Parsha Halacha

Parshat Devarim / Shabbat Chazon

The Water Sources of the Beit HaMikdash

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The book of Devarim is Moshe’s final speech to the Jewish people. In it he reviews the events of the time spent in the desert as well as many mitzvot of the Torah. He also gives them words of admonition and encouragement. It is notable that, although Moshe mentions all of the major events that occurred in the desert (the Manna,[1] the giving of the Torah,[2] the sin of the golden calf[3] and the sin of the spies[4]), he does not mention the building of the Mishkan.
The reason for this may be that Moshe was focusing on the mitzvot that would be relevant for the Jewish people in the future while the building of the Mishkan was only a mitzvah for that time.[5] (This does not explain why Moshe did not review the laws of the sacrifices which were relevant in Israel and will be relevant when Moshiach comes, speedily in our days.)
Although Moshe does mention historical events of the desert, he does so in the context of rebuking the people and exhorting them to take lessons from their mistakes, which would not apply to the building of the Mishkan. (Moshe speaks about the giving of the Torah as one must recall this constantly so that we remain inspired by it.[6])
That being said, the book of Devarim does, however, contain several references to the building of the Beit HaMikdash.[7] This is especially relevant to the Nine Days when the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged studying about the Beit HaMikdash and is also pertinent to Shabbat Chazon, when, according to tradition, we experience a vision of the third Beit HaMikdash. In this article we will focus on the water systems of the Beit HaMikdash.

Gichon Spring
The Gichon spring (which was also known as the Shilo’ach[8]) is in the Kidron valley, northeast of the city of Yerushalayim. This is where King David had King Solomon anointed,[9] and it was the main water source for the ancient city of Yerushalayim.
Since the spring was outside of the city’s walls, King Chizkiyahu was concerned that this would allow the Assyrian king Sancherev and his armies to get the upper hand in the siege that he was planning against the city of Yerushalayim. Chizkiyahu therefore built a tunnel which directed the water from the spring into the Shilo’ach pool which was located within the city walls, as the verse says,[10] “Chizkiyahu stopped up the spring of water of Upper Gichon, leading it downward west of the City of David.
The Talmud says[11] that the sages at that time disapproved of these actions as they believed that Chizkiyahu should have relied on G-d rather than take such extreme measures to protect the city. Although one is generally encouraged to pursue natural means in solving problems and not simply relying on miracles, Chizkiyahu had been assured by the Prophet Isaiah[12] that “I will protect and save this city for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.”[13] He therefore had no need to prepare in this way.

Trusting and Preparing
The commentaries explain[14] that Chizkiyahu felt that he should make natural preparations to assist in the fulfillment of the prophecy just as the Jewish people sent spies to survey the land of Israel despite G-d’s promise that they would conquer it. (Moshe agreed with them and sent the spies.) Despite this, the sages of that time disagreed with his decision and felt that he did not have the right to appropriate national property (the spring) for preparations that were of questionable necessity.
According to another source, G-d agreed with Chizkiyahu’s decision.[15] This spring (and pool) is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah[16] when the prophet chastises the Jewish people for “rejecting the gently flowing waters of the Shilo’ach.” The Talmud says[17] that this means that the Jewish people were rejecting the calm leadership of King Chizkiyahu, heir to the Davidic dynasty, and choosing to follow his enemies.[18]

The Gichon Spring in the Future
The prophet Yechezkel foretold[19] that in the Third Bait HaMikdash (may it be built speedily in our days) a spring will come out of the Holy of Holies and become a great river which will have many fish and will have healing powers. According to some sources,[20] this spring will be the Gichon spring.

