The Bitza'in on Har Hazeisim
In the previous article, we mentioned the Gemarah (Shavous 16a) that says in the name of Abba Shaul that there were two area on Har Hazeisim that were added to Yerushalayim. (This statement of Abba Shaul is also mentioned in Megillas Ta'anis Perek Vav, Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 1:3, and Tosefta Sanhedrin 3:2.) The Gemarah goes as follows:
אבא שאול אומר, שני ביצעין היו בהר המשחה, תחתונה ועליונה. תחתונה נתקדשה בכל אלו, עליונה לא נתקדשה בכל אלו, אלא בעולי גולה, שלא במלך ושלא באורים ותומים. תחתונה שהיתה קדושתה גמורה, עמי הארץ נכנסין לשם ואוכלין שם קדשים קלים אבל לא מעשר שני, וחברים אוכלין שם קדשים קלים ומעשר שני. עליונה שלא היתה קדושתה גמורה, עמי הארץ היו נכנסין שם ואוכלין שם קדשים קלים אבל לא מעשר שני, וחברים אין אוכלין שם לא קדשים קלים ולא מעשר שני. ומפני מה לא קידשוה, שאין מוסיפין על העיר ועל העזרות אלא במלך ונביא ואורים ותומים ובסנהדרין של ע"א ובשתי תודות ובשיר. ולמה קידשוה, למה קידשוה, הא אמרת לא קידשוה, אלא למה הכניסוה, מפני שתורפה של ירושלים היתה, ונוחה היא ליכבש משם
Abba Shaul says: There were two ponds [bitza'in] on the Mount of Olives [Har HaMishcha], a lower pond and an upper pond. The lower one was consecrated during the time of the First Temple with all the procedures mentioned in the mishna, and it has the sanctity of Jerusalem for all purposes. By contrast, the upper one was not consecrated with all these, but rather it was consecrated by those who returned from the exile in Babylonia, without a king and without the Urim VeTummim.
With regard to the lower pond, whose consecration was complete, amei ha’aretz would enter into there and would partake of offerings of lesser sanctity that may be eaten in all of Jerusalem there, but they would not partake of Maaser Sheini there. And Chaverim would partake of both offerings of lesser sanctity and Maaser Sheini there.
But the upper pond, whose consecration was incomplete, amei ha’aretz would enter into there and partake of offerings of lesser sanctity there, but not Maaser Sheini. And Chaverim would partake of neither offerings of lesser sanctity nor Maaser Sheini there. And why did they not consecrate the upper pond? It was because additions can be made to the city of Jerusalem or to the Temple courtyards only with a king, a prophet, the Urim VeTummim, and the Sanhedrin of seventy-one, and with two thanks-offerings and with a special song.
The Gemara asks: But why did they consecrate the upper pond if they could not do so properly? This Gemara responds: Why did they consecrate it? Didn’t you say that they did not consecrate it? Rather, why did they bring it within the walls of the city? The Gemara answers: Because it was a weak point of Jerusalem and it would have been easy to conquer the city from there, it became necessary to include it within the wall. (Translation from the Koren Talmud, through Sefaria)
Now, where exactly are these two "ponds"? The Gemarah and Megillas Ta'anis says they were on "Har Hamishchah", which is Har Hazeisim (Mishchah-משחה means oil, Zeisim-זיתים means olives), while the Yerushalmi and Tosefta only say generally "in Yerushalayim". Most people (R' Yehosef Schwartz in Tevu'os Haaretz, R' Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky, and others,) prefer this version over the version in the Gemarah, and say it is talking about the areas added to Yerushalayim in the north, like the are inside the second and third wall, or other places. (See אוצר ירושלים והמקדש, עמוד 17, for the different opinions.) One of the reasons for this is that there are a lot of graves from the times of the first and second Beis Hamikdash on Har Hazeisim, as well as in Nachal Kidron, which separates the mountain from Yerushalayim. (For example, Kivrey Hanevi'im Chagay, Zechariah and Malachi on the top of the mountain, south of the place of Burning the Parah Adumah; Kever Bnei Cheizir and Kever Zechariah ben Yehoyadah in Nachal Kidron, and many others.) They also say that the word ביצעין-Betza'in means "to separate" (like לבצוע על הפת-to break bread), and not a pond or marsh. However, Rashi (as well as the Ri"d in his Pesakim) clearly writes that it means a marsh/pond. Also, it is clear that these Rishonim kept the version of the Gemarah, that it was on Har Hazeisim, (as Rashi explains that Har Hamishchah is the same as Har Hazeisim,) and generally speaking, usually the version of a Gemarah is considered more accurate that the Tosefta. Therefore, it seems we should take the Gemarah as we have it, and we should look for a place on Har Hazeisim for these two additions.
