Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Exodus 30:17-21 - The Copper Laver (Washer) of The Tabernacle - Part 2 - Location and Positioning of the Laver

Now, let's take a look at the location and positioning of the Laver inside the Courtyard of the Mishkan.

Exodus 30:17-21

17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.

19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:

20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:

21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

‎17 ‏וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃

‎18 ‏וְעָשִׂ֜יתָ כִּיּ֥וֹר נְחֹ֛שֶׁת וְכַנּ֥וֹ נְחֹ֖שֶׁת לְרָחְצָ֑ה וְנָתַתָּ֣ אֹת֗וֹ בֵּֽין־אֹ֤הֶל מוֹעֵד֙ וּבֵ֣ין הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וְנָתַתָּ֥ שָׁ֖מָּה מָֽיִם׃

‎19 ‏וְרָחֲצ֛וּ אַהֲרֹ֥ן וּבָנָ֖יו מִמֶּ֑נּוּ אֶת־יְדֵיהֶ֖ם וְאֶת־רַגְלֵיהֶֽם׃

‎20 ‏בְּבֹאָ֞ם אֶל־אֹ֧הֶל מוֹעֵ֛ד יִרְחֲצוּ־מַ֖יִם וְלֹ֣א יָמֻ֑תוּ א֣וֹ בְגִשְׁתָּ֤ם אֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ לְשָׁרֵ֔ת לְהַקְטִ֥יר אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃

‎21 ‏וְרָחֲצ֛וּ יְדֵיהֶ֥ם וְרַגְלֵיהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֣א יָמֻ֑תוּ וְהָיְתָ֨ה לָהֶ֧ם חָק־עוֹלָ֛ם ל֥וֹ וּלְזַרְע֖וֹ לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃ פ

As verse 18 states, the Copper Laver were to be positioned between the Tent of the Tabernacle and the Altar of Burnt Offering. Like so:

The Laver would be filled with water and was ready for service. As the verse 19 of the description states, the Priests would be required to wash their hands and their feet, before they would be able to enter the Tent of the Mishkan and to perform the necessary rituals. Here is the rendering of the Laver up-close.
Note, how the Laver material(copper) was matching the Five Outer Pillar's Sockets material (also copper) -this has served as a reminder to the Priests.

And as the same verse states, the Priests would be required to wash hands(and feet) as they were to approach the Altar of Burnt Offering to perform the service. As you can see from this image, the only way to get to the Altar was through the Laver. Thus, the location of the Laver was excellent, as it would take a great deal of distraction so as not to see it during the service. Here is the Laver as it would have been seen from the Altar Ramp.

 And here is another view of the Laver, the Tent and the Ramp of the Altar of Burnt Offering:

And here is an overview of the entire Mishkan: its Courtyard, its Altar of Burnt Offering with its Ramp, the Laver and the Tent.

And here is a top view upon the entire Mishkan, so that you can see the layout of its structure.

And here is a brief diagram of the layout of the Laver and its position inside the Mishkan. As you can see from this diagram, the Laver was located exactly in the middle of the Courtyard, thirty(30) Cubits from Courtyard North and South Sides, thirty(30) Cubits from the Courtyard East and West Sides, and four(4) cubits from the Entrance Curtain of the Tent of the Mishkan.

I would like to end the description of the Laver with couple of important remarks:
  1. The Laver was made out of Copper for a very good reason: Copper and its alloys(Brass e.t.c) posses very good thermal and antibacterial properties. In fact, today most plumbing codes require all pipes for clean water to be made of copper. And most hospitals have copper or brass door knobs, that help to preserve clean and germ free environment
  2. The Priest probably would not wash their hands and feet directly in the Laver, but rather used cups to draw water that they needed.
  3. Traditional sources, such as Baraitas on Mishkan and major commentators(Rashi, Talmudic Sages) provide a very strange location for the Laver(i.e to the south-east from the center of the Courtyard). However, no reasonable, logocal and consistent explanation is provided as to why such position was chosen.

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