The Eastern Wall of the Har Habayis, part 3 (the gates in the middle of the eastern wall)
The middle section of the eastern wall, from the times of Shlomo Hamelech, has one gate currently visible in it, the Shaar Harachamim. This gate, which is located around 312 meters (1023 feet) away from the southeast corner, is built on the remains of the original gate that stood there in the time of the Beis Hamikdash. This double gate was built by Shlomo, one gate for chasanim, and one gate for mourners and people in Cherem. "On Shabbos the Yidden went and sat between those two gates; and they knew that anyone who entered through the gate of the bridegrooms was a bridegroom, and they said to him, May He who dwells in this house cause you to rejoice with sons and daughters. If one entered through the gate of the mourners with his upper lip covered, then they knew that he was a mourner, and they would say to him. May He who dwells in this house comfort you. If one entered through the gate of the mourners without having his upper lip covered, then they knew that he was excommunicated, and they would say to him, May He who dwells in this house put into your heart (the desire) to listen to the words of your associates, and may He put into the hearts of your associates that they may draw you near (to themselves), so that all Israel may discharge their duty by rendering the service of loving-kindness" (Pirkey D'Rabbi Eliezer, end of Perek Yud-Zayin).
It seems hard to imagine that you could fit all the Yidden living in Yerushalayim, or even a large portion of them, in between these two gates. However, since Sha'ar Harachamim is much lower than the surface of Har Habayis, (The threshold is around 726-732 meters (2378-2400) above. sea. level.,) especially according to what I wrote (based on the Radvaz) in an earlier post, that the Har Habayis used to be much taller; there would have been a tunnel leading from this gate to the surface. The Yiden could have sat in the center of the tunnel, and there would have been two aisles, one from each gate, for the chasanim and mourners to walk through. (For more about this gate, see my earlier article, Shaar Harachamim.)
The gate mentioned by the Kaftor Veferach
The Kaftor Vaferach writes (Perek 6)
"מכל זה יראה כי מה שאנו רואים היום בזמננו זה מהכותלים העומדים האלה, שהם כותלים מחומת הר הבית. עוד היום ניכר שער שושן למזרח והוא סגור אבני גזית. ואם תחלק זה הכותל לשלשה חלקים יהיה זה הפתח בחלק הראשון מצד קרן מזרחי דרומי וכן ניכרים שני שערי חולדה לדרום, וכן ניכר שער הקיפינוס למערב, שער הצפון שהוא הטדי אינו ניכר שאותו צד נחרב."
"From all this it is seen that what we see now from these walls, they are the walls of Har Habayis. Until today you can see Sha'ar Shushan in the east, blocked up with hewn stones. If you divide this wall into three parts, this gate will be in the first part from the south-east. The Chuldah gates are also visible in the south, and the Kiponos gate in the west. The Northern gate, Sha'ar Tadi, is not visible, because that wall is broken."
(The Chuldah gates he mentions are probably the double and triple gates in the south, and the Kiponos is probably Warren's or Barclay's gate, although it might be one of the gates on top of Wilson's arch. The Shushan gate he mentions is not known and is probably now buried underground.)
Now, we know that Sha'ar Shushan was directly opposite the doors to the Ezras Nashim, Azarah, and Heichal (Berachos 9:5, it also seems this way from Yoma 16a). So, since the Kaftor Vaferach says that Sha'ar Shushan is in the southern third of the eastern wall of the Har Habayis, it comes out that he holds that the Dome of the Rock is not the place of the Kodesh Hakodoshim! (The length of the eastern Har Habayis wall is 466 meters (1530 feet) long, a third of which is 155.3 meters (510 feet), while the dome of the rock is located 215 meters (705 feet) away from the southern wall of the Har Habayis!) Now this is strange, because the tradition that the Dome of the rock is the place of the Kodesh Hakodoshim was already widespread in his days, and if he was arguing, he should have said so clearly.
