Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Shemini (Leviticus 9-11)
9:5 And they took what Moshe (Moses) commanded (and brought it) to the front of the Tent of Meeting. And the entire congregation came near and they stood before G-D.
The dimensions in the section of the sanctuaryís courtyard where the congregation stood were fifty by fifty cubits. A cubit is roughly the distance between a personís elbow and the end of his middle finger.
This area contained the altar and its ramp and also the laver.
We know that the entire congregation had no less than six-hundred-thousand males between the ages of twenty and sixty (Exodus 38:26).
Not counting the altar, ramp, and laver, the fact that over six-hundred-thousand people fit into twenty-five-hundred square cubits means that every square cubit contained no less than two-hundred-forty people, which is remarkable.
The Birchas Peretz, also known as the Steipler Gaon, uses the Medrash Yalkut Shimoni to express the miracle in a different way (Commentary on Pekudei).
The Medrash states that it was indeed remarkable that they fit into an area that was only fifty cubits square. It states that they would ordinarily need more than four Ďmilí (Pekudei 40:420).
A Ďmilí is two-thousand cubits in length. Itís puzzling that the Medrash refers to the miraculous capacity of an area in terms of a measurement of length.
Now, Rabbi Yochanan states that a circular succa whose circumference would fit twenty-four people is large enough to be kosher (Talmud Succa 7b).
The Talmud begins the analysis of his computation with an assumption that one person can fit into a cubit. It concludes that Rabbi Yochanan was speaking about twenty-four people who were sitting closely together, where three people would fit into two cubits (ibid. 8a).
The Birchas Peretz notes that a cubit is six handbreadths in length. He assumes that the average personís arm takes up one handbreadth, with both arms needing two, and that a personís trunk takes up the remaining four handbreadths. Thus, when three people sit scrunched together and bring their arms in, they need twelve handbreadths of space for their trunks, or two cubits.
He then assumes that the depth of an average personís trunk closely matches its length, or four handbreadths. (He apparently refers to a culture / civilization where obesity was not the norm.)
Consider a line of people four Ďmilí or eight-thousand cubits long. If the trunks of three people fit into two cubits, then twelve would fit into eight. Thus, twelve-thousand people would comfortably stand in this line of eight-thousand cubits.
Recall that the courtyard was fifty cubits wide. From the Talmud in Succa we know that fifty adults standing side by side can comfortably fit there.
Recall also that there were no less than six-hundred-thousand adults in the courtyard. If we take fifty lines of adults standing side by side, with each line consisting of twelve-thousand people, we will have fifty times twelve-thousand people, or six-hundred-thousand adults.
Even more remarkable events that defined the laws of physics routinely occurred in temple area.
We have a tradition the temple was fully packed with people on Yom Kippur. They surrounded not only the altar area but also the temple building. Yet, when it came the time to prostrate and confess their sins, everyone moved into the area that was before the temple building and they all had four cubits of space around them so that no one would hear their confession.
The Mishna (Avos 5:5) cites this as one of many demonstrations that the Divine Presence was there and with us.