The *Mishnah* discusses the dimensions of the *parochet* – the curtain
that divided between the *kodesh* and *kodesh ha’kodashim* (holy of
holies) in the *Beit Ha’Mikdash*. At first the *Mishnah* appears to be
presenting a technical description of one of the components of the *Beit
Ha’Mikdash*. However, keen mathematical analysis reveals an insight into
the character of the *kohanim* in the *Beit Ha’Mikdash* and how they
represented the ideal role models.

The *Mishnah* (8:5) writes as follows:

Rabban Shimon ben Gamlielsays in the name ofRebbi Shimonthe son of theSegan: The curtain was one handbreadth thick, woven on seventy-two strands, and on each strand were twenty-four threads; its length was fortyamotand its width twentyamot, and of eighty-two ten-thousands it was made; and they would make two every year, and three hundredkohanimwould immerse it.

After reading the above what is left to ask other than a search for meaning for all the details. Such an endeavor would be beyond the abilities of the author of this article. Nevertheless one detail is worth probing.

The *Mishnah* ends by explaining that it would take three hundred
*kohanim* to immerse the *parochet* in the *mikvah*. The *Bartenura*
explains, citing *Gemara Chagigah*, that whenever any utensil was made,
even if completed in a state of purity, it would still require immersion
in a *mikvah* prior to its use.

The *Bartenura* also proceeds to explain the statement that the
immersion required three hundred *kohanim* is a blatant exaggeration.
The *Melechet Shlomo* points out that if the *parochet* was so heavy
that it truly required three hundred people to carry it, it would break.
This opinion is shared by many *Rishonim* and confirmed in *Gemara
Chulin* (90b) where *R’ Yitzchak bar Nachmani* cites this *Mishnah* as
one of three instances where the *Chachamim* exaggerated.

Granted that the number three hundred is an exaggeration, why did they
pick that number? Why not choose two hundred, five hundred or six
hundred thousand? The *Melechet Shlomo* suggest that this exaggeration
explains the *Midrash* (*Shmot Rabbah* *VaYakhel*) that all the
*kohanim* would come to take part in the immersion. How does the figure
three hundred support the *Midrash*?

The *Etz Yosef* cites the *Grah* that applies some mathematics in
explaining the choice of three hundred. It was explained earlier that
the length of the *parochet* was forty *amot* (cubits) while the width
was twenty *amot*. This means that the perimeter of this curtain was
one-hundred and twenty *amot*. Now, the *amah* used in the *Beit
Ha’Mikdash* was different and equal to five *t’fachim -* handbreadths
(unlike elsewhere, where it was equal to six *t’fachim*). Consequently,
the perimeter was equal to six hundred *t’fachim*.

This now explains the choice of the number three hundred. The *kohanim*
in their eagerness in wanting to take part in the *mitzvah* of *tevilah*
would grab on with two hands and with a perimeter of six hundred
*t’fachim* that would divide between three hundred *kohanim*. The point
is not that the immersion *required* three hundred *kohanim*, but rather
that all the *kohanim* wanted to take part and there was only room for
three hundred. He continues that it is indeed an exaggeration because
even though it divides evenly two hands would not be able to share the
same corner.

Consequently out of this technical detail we learn of the *kohanim*’s
eagerness to take part in a *mitzvah*. No matter the *mitzvah*, as long
as they could get two hands in, they would jump at the opportunity.

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Kuntrus on Masechet Kinim (Updated: 2014/5774)