Another problem is that later he writes that Sha'ar Harachamim is located כמטחוי קשת-two bowshots (or just: a bowshot) away from his Sha'ar Shushan. Now, although this is obviously not an exact measurement, based on the use of this expression by the Kaftor Vaferach elsewhere, it comes out that it is around 70-120 meters (229-393 feet.) However, the distance from Sha'ar Harachamim to the southern third of the eastern wall is 150 meters (492 feet), which seems to be much bigger than what he calls "two bowshots".
To answer these questions, we need to remember that the eastern wall of the Har Habayis is also presently part of the eastern wall of Yerushalayim, and they both run along the same line. In fact, if you are looking at Yerushalayim from the east, you can't really tell where the Har Habayis ends. Therefore, Rabbi Zalman Koren has explained that when the Kaftor Vaferach talks about the southern third of the wall, he is referring to the whole east wall of Yerushalayim, not just the east wall of Har Habayis.
It should be noted that around 100 years before the Kaftor Vaferach, the emir, El Malik Al-Mu'azzam isa, destroyed the fortifications of Yerushalayim, so that if the crusaders came back to it, they would not be able to fortify themselves in Eretz Yisroel. The walls were only rebuilt much later, by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, in the years 5297-5301 (1537-1541). This would seem to disprove Zalman Koren's answer, as there would not have been a wall in Yerushalayim at the time of the Kaftor Vaferach, in 5073 (1313). However, this is not the case. Al Mu'azzam did not totally destroy the walls of Yerushalayim, rather he made big breaches, but there were still parts of the wall standing, as can be seen from pictures of Yerushalayim in that period. In fact, the east wall was left mostly standing, at least as far as some point to the north of Sha'ar Ha'arayos (the lions' gate). This gate located 545 meters (1788 feet) away from the southeast corner of Har Habayis. If we want to have Sha'ar Shushan opposite the dome of the rock, it needs to be located 210-215 meters (688-705 feet) away from the southeast corner. Three times this amount is 645 meters (2116 feet), meaning that the eastern wall only has to continue around 100 meters (328 feet) past Sha'ar Ha'arayos, which is not that much, and still leaves space for a breach in the northern part of the wall. Based on this, the Kaftor Vaferach does not argue with the dome of the rock being the location of the Beis Hamikdash. (It is true that he never mentions that it is the location. However, that could be because he did not feel the tradition to be reliable enough for a halacha that has Kares, going into the Beis Hamikdash while Tamei. However, he could still hold that it is the most probable location.)
Now, we have written that the extant eastern wall of Har Habayis is not from the 500-amah square Har Habayis, rather from the Migrash, in which case we need to figure out the purpose of this gate. It seems that (like the Kiponos gate), there was a gate in this outer wall, from which a tunnel led up to the surface of the Har Habayis, in front of Sha'ar Shushan. (The Kaftor Vaferach's opinion of where the borders of the square Har Habayis were still needs to be figured out. He seems to hold that the extant walls of Har Habayis are the walls of the square Har Habayis, although this seems strange. Hopefully one day Hashem will help someone figure this out.)
Bahat, Dan, and Rubinstein, Hayim. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. United Kingdom, Simon & Schuster, 1990.
הרב עזריה אריאל, שיטת הכפתור־ופרח בזיהוי מקום המקדש (קובץ מעלין בקודש גליון לה)
הרב זלמן מנחם קורן, תשובת הרדב"ז על כניסה לעליות סביב הר הבית, נספח ,2 דעת בעל הכפתור ופרח בעניין מקום קודש הקודשים, (קובץ מעלין בקודש גליון ל)
הרב זלמן מנחם קורן, על עמדת הכפתור ופרח בנוגע למקום ההיכל [בתוך תשובת הרדב"ז על כניסה לעליות סביב הר הבית (תשובה להשגת עמיחי אליאש)], קובץ מעלין בקודש, גליון לא, עמודים 93-106
(שלש מאמרים אלו נלקטו ונדפסו בספר איה מקום כבודו, ארץ ישראל ה' תשפ"ב)
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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)