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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Lavater, John Caspar
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Law of the Land
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Vessel used for ritual ablutions. The laver in the Tabernacle consisted of two parts, a basin and a stand ("ken"; Exodus 30:18 et al.). It was made of the brass from the mirrors given by the women who served in the Sanctuary (Exodus 38:8), and stood between the door of the Tabernacle and the altar of burnt offering. It was placed there that Aaron and his sons might wash their hands and feet before entering the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:19-21). Nothing is said as to its size or shape. In the court of Solomon's Temple ten lavers of bronze were established, five on the right and five on the left, facing eastward (1 Kings 7:27-39). They were used for the cleansing of the entrails and feet of the animals sacrificed (Josephus, "Ant." 8:3, § 6; comp. 2 Chronicles 4:6), while the "brazen sea" served the purpose of the laver of the Tabernacle. As far as can be made out from the detailed but not entirely clear and intelligible descriptions of 1 Kings and Josephus, and from comparing similar vessels represented on Assyrian monuments, the lavers had bases ("mekonot"), in two parts or divisions. The lower part consisted of a square framework, the sides being a kind of open lattice-work ("misgerot" and "shelabbim"). At the corners of this frame were "shoulders" ("ketefot"), in which were fixed the axles on which the wheels turned. These bases were each four cubits long, four broad, and three high (Josephus and the LXX. give somewhat different measurements), while the wheels were each one and one-half cubits in diameter. Upon these bases were set round pedestals (1 Kings 7:31,35), each half a cubit in height, one and one-half cubits across, and one cubit on the inside; the pedestals rested on supports ("yadot" = "hands") springing, as it seems, from the lower square base (comp. Stade's "Zeitschrift," 21:150 et seq.; Nowack, "Lehrbuch der Hebr. Archäologie," 2:44-46). The panels and stays were ornamented with figures of lions, oxen, cherubim, and wreaths. The lavers proper, or basins, were four cubits in diameter, and had a capacity of "forty baths" (= 52 cubic feet), being therefore about two feet high.

In the Second Temple there was only one laver of brass, which served the same purpose as that of the Tabernacle, namely, for the priests to wash the hands and feet (Tam. 1:2, 2:1; Mid. 3:6). According to Yoma 37a, Ḳaṭin supplied it with twelve spigots ("daddim," lit. "breasts"), it having had only two before, and with some contrivance for letting the water in and out. Of its size and shape no information is given. No mention is made of the laver in the Temple of Herod.

The holiness of the priests and Levites was transferred to the whole people after the destruction of the Temple, and prayer took the place of sacrifices. Hence the institution of the washing of hands before prayer. The antiquity of the custom among the Jews is evidenced by its mention in the epistle of pseudo-Aristeas (comp. ed. Moritz Schmidt, p. 67; comp. also Judith 12:7; Clement of Alexandria, "Stromata," 4:22,144; Sibyllines, 3:591-593). Orthodox synagogues, therefore, have a laver either in the anteroom or in the court. The form and material of the synagogue laver vary. Usually it is of copper, barrel-like in shape, with a spout near the bottom from which the water is allowed to run over the hands into a receptacle underneath. The strict regulations for washing the hands before meals do not obtain in regard to prayer; it is only required to moisten the hands to the wrists and recite the benediction ("'al neá¹­ilat yadayim . . .") while drying them ("Yad," Tefillin, 4:2). For the washing of the priests hands by the Levites before the blessing of the congregation ("dukan"; comp. Soá¹­ah 39a: Num. R. 11:4) a ewer and basin are used. See ABLUTION; Levites; PRIEST.

  • H. G. Clemens, De Labro Æneo, Utrecht, 1725;
  • B. F. Quintorp, De Speculis Labri Ænei, Greifswald, 1773;
  • Lightfoot, Descr. Temp. c. 37, 1;
  • Vitringa, De Synagoga Vetere, pp. 1091, 1105;
  • Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, 2d ed., 1:583;
  • idem, Salomons Tempel, pp. 214, 222;
  • Keil, Tempel Salomos, p. 118.
I. M. C.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Laver'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​l/laver.html. 1901.
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