Water Channel in the Temple Courtyard
The Talmud says that there was a water channel (amat hamayim) that ran through the Azarah of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple courtyard). The water of this channel would flow through the courtyard and eventually reach the Kidron Valley[21] which is also the source of the Gichon spring. This channel served many purposes. Some of them were:
1)     Blood of the Sacrifices
The blood of the sacrifices was poured on the base of the altar (Mizbe’ach). It would then flow through pipes that were under the altar to the water channel which ran alongside the altar.[22] The blood would end up in the Kidron Valley where farmers would use it to fertilize their fields. They would pay the Beit HaMikdash for this blood.[23]
2)     Cleaning the Azarah
When Erev Pesach coincided with Shabbat, the Kohanim would clean the Azarah by plugging up the exit of the water channel. The water would accumulate in the courtyard, and all of the blood and guts of the many Pesach sacrifices that were on the floor would mix into it. They would then unplug the exit hole and the water would exit, taking all of the blood and guts with it and bringing them to the Kidron Valley.[24]
3)     Ashes of the Altar
Every morning a kohen would take ashes from the outer altar with a silver firepan to use them for the burning of the incense on the inner altar. After descending from the outer altar, he would transfer the hot coals from the silver pan to a smaller, golden one. The coals that would fall to the floor at that time (since the golden pan was smaller than the silver one) would be swept into the water channel that ran through the courtyard.[25]

Source of the Water Channel
The Talmud says that the source of the water in the mikvah which the Kohen Gadol would use for immersion on Yom Kippur was from a spring called Ein Eitam.[26] Similarly, the Jerusalem Talmud states[27] that the Ein Eitam spring provided water for the Kiyor (washing station of the kohanim) and for the mikvah that the kohanim would use on a regular basis. It has been suggested that source of the water in the channel that ran through the Azarah was also from the spring of Ein Eitam.[28]
The spring of Ein Eitam has a history of its own with various opinions as to its location. G-d willing we will discuss this in the coming weeks.

May we soon see the spring water flowing out of the Holy of Holies with the coming of Moshiach when we will celebrate Tisha Be’Av as a Yom Tov!

[1] Deut. 8:16
[2] Ibid 5:2 and on
[3] Ibid 9:8 and on
[4] Ibid 1:22 and on
[6] Deut. 4:9
[7] See the following sources:
1)      Deut. 3:23 and Rashi, “Lebanon is referring to the Beit HaMikdash.”
2)      Ibid 12:5, “Look only to the site that your G-d will choose.” Rabeinu Bachaye says, “This place is Mount Moriah which was well known among the nations based on an oral tradition.”
3)      Ibid, verse 11, “Then you must bring everything that I command you to the site where your G-d will choose to establish the divine name.” Rashi says that this means “Build the Chosen House in Yerushalayim.”
[8] In Kings I, 1:33 the Targum Yonatan translates “Gichon” as “Shilucha.”
[9] Kings I ibid
[13] Chatam Sofer on Brachot ibid. Although the verse about Chizkiyahu’s diversion of the spring (Chronicles II 32:3) is found before the prophecy of Isaiah (ibid 20), that verse is referring to other springs that he diverted whereas the Gichon spring was diverted after the prophecy (see ibid verse 30) [Maharsha].
[14] Responsa of Amudei Ohr by Rabbi Yechiel Heller, 116:22
[15] Avot DeRabi Natan, 2:4. See Binyan Yehoshua there who tries to reconcile the two viewpoints.
[16] 8:6
[18] See ibid 26a that Shevna the scribe and a majority of the Jewish people wanted to surrender to the king of Assyria.
[19] Ezekiel 47:1 as explained in Yoma 77b
[20] Masechet Keilim, Mishnah 12. This short tractate (which is not the same as the section of the Mishnah by that same name) discusses how the vessels of the First Beit HaMikdash were hidden by tzadikim (righteous men) and nevi’im (prophets) before the destruction of that Beit HaMikdash. The tractate is printed in Emek HaMelech by Naftaly Hertz Bachrach on page 69. (The names of the men who hid the vessels were Shimur HaLevi, Chizkiyahu, Tzidkiyahu, Chagay Hanavi and Zecharia ben Ido HaNavi.) In the last paragraph (which is called a “Mishnah” although it is not part of our Mishnayot) it says that all of these vessels will be returned to us in the time of Moshiach. Specifically, the Gichon spring will flow out of the Holy of Holies, and on its way to the Dead Sea (which it will turn into a freshwater lake), it will “uncover” the hiding place of the holy vessels.
[22] Tiferet Yisrael on ibid.
[23] Bartenura on ibid. It is not clear how the blood was separated from the water of the channel in a manner that made it useful.
[27] Yoma 3:8
[28] Tiferet Yisrael on Midot 2. Ot 74 and 75

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach

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