Playback speed

Middos 2:6-3:1

Middos 2:6

There were chambers under the Israelite courtyard that opened into the women’s courtyard; this was where the Leviim would store lutes, lyres, cymbals and other musical instruments. The Israelite courtyard was a 135 cubits long and 11 cubits wide (approximately 203’x17’), as was the courtyard of the kohanim. There were beams protruding to indicate the boundary between the Israelite courtyard and the courtyard of the kohanim; Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says there was a step a cubit tall (about 18”) on which the platform was placed. This had three steps of half a cubit (about 9”) each. This made the courtyard of the kohanim 2½ cubits (nearly 4’) higher than the Israelite courtyard. The entire courtyard was 187 cubits long by 135 wide (approximately 280’x203’) and the 13 prostrations (mentioned in Mishna 2:3) were made there. Abba Yosi ben Chanan says that the prostrations were made opposite the 13 gates. The southern gates closest to the west were the upper gate, the fuel gate, the firstborn gate and the water gate. It was called the water gate because they would bring the pitcher of water for the Succos libations through this gate; Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says that it was called that because that’s where the water trickled in and, in the future, from where water will flow under the Temple threshold. Opposite these, in the north close to the west were the Yechonia gate, the offering gate, the women’s gate and the song gate. It was called the Yechonia gate because Yechonia (i.e., Yehoyachin, the king of Judah) went through it when he was exiled (in II Kings 24). On the east was the Nikanor gate, which had two smaller gates, one on either side. There were two gates on the west that didn’t have names.

Middos 3:1

The altar was 32 cubits by 32 cubits (approximately 48’x48’). It rose a cubit and receded a cubit on each side, forming the base and leaving 30 cubits by 30 cubits (approximately 45’x45’). It then rose five cubits and receded one cubit, forming the soveiv (the ledge) and leaving 28 cubits by 28 cubits (approximately 42’x42’). The horns of the altar took up a cubit on each side, leaving 26 cubits by 26 cubits (approximately 39’x39’). A cubit was left on each side for the kohanim to walk, leaving 24 cubits by 24 cubits (approximately 36’x36’) as the space for the wood pile. Rabbi Yosi says that originally (i.e., in the first Temple), the entire altar was only 28 cubits by 28 cubits, rising and receding as described until the space left for the wood pile was only 20 cubits by 20 cubits (approximately 30’x30’). When they returned from exile (i.e., in the second Temple), they added four cubits to the north and four cubits to the west like the letter gamma (i.e., L-shaped) as per Ezekiel 43:16, “The Ariel shall be 12 cubits long by 12 cubits wide (approximately 18’x18’), square.” One might think that the entire altar should be only 12 cubits by 12 cubits; it therefore says “to its four sides.” This teaches us that the measuring was done from the middle, 12 cubits in each direction. A line of red paint ran around the middle of the altar to separate between the bloods that needed to be sprinkled on the upper altar and those that needed to be sprinkled on lower altar. The base (didn’t run around the entire altar; it) ran the length of the altar on the north and on the west; it went in one cubit on the south and one cubit on the east.

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz