Caphtor Vapherach and the Theory of the Architect Tuvia Sagiv and a little about Asher Kaufman’s Views about the Temple Mount

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The Red Arrow Points to the Location of the Dome of the Spirits. The Blue Arrow Points to the Location of the Mercy Gate also known as the Golden Gate

The researcher Asher Kaufman advocated the theory that the Holy of Holies is located in place of a dome supported by pillars located north of the Dome of the Rock and known as the “Dome of the Spirits”. The natural rock of the mountain is exposed on the floor of this dome, and according to Kaufman this is the place of the “Even Shtia” (Foundation Stone). In addition, according to Kaufman, the mountain complex is not a 500-cubit-by-500-cubit square complex, but a trapezoidal complex with crooked and uneven sides, for various reasons, covering a total area of ​​250,000 square cubits. Kaufman also believes that the Mercy Gate (also known as the Golden Gate) is located in the original location of the eastern gate of the Temple Mount (2000 years ago).

The greatest difficulty with the Kaufman theory is its disregard for the surface and height of the rock in the “Dome of the Rock [1].”

I have not observed that Talmudic scholars are really bothered by his theory and Rabbi Zalman Koren presented a number of strong refutations to completely reject Asher Kaufman’s theory from consideration. Although on rare occasions, opponents of ascending the Temple Mount recall his theory just to add more doubts that maybe the visitors at the Temple Mount are entering a region that it is forbidden for them.

However, I have observed that Talmudic scholars are indeed concerned about the possible truth of the theory of Tuvia Sagiv that moved the Holy of Holies to the South of the Temple Mount. Among rabbis in this camp is Rabbi Sylvetsky, who is married to the granddaughter of Rabbi Shapira, z”l head of Mercaz Harav. It was Rabbi Shapira who issued a halachic ruling to me during the 2nd Intifada, not to ascend the Mount. He explained to me if he knew where it is permitted to ascend it would be a mitzvah to ascend, however, he himself lacked the clarity about the boundaries between the permitted sections and the forbidden sections and therefore told me not to go to any part of the Temple Mount.

Regarding What Researchers Attempt to Derive From the Words of Caphtor Vapherach

Before I attempt to reject the suggestion that Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi, author of Caphtor Vapherach [2], held the same viewpoint as Tuvia Sagiv, that moved the Holy of Holies, south of the Dome of the Rock, I have to mention several points as an introduction.

In our days if someone would offer the suggestion that we should renew the sacrificial service, the opponents who agree with Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s theory or Tuvia Sagiv’s theory would immediately object, “it is forbidden to renew the sacrificial service because there are serious doubts, which location is kosher for sacrificial service; and there is a transgression and not a mitzvah to offer sacrifices in the wrong place”.

In contrast to this, Caphtor Vapherach records[3] that Rabbeinu Yechiel of Paris z”l wanted to come to Jerusalem during the year 5017 (which is equivalent to autumn 1216 until autumn 1217 on the secular calendar) and wanted that sacrifices be offered in our time.

What bothered Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi about the plan of Rabbeinu Yechiel of Paris, was how can we solve the halachic problems of impurity through contact with the dead and how can we find a Cohain with the highest level of pedigree. He was not bothered at all by the issue, where should the altar be located. The implication from this is that he agreed with the well-known tradition that the place of the rock underneath the Dome of the Rock is the Holy of Holies. From there it is possible to measure and arrive at the 60 cubit area, in which it is permitted to build there, an altar.

So too, it is clear that Caphtor Vapherach agreed with the well-known tradition, because he asserted that the Shushan Gate, the gate that stood directly east of the altar and the Heichal Building was an arrow shot away from the Mercy Gate also known as the Golden Gate (this is assuming the double gate that we call today by that name is the same Mercy Gate of Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi). The distance of an arrow shot is recounted on another occasion in the Caphtor Vapherach book (Chapter 11) and thus the author writes:

“And Nachal Eshkol is north of the mount, that over there was Hebron; and the Cave (Tomb) of the Holy Patriarchs, peace be unto them is in the east, and west of the Cave an arrow shot away, is the location of Avner (Abner) son of Ner.

