The Holy of Holies
Beyond the Holy was 1 cubit (1½ feet) of space called the Traksin
which divided the Holy from the Holy of Holies. This word is derived from
the Greek, connoting a place which is both inside and outside, since
it divided between the inside—the Holy of Holies—and the outer Holy. In the
First Temple there was a wall built in this space with a doorway opening to
the Holy of Holies. However, in the Second Temple the ceiling of the
Sanctuary was 40 cubits (60 feet) high, 10 cubits (15 feet) higher than in
the First Temple, and it was not possible at that time to construct a
structurally sound wall which was 40 cubits tall and only 1 cubit thick.
They could not make the wall any thicker since that would take away space
from either the Holy or the Holy of Holies, the dimensions of which were not
subject to modification. Therefore, they hung two curtains across the Holy
in place of the original wall to act as the divider. One curtain would have
sufficed but for their uncertainty as to whether that wall was considered
part of the Holy or the Holy of Holies, thus they hung two curtains on
either side of the Traksin and left that 1 cubit as undefined.
|Looking west within the Holy.|
Inner Altar is
in the center.
The outer curtain was folded back at the southern end and held by a golden
band and the inner curtain was similarly folded back at the northern end.
This allowed the Kohen Gadol to walk between them without having to
open them manually as he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur
while at the same time they completely blocked off the interior of the Holy
of Holies from the view of anyone standing in the Holy.
The innermost chamber of the Sanctuary was the Holy of Holies. It measured
20 cubits (30 feet) square and, like the Holy, was plated with gold and set
with precious stones. Protruding 3 fingerbreadths (2¼ inches) above the
floor was the Foundation Stone and on this stone they placed the Ark during
the First Temple era. In the Second Temple the Holy of Holies was empty
since the Ark had been concealed in a labyrinth of underground tunnels
before the First Temple was destroyed. The Holy of Holies also had windows
which, according to Josephus, were angled so that no one could see in from
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