The Eastern Wall of the Har Habayis, part 3 (the gates in the middle of the eastern wall)
The height of Har Habayis part 2
In a previous post I brought down the Radvaz's answer (שו"ת הרדב"ז סימן תרל"ט) about why the Har Habayis is now shorter than the rest of Yerushalayim. However, from that teshuva it is not clear by how tall the Radvaz holds the Har Habayis was. From the fact that he brings a proof from the Even Hashesiyah, it seems like he only means that it got a little bit smaller. However, the Radvaz asks this question also in his peirush on the Rambam (Beis Habechirah 6:5), where he asks it about why Har Hazeisim is taller than the Har Habayis, and he gives the same answer, that Har Habayis used to be taller. From this we can see that he holds that Har Habayis used to be much taller, because Har Hazeisim is over 800 meters above sea level, and Har Habayis is now only 740 meters above sea level.
I also want to suggest another reason why Har Habayis is so much shorter. The Zohar (Pekudei, 240b) says that the foundations of the Beis Hamikdash were all hidden, and the enemy did not have power over them. Since the foundations were hidden, it explains why so much of the Har Habayis is "missing". (Although you could ask, some of the foundations are still there, so what is the Zohar saying? I think you could answer this by saying that only the foundations of the square Har Habayis were hidden, and this explains at last fifty amos of the mountains lowering.)
The Mishnah (Middos 2:1) says that the Har Habayis had the majority of the empty space in the south, the second biggest in the east, third in the north, and the least in the south. most Meforshim explain that this means the empty space between the Azarah walls and the walls of Har Habayis, and this is how I made my calculations of where the original Har Habayis was. However, there is another opinion, (R' Yehosef Ashkenazi, brought by the Meleches Shlomo, this opinion is also brought by Maharam Kazis) that it means the space between the Har Habayis walls and the walls of the Azarah and the Ezras Nashim.
In a previous post, I wrote that the Migrash of Har Habayis went until the western wall of the present day temple mount, the Kosel Hama'aravi. However, there is a problem with saying that, because the stones of the Kosel are all Herodian-style stones (stones with margins and smooth bosses), and there are no seams to mark the beginning of Hurdus's extension, so it can't be from the time of Shlomo Hamelech.
In order to solve this problem, I will point out something strange about the Kosel. The southern wall of the present day Har Habayis is 2.25 meters (27.7 ft.) thick (The Quest, page 69). The eastern wall is 2.88 meters (9 ft. 6 in.) thick (Survey of Western Palestine-Jerusalem, page 238). The western wall, however, is almost double that, it is 4.60 meters (15 ft.) thick! (The Quest, pages 25, 29).
It seems that the reason for this is that originally the Kosel was built by Shlomo Hamelech. Hurdus, when he rebuilt the Beis Hamikdash, added another wall right in front of Shlomo's, hiding Shlomo's wall. For this reason, the Kosel is almost double as thick as the other walls, because it is really two walls. (A possible reason why Hurdus did this is because this wall was by one of the main streets of Yerushalayim, so he wanted it to look smooth.) For this reason, we daven by this part of the Kosel, and not opposite the Kodesh Hakodoshim, because right here the wall is partly from the first Beis Hamikdash.
The Height of Har Habayis
The Gemara in Zevachim (54b) says that the Beis Hamikdash is higher than the whole Eretz Yisroel, except for Ein Eitam, which is twenty-three amos higher than the Azarah. However, there is a problem, because nowadays, the top of Har Habayis is 744 meters (2440 feet) above sea level, but all the mountains around it, like Har Hazeisim and Har Tziyon, are higher than that! Also, Ein Eitam, (as said in a previous post,) is 830 meters (2725 feet) above sea level, which is much more than twenty-three amos higher!
The Northern Seam
In the last post I wrote than in order for the northern wall of the migrash to end by the northern seam, it needs to be on a different angle than the rest of the walls of Har Habayis. However, I realized that you can make the wall the same angle as the other walls, but say (like by Leen Ritmeyer's opinion) that there was a tower right next to the migrash, and that is why the old part of the wall ends there.
I am now going to write a new way how it was, but please note, that I am not paskening halacha lima'aseh, where you could go on Har Habayis and where you can't, and you shouldn't go on Har Habayis at all, as said by most Poskim, that we should not go on Har Habayis.
The first thing we need to do is figure out where the Kodesh HaKodoshim was. We know that the Rambam went onto Har Habayis, so it must be that in the Rambam's times they knew exactly where the Beis Hamikdash was. R' Binyamin from Toledo, who lived the same time as the Rambam, writes (26 אוצר מסעות עמוד) that in Yerushalayim there is a church called Templum Domini, (that is what The Dome of the Rock was called when the crusaders ruled Yerushalayim), which is the place of the Beis Hamikdash, and Omar built a big dome over there. This could prove that The Dome of the Rock is the place of the Beis Hamikdash. Although you could say he means Mizbeach, since until two hundred years ago, almost everybody who dealt with this question, said that The Dome of the Rock is the place of the Kodesh Hakodoshim, that is most probably where it was.
There are four opinions where on Har Habayis the Beis Hamikdash was, they are:
1)dome of the rock is where the Kodesh Hakodoshim was.
2)dome of the rock is the place of the mizbeach.
3)Beis Hamikdash was in the south part of Har Habayis, in the empty space between the mosques.
4)Beis Hamikdash was in northern part of Har Habayis.
Each opinion can be sub-divided into a few opinions, arguing exactly the five-hundred amah square was, and the size of an amah.
(For a good summary of most of the opinions, as well as the problems with each one, see אוצר ירושלים והמקדש by Encyclopedia Talmudis, pages 325-345, and the diagrams in the back.)
One of the big questions about the Beis Hamikdash is where the Beis Hamikdash was on Har Habayis. The Mishna (Middos 2:1) says Har Habayis was five hundred amos by five hundred amos, and the Azarah was farther away from the south wall than from the east, farther from the east than from the north, and the least space was in the west. The meforshim give different numbers to explain this, but they are all random numbers, not saying that this is how it was. (The Tosfos Yom Tov says 250 in south, 213 in east, 115 in north, and 100 in west. The Tiferes Yisroel quotes the Shiltey Hagiborim who says 265 in south, 250 in east, 100 in north, and 63 in west.) It would seem that we could get a pretty good picture of where the Azarah was, but there is a big problem, Har Habayis, how we see it now, is bigger than five hundred amos. As it is now, the south wall is 584 amos, the east wall is 968, the north wall is 659, and the west wall is 1013 amos. (I am using Rav Avraham Chayim Na'eh's amah, which is 18.95 inches or 48 centimeters.) The answer to this question is that Yosifun writes (War of the Jews 5:5:1) that king Hurdus (Herod) expanded Har Habayis. But the question is, where in this big area was the original five hundred amos, which only that part was sanctified with the Kedusha of Har Habayis, and where in there was the Azarah?
I have added the first chapter of a description of the First Beis Hamikdash.
My name is Mendel Lewis.
This year is a Hakhel year. To learn about this special year, and what we should do about it, visit the following links:
The Year of Hakhel - Celebrating Jewish Unity - 5783 -- A Year of Unity (chabad.org)
Shnas Hakhel - Home
Hahkel Nation 5783 (hakhelnation.com)
Hashem said to Yechezkel, "Its reading in the Torah is as great as its building. Go and say it to them, and they will occupy themselves to read the form of it in the Torah. And in reward for its reading, that they occupy themselves to read about it, I count it for them as if they were occupied with the building of it. (Tanchuma tzav 14)