There are two Sefarim which discuss where on Har Hazeisim to these additions were, and both of them point to the area directly to the East of Har Habayis. The first person is the Ri"d, in his Pesakim on Shavous. He writes as follows:
פי' בצעי מים היו כעין אגמים שהיו יורדין מי גשמים מהר המשחה ומתקבצין שם אותה שהיתה בשיפולי הר הזיתים סמוכה להר הבית קורא תחתונה ואותה שהיתה כמעט עולה בגובה בהר הזיתי' והיא רחוקה מהר הבית קורא עליונה-"The Bitza'in are like marshes, that rainwater would drain down from Har Hazeisim and gather there. The one by the bottom of the mountain, next to the Har Habayis, he calls it the lower one, and the one that was slightly higher on the mountain, and further from Har Habayis, he calls the upper one." Since he describes the lower marsh as being next to the Har Habayis, we can deduct that he locates them on the part of Har Hazeisim that is directly opposite it.
The other source is Sha'alos Uteshuvos Mahari"t, volume 2 siman 37. He was asked about the grave of Chuldah Haneviah, which was said to be on top of Har Hazeisim, while the Tosefta (Bava Basra 1:7) says that it was in Yerushalayim. He answers by first asking another question, since the Halacha is that we may not bury people in Yerushalayim, how did they bury Chuldah inside the city? He answers that she was buried next to the upper marsh, which at that point was not part of Yerushalayim. When they extended Yerushalayim by the beginning of Bayis Sheini, they did not move her grave out. He proves that the wall of the upper march went around the top of Har Hazeisim, where she is buried, from the Gemarah. The Gemarah ends off its discussion about the two Bitza'in by asking why they included the upper one in the walls of the city, and answers "Because it was a weak point of Yerushalayim and it would have been easy to conquer it from there". He deducts from this that it would have been by the top of the mountain, as that that is the best defense post.
[I am not going to get into a discussion if this is, in fact, Kever Chuldah. While many, starting with the Kaftor Vaferach (Perek vav), do in fact mention this tradition, with R' Moshe Chagiz (Parshas Eileh Maasey, page 16) even writing that the Arizal confirmed it; R' Yehosef Shwartz argues extensively against it (Tevu'os Ha'aretz, Lunz edition, pp 348-352), and R' Zalman Koren (Kovetz Ma'alin Bakodesh, p 30, n 29) writes that the Arizal actually didn't confirm it.]
From all this we can see that the two Bitza'in (ponds/marshes) added on Har Hazeisim were added directly east of the Har Habayis, as the grave of Chuldah is more or less directly east of Sha'ar Harachamim (If you draw a line from Sha'ar Harachamim to Kever Chuldah, it will turn only half a degree towards the north.). This would also explain Rashi (Sukkah 51a), who implies that there was a significant part of Yerushalayim to the east of Har Habayis. You do, however, have to draw the line of the walls carefully, so no graves from the times of either Beis Hamikdash are located in this area. Also, the place of the burning of the Parah Adumah, which was directly east of the Kodesh Hakodoshim, has to be outside of Yerushalayim. Based on all this, I have made an approximate plan of how these two walls would have looked. The only graves located in this area are from non-Jews, from the late Roman or Byzantine era.