Prof. Daniel Michelson writes, “I have measured the distance between the entrance to the tomb (the beginning of the steps that descend below) until the north-western corner of the Tomb of the Patriarch Building and it is 74 meters. In comparison we find the distance between the Shushan Gate according to my calculation (directly opposite the Dome of the Rock) until the southern doorpost of the sealed entrance of the Golden Gate (Shaar HaRachamim in Hebrew) is 80 meters [4]

According to this, Caphtor Vapherach also agreed with the viewpoint of Radbaz that locates the “Even Hashtia” (Foundation Stone) in the Dome of the Rock, for behold, the Shushan Gate was located precisely east of the gate of the Heichal Building on the Temple Mount [5].

Another Reason to Assert That the Shushan Gate of Caphtor Vapherach was Due East of the Dome of the Rock

There is another reason to assert that the Shushan Gate of Caphtor Vapherach was indeed due east of the Dome of the Rock, because according to his viewpoint, and I stress his viewpoint, the place identified as the place of the burning of the Red Heifer on the Mount of Olives by Caphtor Vapherach fits well with the location of the Shushan Gate proposed above. As it is stated in Tractate Para, Chapter 3 Mishna 6, “they made a ramp from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, the Heifer and all its entourage go out to the Mount of Olives and it is in the east of Jerusalem. Asserts Caphtor Vapherach, “Even today that place can be identified by the accepted tradition and it is north of the grave of Chulda an arrow shot away but a little bit lower down the Mount”.
Rabbi Elisha Wolfson comments in “Har Habayit Kehalacha”, “that behold in the time of the Caphtor Vapherach, the identification of Chulda’s Grave was on the Mount of Olives as he himself wrote, and so too did the Maharit (II, Yoreh Deah, Siman 37) and so too Radbaz in a Teshuva (II, Siman 633) wrote that the Chulda Grave is outside of Jerusalem, and so too did R’ Gershon son of Eliezer (Otzar Masaot, page 182), and Rabbi Yitzchak Cheilo (page 72). [Now Rabbi Yosef Schwartz (in his book, Tevuot Haaretz) was the first to contest, the once accepted location of the burning of the Red Heifer]. Now Behold if we measure approximately 80 meters north of the Chulda Grave on the Mount of Olives and descend a bit on the Mountain – we arrive exactly opposite the Dome of the Rock – in accordance with the Radbaz view, that this is the place of the Temple Building. However, this location of the burning of the Red Heifer does not fit at all with the Southern Theory (of researchers such as Tuvia Sagiv) of the Temple’s location on the Temple Mount. On the contrary, the more you enlarge the distance of an “arrow shot”, thus will the question grow, how could Caphtor Vapherach have identified the location of the burning of the Red Heifer an arrow shot away from Chulda’s Grave.

This article Hashem willing, will be continued in a separate post entitled, Rejecting the Proofs that the Author of Caphtor Vapherach Advocated the Southern Theory Regarding the Location of the Temple on the Temple Mount.

This post was written by Shlomo Moshe Scheinman

Appendix: As you can understand from this article it is a complicated challenge to solve all the halachic issues connected to building the Temple and restoring the Temple Service. For those Jews that wish to help fund the scholars who are finding the solutions, Go to and choose Donation for research or training Kohanim.

In addition please read: A Message to My Jewish Readers – What Will You Answer When Asked at the Time of Judgement, “Did You Look Forward to My Salvation?”




[2] Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi arrived for a visit in Jerusalem approximately 150 years after Rabbi Binyamin of Metudela arrived there and already in Rabbi Binyamin Metudela’s time, it was well publicized that  that the Holy of Holies was located in the place of the rock in the Dome of the Rock. And just a bit after, Rabbi Petachia of Regensburg a disciple of Rabbeinu Tam made similar claims. So too, in the days of Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi, Rabbi Yitzchak Cheilo made the same claims about the Dome of the Rock.

[3] Chapter 6


[5] See Chapter 6 of Caphtor Vapherach that 5 gates were aligned directly to the east of the Temple Mount. The Shushan Gate in the Wall of the Temple Mount, Shaar Hatachton, which was in the wall of the Cheil, the Nicanor Gate that was in the wall of the sanctified courtyard, the Gate of the Ulam and the Gate of the Heichal.