The first Mishnah of the second perek in Masechet Midot discusses the dimensions of Har Ha’Bayit (500 x 500 amot) which was much larger than the area required for the Beit Ha’Mikdash. The Mishnah then discusses how the additional space surrounding the Mikdash was distributed. The majority of the area was in the South, followed by the East, North and West. The Mishnah outlines that the South side received most of the area as this was the area most widely used.
The Tosfot Yom Tov cites a practical reason that the South side of Har Ha’Bayit was the largest. This is because most of the buildings in Jerusalem and the ways in which most people travelled to Har Ha’Bayit were by way of the South. This is based upon a pasuk in Yechezkel (40:3), “…and set me upon a very high mountain, upon which was something like the structure of a city to the south”. Therefore, since most traffic was through this area, it was the largest and most inhabited area. The Tosfot Yom Tov follows his line of reasoning to explain why the East was the second largest area. This is because we learn in the next Mishnah that all that enter into Har Ha’Bayit must go to the right. If one was walking from the South and turned right, the next direction he would come to is the East. Since the crowd would be flowing in this direction, there needed to be a larger space to accommodate them.
The Tosefet Yom Tov adds another reason as to why the South side was the largest which was stated by the Shiltei Gibborim. This is due to the fact that aside from the chambers that are listed in this Masechet, there were a number of other chambers required for the and those that served in it. These additional chambers (that are not listed in the Mishnah) were all located on the Southern side on Har Ha’Bayit. These additional structures and chambers included a Beit Knesset, Beit Midrash, two Batei Din, and additionally in Herod’s time he built a number of halls on Har Ha’Bayit.33
An interesting understanding is offered by the Rosh. The Rosh interprets the Mishnah as referring to the number of structures located on each side of Har Ha’Bayit. That is, the Mishnah is not referring to the area surrounding the Beit Ha’Mikdash, but rather the number of structures that were situated around this area. Following this explanation – the Rosh holds that most construction took place on the Southern side, followed by the East, North and West.
It can be seen that practically the Rosh does not necessarily disagree with the Tosfot Yom Tov and the Shiltei Gibborim on which side was larger. They differ in their interpretation of the Mishnah. Whereas the Tosfot Yom Tov and the Shiltei Gibborim interpret the Mishnah as referring to the physical area and space, the Rosh would hold that these words are in fact referring to the structures that are built in these areas.
The room above the Eastern gate had a picture of Shushan HaBira on it. Amoraim argue over the reason behind this:
In order for the Jews to realise where they had come from (Menachot 95a)
To give praise to the Kingdom that allowed them to build the Beit Ha’Mikdash (Rashi Menachot 95a)
In order for the Jews to realise that they were exiled to Shushan because of their sins and in so doing they would remember their galut and the reasons for it (Rabbeinu Channanel Pesachim 86a)
In order to instil the fear of the Kingdom of Shushan into them to stop a possible rebellion.
33: The Mefarshim all agree that there were additional structures built on Har Ha’Bayit. However, there is a disagreement over how many were built (see Tosefet Yom Tov).
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