE SANCTUARY [TOOK UP] A HUNDRED CUBITS, AND THERE WERE ELEVEN CUBITS BEHIND THE SANCTUARY.
WHOLE AZARAH- excluding the Women’s Courtyard.
ISRAELITES STEPPED- Courtyard of the Israelites.
PRIESTS STEPPED- Courtyard of the Priests.
FROM NORTH TO SOUTH WAS ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE [CUBITS]. THE RAMP(29) [OF THE ALTAR] AND THE ALTAR(30) TOOK UP SIXTY-TWO. FROM THE ALTAR TO THE RINGS WAS EIGHT [CUBITS]. THE SPACE THE RINGS(25) [TOOK UP WAS] TWENTY-FOUR [CUBITS]. FROM THE RINGS TO THE TABLES WAS FOUR [CUBITS](26). FROM THE TABLES TO THE DWARF COLUMNS FOUR(27). FROM THE DWARF COLUMNS TO THE [NORTHERN] WALL OF THE AZARAH EIGHT CUBITS, AND THE REMAINDER [OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE CUBITS] WAS [ACCOUNTED FOR BY THE SPACES] BETWEEN THE RAMP AND THE [SOUTHERN] WALL [OF THE AZARAH] AND THE SPACE OCCUPIED BY THE DWARF COLUMNS.
THERE WERE SIX CHAMBERS IN THE AZARAH, THREE ON THE NORTH AND THREE ON THE SOUTH. ON THE NORTH WERE THE SALT CHAMBER(20), THE PARVAH CHAMBER(19) AND THE WASHERS CHAMBER(21). IN THE SALT CHAMBER(20) THEY USED TO KEEP THE SALT FOR THE OFFERINGS. IN THE PARVAH CHAMBER(19) THEY USED TO SALT THE SKINS OF THE SACRIFICES. ON ITS ROOF WAS THE MIKVA USED BY THE HIGH PRIEST ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. IN THE WASHERS’ CHAMBER(21) THEY USED TO WASH THE SACRIFICAL INNARDS. THERE WAS A SPIRAL STAIRCASE THAT WENT UP [FROM THE WASHERS CHAMBER(21)] TO THE ROOF OF THE PARVAH CHAMBER(19).
THREE ON THE NORTH- There are differing opinions if these chambers were above ground or below ground.
NORTH- in some editions the reading is South
SALT CHAMBER- Sacrificial meat had to be salted before it was offered. In addition, the skins of the Sacrifices were salted to preserve them and were distributed to the priests.
PARVAH CHAMBER- named after the one who constructed the chamber. A mikva was located on the roof. It was supplied by water from the fountain of Eitam to the south of the Temple Mount. Its waters were conducted through pipes to the mikva. Some say it was through supernatural means that were known to Parvah. Parvah secretly constructed a tunnel under this chamber. He was attempting to make a secret entrance into the Holy of Holies so he could observe the High Priest on Day of Atonement. Parvah was caught in the act and sentenced to death.
ON THE SOUTH WERE THE WOOD ROOM(22), THE CHAMBER OF THE WHEEL(23) AND THE CHAMBER OF HEWN STONES(24). WITH REGARD TO THE WOOD CHAMBER(22), REBBE ELIEZER BEN YAKOV SAYS: I FORGET WHAT IT WAS USED FOR. ABBA SAUL SAYS: [IT WAS] THE CHAMBER OF THE HIGH PRIEST. IT WAS BEHIND TWO OF THEM, [NAMELY THE CHAMBER OF THE WHEEL(23) AND THE CHAMBER OF HEWN STONE(24). THE ROOF [OF ALL THREE CHAMBERS] ONE [LEVEL]. [IN] THE CHAMBER OF THE WHEEL(23) THERE WAS A PERMENANT CISTERN WITH A WHEEL OVER IT. FROM THERE WATER WAS SUPPLIED FOR ALL THE AZARAH. [IN] THE CHAMBER OF HEWN STONE(24) THE GREAT SANHEDRIN OF ISRAEL USED TO SIT AND JUDGE [MATTERS RELATING TO] THE PRIESTHOOD. A PRIEST IN WHOM WAS FOUND A DISQUALIFICATION USED TO PUT ON BLACK GARMENTS AND WRAP HIMSELF IN BLACK AND HE WOULD GO OUT [OF THE AZARAH]. ONE IN WHOM NO DISQUALIFICATION WAS FOUND USED TO PUT ON WHITE GARMENTS AND WRAP HIMSELF IN WHITE AND HE WOULD GO IN [THE AZARAH] AND SERVE ALONG WITH HIS BROTHER PRIESTS. THEY USED TO MAKE [HE WOULD MAKE] A FEAST BECAUSE NO BLEMISH HAD BEEN FOUND IN THE SEED OF AARON THE PRIEST. THEY USED TO SAY THUS: BLESSED IS THE OMNIPRESENT, BLESSED IS HE, FOR NO BLEMISH HAS BEEN FOUND IN THE SEED OF AARON. BLESSED IS HE WHO CHOSE AARON AND HIS SONS TO STAND TO SERVE BEFORE THE LORD IN THE PLACE OF THE HOLY OF HOLIES.
SOUTH- in some editions the reading is South.
WOOD ROOM- not to be confused with the Wood Chamber. This room was the Temple quarters of the High Priest, also called Palhedrion Room, a Greek word meaning an official. The quarters were primarily occupied during the week prior to the Day of Atonement when the High Priest underwent an intense rehearsal for the Yom Kipper service.
Though the other buildings on the Temple Mount were constructed from stone, this chamber was made of wood. Wood is not a durable material. These priestly chambers were made of wood to show the possibility that he tenure may be temporary and he should not pride himself in his position. Other commentaries say it was called Wood Chamber on account of the hugh wooden closets that were in the room for storing the High Priest’s garments. The chamber was built outside the Azarah in order to allow the High Priest to sleep in his quarters. Within the Azarah courtyard, even sitting was not permitted.
CHAMBER OF THE WHEEL- explained later in the Mishna. Some say it was called Chamber of the Exiles. Accordingly the Hebrew pronunciation would be Lishkas HaGoleh. According to the first reading it would be pronounced Lishkas HaGuleh.
HEWN STONES- The chamber of the Sanhedron, the Supreme Court of the land. This building was located partially outside the Azarah in order to allow the judges to be seated when court was in session.
BEHIND TWO OF THEM- It was hidden from view from within the Azarah. The chamber was located in a corner formed by the Chamber of the Hewn Stones and the Chamber of the wheel. See diagram.
ONE [LEVEL]- as opposed to the 3 chambers mentioned in the last Mishna. In that Mishna the middle chamber was higher than the outer two because of the Mikva which was located on its roof.
WHEEL OVER IT- The wheel had a crank with which to turn the wheel. A rope was attached to the wheel and buckets were attached to the rope. By turning the crank one could lower or raise the buckets to draw water.
DISQUALIFICATION- a blemish or a disqualifying factor in geneology.