(Based on this, it could be that the "שער המטרה" [Prison gate] mentioned in Nechemiah 12:39, which from the context there it appears to be near the Beis Hamikdash, is a gate from the original part of Yerushalayim, to the lower Bitza; and it is called the "prison gate" since even when you exit through it, you still remain enclosed in walls. Also, the Sha'ar Hamifkad mentioned in Nechemiah 3:31, might be a gate in the north of the Lower Bitza, leading out of the city. In Yechezkel 3:21 the word Mifkad also appears, when Hashem tells him that some of the Korbanos from the Chanukas Bayis Shlishi will be burned "in the Mifkad of the house" [במפקד הבית], which Rashi explains means outside the Beis Hamikdash, Mifkad meaning the end; or alternatively, the Radak translates it as "the command", meaning in the place where they are commanded to burn it". Based on this, this title would fit a gate in this area, which is by the end of the area Yerushalayim sanctified properly, with all the commandments involved done properly. But this is all conjecture, although it is pretty clear that these gates were located approximately in this area.)
Now, one more thing we need to explain is Josephus, who, in his description of the walls of Yerushalayim (Wars 5:4), does not mention this area. You could say that Josephus only describes the First, Second, and Third walls of Yerushalayim, which this is not part of any of them, so it sort of falls to the side. However, I have found a place where Josephus seems to mention that part of Har Hazeisim was included in Yerushalayim. When he describes the path of the siege wall erected by Titus, during the siege of Yerushalayim, he writes the following: (Wars 5:12:2)
"Titus began the wall from the camp of the Assyrians, where his own camp was pitched, and drew it down to the lower parts of the new town; from there it crossed over the Kidron to the Mount of Olives; it then bent towards the south, and encompassed the mountain as far as the rock called Peristereon (dovecotes, where doves were raised), and that other hill which lies next it, and is over the valley which reaches to Siloam...and there, on the east, was joined to Titus's own camp, where it began. The length of this wall was thirty-nine furlongs."
We see from this that at least part of Har Hazeisim was included in the siege wall. Now, why would Titus make the siege wall cross over the Kidron valley, and surround part of Har Hazeisim, until the Peristereon, when he could just make it include the Kidron valley, and the whole Yerushalayim is closed up. We see from this that part of Yerushalayim was on Har Hazeisim, and he had to include that part. (You could say that he did not make it in the valley, as then the Yidden on top can easily shoot them. However, according to this, the length of the whole wall would be only 5,070 meters [3.15 miles] long, while Josephus writes it was 39 stadia, which is around 7,215 meters [4.48 miles], each stadia being at least 185 meters [606 feet], if not more. However, if it included a bigger area of Har Hazeisim, which only could have been if part of the city was there, it will be 5,989 meters [3.72 miles], which is much closer to the number mentioned by Josephus.)
Now, Josephus does mention (wars 5:2:3) that one of the legions of Titus's army camped on Har Hazeisim, seemingly implying that it was outside the city. However, we need to remember that the Bitza'in are only on part of Har Hazeisim, on the area east of the Beis Hamikdash, and there is a lot more space on the north and south of this, facing the city. Also, Josephus writes that the Roman camp was located six stadia (1,110 meters-3641 feet) away from Yerushalayim, which is past the end of the Bitza'in.
(As an interesting sidenote, I should point out that Conrad Schick seems to have noted this Gemarah, and explained it literally, that it is talking about Har Hazeisim. In an article he wrote about Har Hazeisim (in the PEF quarterly statement, October 1889, pp 174-176), he mentions it, although he says that the area was just given the status of Yerushalayim; but was not actually encircled with a wall. This is obviously not correct, as from the Gemarah we see that it was walled, but it is interesting that he brings down this Gemarah. In another article (PEFQS January 1895, pp 37-40), he writes that there was a fortress-town at the top of Har Hazeisim. He theorizes that the Beis-Zur mentioned in the second book of Maccabees (chapter 11) is this fortress-town, and is different than the Beis Zur mentioned in Yehoshua (15:58), and in the first book of Maccabees (4:27), which is near Chevron. Although I have not looked into this theory, if it is true, Beis-Tzur could be a corruption of the word Bitzah.)
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