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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tabernacle Layout: The Key Questions Checklist

While studying the Layout of the Tabernacle, it is very important to take in the account all of the details of the description simultaneously. But because it may be difficult for some people to do that, I have decided to write up a short checklist of the Key Questions, that would allow anyone to examine validity of any proposed layout of the Tabernacle.

As you know, there are many different opinions as to what the Tabernacle might have looked liked. Here are some of the most widely accepted versions:

Here is a version according to Mizrachi (taken from this web site):


Here is the version according to the Levush HaOrah (taken from this website)


And here is the Ma'ase Choshev version (from here)


Here is a Baraita De-Melekhet Ha-Mishkan version (from this book - תבנית המשכן וכליו)


And here is a version that is based on a mix of opinions of Rashi, and Rab. Nechemiah (mishna)

And here is again Maase Hoshev version, but with tall courtyard pillars (10 and 15 cubits high).

And here is Chabad's version of Mishna opinion again, with modifications.

Therefore, the only way to analyze which version is correct, one must remember to check proposed layout for the following:
  1. Correct uutilization of meaning of the words "Mishkan" and "Tent" for the First and Second Coverings in Exodus 26:9, Exodus 26:12-13. Word "Tent" must refer only to Goat's Hair Covering, and word "Mishkan" must refer only to wooden Framework and Coverings with Cherubims. 
  2. Differences between the location of the Clasps and Loops of the First and Second Coverings  (Exodus Exodus 26:5 vs 26:10). Loops "on the edge" vs Loops "at the edge"
  3. Ability of the layout to provide an explanation of how the Width and Length of the Holly of Hollies (Kodesh ha-Kodashim) was calculated. Both Internal and External. (Exodus 26:13 - expression "to cover it")
  4. How the Thickness of the Boards of the Mishkan was calculated (Exodus 26:16)
  5. How layout explains the placement of the Inner Curtain (Parochet) "under the Clasps"? Which Clasps? (Exodus 26:33)
  6. How location of each set of Clasps was calculated? What was the purpose of the location of each set of Clasps? (Exodus 26:6, Exodus 26:11 and Exodus 26:33)
  7. How the shape, location and dimensions of the Inner and Outer Pillars were identified and calculated (Exodus 26:32 and Exodus 26:37)
  8. How the dimensions of the Courtyard Pillars were calculated? (Exodus 27:17)
  9. How the shape and location of the Courtyard Pillars was identified and calculated? (Exodus 27:17)
  10. How dimensions of the Courtyard Curtains were identified and calculated. (Exodus 27:18)
  11. What about quantity of Courtyard Curtains (i.e Exodus 27:9 - usage of the expression "hangings" in the plural form)
  12. How an Overall dimensions of the Courtyard were calculated?
  13. How an Overall dimensions of the Courtyard Perimeter identified by the Pillars were calculated?
Of'course, these are just general and most important questions that have to be answered in order for the proposed Tabernacle Layout to be valid.

In order to illustrate the importance of these questions, I'm going to show you what happens when you apply these questions to one of the traditional layouts. Let's take the last layout from the ones above as an example:


The answers to my checklist for this layout will be as follows:

  1. This version uses incorrect assumption, that the "folding of the extra sheet to the forefront of the tent" means having half of the remaining sheet (2 cubits) of the Goat's Hair covering to hang off the front side (east side) of the wooden framework. This is because the author did not notice that the word "Tent" in this chapter NEVER refers to the wooden framework. This already invalidates the proposed layout.
  2. In this layout, the Loops located in the edges of the halves of each of the two Coverings. No differentiation is made, even though the description is pretty clear. This also invalidates the layout.
  3. The Width of the Holy of Hollies in this layout is specified as 10 cubits (inner) and 12 cubits (outer). Since the widest Covering (Goat's Hair covering) is only 30 cubits, it leaves 1 cubit of the framework on North and South sides uncovered (due to the thickness of the Boards being 1 cubit). This invalidates the layout because of Checklist Question #4
  4. No explanation is given as to how the thickness of the Boards of the framework was calculated. Moreover, the thickness of the Boards may wary between 1 cubit and 0 cubits, without any implications upon the proposed interpretation of the text that this layout is based on. The only thing that would change, is the amount of Coverings hanging in the front of the framework. But since it does not have to be 2 cubits (see #1), this means that any thickness of the Boards between 0 and 1 cubits is acceptable, and thus invalidating this layout again due to this mathematical inconsistency.
  5. This layout puts both set of Clasps one under another and exactly 10 cubits from the inner side of the western wall of the framework. However, since the Clasps located exactly one under another (see #2), this leaves a see-through gap in the Coverings, that would not be acceptable.
  6. Calculation of the location of the Clasps is explained. But because it is based on the invalid #1-5 assumptions above, it also cannot be considered valid.
  7. No explanation is given whatsoever.
  8. No explanation is given whatsoever.
  9. No explanation is given.
  10. No explanation is given. Plural form is ignored.
  11. No explanation is given. Plural form is ignored.
  12. Based on the length of the Curtains. Listed as 100x50 cubits.
  13. No explanation and dimensions are provided. Perimeter identified by the pillars in this layout is 2 cubits larger, than that of a Curtains, or 102x52 cubits (because Courtyard Pillars here located on the outside)
Therefore, and as you can see by using provided checklist, it is now very easy to see huge inconsistencies in the proposed layouts, as well as to see if the proposed layouts hold any water so to speak.

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