intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
The Mikdash Mailbag
— We Get Letters!
Queen of a small independent state in northern Mesopotamia, Helena of Adiabene together with her family, embraced Judaism some 40 years before the Destruction. Cited numerous times in the Mishna,Gemara, and associated literature as well as in Josephus, she and her sons became known for their generosity, their devotion to Torah and their love for Am Yisrael. The Mishna relates that, "Heleni HaMalka, Queen Helena, set a golden Nivreshet over the door of the Heichal…" (Yoma 3:10). I wrote that the Nivreshet was actually a rather unusual timepiece. "When the (rising) sun shined on it, it sparkled (from the reflected light) and then everybody knew that the time had arrived for K'ri'at Shema. (Yoma 37b). Ti'feret Yisrael comments, "Since the Bayit was 100 Amot tall (approx. 50m) and it stood on the summit of Har HaBayit (and therefore was visible from all over the city), when the sun rose, the Nivreshet which was made of shiny gold would reflect the sun so brightly that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew that the time of K'ri'at Shema had arrived" (Yoma 3:10, Tif'eret Yisrael 61). The word Nivreshet is usually mistranslated in English as "candlestick" but the Nivreshet was not a candlestick. The Nivreshet was an elegant burnished mirror constructed of highly polished gold, strategically placed high above the (40 Amot tall) entrance way of the Bayit, to catch and reflect the rays of the early morning sun. Though the original TT article was written in deep summer, it did not discourage R. Halevy from Brookline, Mass. from sending in his comments in deepest winter. Thank you so much.
R. Halevy writes, "A while ago, you wrote about the mirror-like golden Nivreshes which hung over the Hechal (the Bayit - CS) and signaled the Kohanim as to the exact moment of sunrise. We read in the Mishna (Yoma 37a) that "Heleni, his mother (King Munbaz's) made a Nivreshes of gold over the opening of the Hechal (the Bayit)".Rashi there says on the word Nivreshes, "A Menora. This is similar to what is in the Book (Daniel 5)" where the word, in its Aramaic form Nivreshta, is translated by Rashi and the Metzudos as Menora. Normally "Menora" is translated as a candlestick or lamp. In either case, a Menora is "a source of light".
On 37b, however, the Gemara clarifies its understanding of this Nivreshes. "We have learned, at the hour when the sun shines, sparks emanate from it (the Nivreshes) and everyone knows that the time for K'ri'as Sh'ma has come." Here Rashi says, "It glowed. For the sun shown in the East and (it) inclined over the opening of the Hechal which was to its western side".
Rashi further explains that the Mitzva of reciting K'ri'as Sh'ma was at the moment of sunrise as we have learned in Berochos 26a. We see that the Nivreshes was a reflective mirror which reflected the rays of the morning sun. Possibly, it was round like a half ball or ball or even a flat, multi-faceted surface angled to radiate the light in such a way that anyone in the Azara, whether to the East, North or South, could see it. In the unlikely situation that someone was standing in the West, which would have been unusual, he would surely see that others in the Azara would be beginning their recitation and join them. It is unlikely, then, that the Nivreshes was a candle or lamp - highly unlikely - so the word Menora, in our case, cannot be translated as a "source of light". The Nivreshes either was affixed to the wall high above the Hechal entrance or was suspended by some means like a rope, chain, or rod to a protruding beam. The latter scenario fits better with the phraseology in Rashi on 37b that it was "inclined" or slanted. But, what did Rashi mean by "which was to its western side"? This could be simply explained that the lower part of the Nivreshes was tilted inward to the Hechal sort of like this: W / E whether it was flat, multi-faceted or convex. Properly placed, it would have been securely affixed at its bottom point to the Hechal outer wall. The suns rays, therefore, would not have only been visible if one looked up at the Nivreshes, but even on the ground and walls. It would have been very hard to miss it and, therefore, the moment of sunrise and time for K'ri'as Sh'ma."
Then, perhaps inspired by the recent storm that buried Boston in 20" of snow, R. Halevy adds, "Let's talk real snow in the Mikdash. Okay. So the Ks (Kohanim) couldn't get to wear anything underneath nor above. (The Ks while serving in the Mikdash were permitted to wear only their four priestly garments - CS) But could their clothing be made thicker? What about all the visitors who came to bring their Korbonos? Were they restricted in their clothing too? (No - CS). Except for going barefoot (Since the Mikdash was "holy ground", anyone entering the Azara had to be barefoot. Note Shemot 3:5 - CS), maybe the visitors would come in heavy winter coats with earmuffs and gloves. All of this sounds weird, sloshing in the snow and ice barefoot. We must think of some other solution. What about a heated floor? Even though there may not be sources for this in the Mishna, the Romans did heat their baths in this manner. Why couldn't we have had some sort of subterranian heating system, too? This would have caused snow and ice to melt on contact leaving only a water mess to squeegy away. Strategically placed, this could have both heated the ground and the Ks feet without scalding them. Next solution - temporary covers a la a tarpaulin. Imagine some sort of thick carpet which covered the ground and was pulled away just where the K had to walk. In fact, not all the area had to be covered, but only those exact paths where the Ks had to walk. Much of the other ground could remain snowed over. Another solution - pour boiling water over the snow. Snow melts, ground is kinda warm, Kohein suffers little. Excess water is then quickly squeegied aside. We tend to picture a lonely Kohein or two busily Shechting (slaughtering), Kaboling (receiving the blood in a Mikdash vessel), Holaching (conveying the sacrificial blood to the altar) and Shpritzing (Zerikat Hadam, the blood application on the altar). Maybe another lonely Kohein cutting and schlepping (carrying Netachim, the dismembered parts of the sacrificial animal to the altar) and tossing (the parts) on the pyre (the 'Korban- consuming' fire on the altar). I suspect that the Ks worked in teams with one Captain Kohein leading his crew along.
Each time another Korban was to be offered, the next crew in line went to work. Working Zareezedly (swifty, skillfully and conscientiously) as they would, any particular sacrifice could have been dealt with in minutes. Said crew flies back to their heated quarters, brushes off the snow, dries their feet and clothing and rests until their turn comes up again. Each crew would be comprised of specialists who, working in tandem, would attack their jobs efficiently and at lighting speed."
Terrific! R. Halevy, thank you
again. - See article, "Snow, Snow, Beautiful Snow", TT #560, P'kudei 5763,
March 7-8, '03 - CS)