A Line Of Demarcation
‘…Until He Came… Between The Two Curtains…’
In the first Beis Hamikdash there was an amah-thick partition called amah teraksin. It consisted of two cedar-covered partitions with a vacant space between them, which formed a wall. According to Tosafos (s.v. “Teraksin”), the name is derived from the term “traku gali” (Berachos 28a), which means “within it were contained,” referring to the tablets in the aron. This partition divided the Kodesh from the Kodesh Hakadashim. In the second Beis Hamikdash, which was taller than the first, curtains replaced the wall because one could not build an amah-thick wall so tall.
(All the dimensions of the Beis Hamikdash were prophetically given to King David – as it is written [I Chronicles 28:19], “Everything is in writing, by the hand of Hashem, which He gave me understanding to know” – and could only be changed based on prophecy. Thus, we find the prophet Haggai declaring [Haggai 2:9], “The glory of this latter Temple will be greater than that of the first.” The height of the second edifice was therefore substantially increased.)
The Space Of A Wall
The Sages assert that in the second Beis Hamikdash two dividing curtains were hung one amah apart in place of the amah-thick wall of the first Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara explains that the Chachamim were uncertain what level of sanctity the vacant space between the two partitions of the first Beis Hamikdash possessed. If it possessed the sanctity of the Kodesh Hakadashim, then a curtain would be need to be placed where the partition nearest the Kodesh had been. If, on the other hand, the vacant space possessed the sanctity of the Kodesh, then a curtain would be need to be placed where the partition nearest the Kodesh Hakadashim had been. Two curtains were therefore hung.
From this Gemara, it is evident that a requirement exists to separate the Kodesh from the Kodesh Hakadashim. The Gemara, however, does not state whether the requirement is biblical or not.
A Rabbinical Requirement
Tosafos HaRosh indicates that this requirement is merely mi’deRabbanan and is based on the following concern. If a curtain is not hung at the point where the Kodesh ends, a kohen performing a service in the Kodesh may inadvertently tread in a forbidden area (an area that has the sanctity of the Kodesh Hakadashim). Conversely, if a curtain is not hung at the point where the Kodesh Hakadashim ends, the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur might place the incense in an area that has the sanctity of the Kodesh, thus invalidating the avodah.
A Biblical Requirement
Tosafos (ad loc. s.v. “Va’avod shetei paroches”) however, indicate that it is a biblical requirement. Tosafos say that the verse “And the curtain shall separate for you between the Holy and the Holy of Holies” (Exodus 26:33) implies that a curtain must function as a partition between the Kodesh and the Kodesh Hakadashim. Thus, by Scriptural decree the curtain must hang exactly at the point where the Kodesh ends and the Kodesh Hakadashim begins.
The Rambam (Hilchos Beis Ha’bechira 4:2) differs and explains that the verse only concerns the first Beis Hamikdash where there was one curtain. The Kesef Mishneh explains that the Rambam is referring to the Mishkan since the first Beis Hamikdash, as we explained, had a wall that was an amah thick.