Middos 2:3 relates that there were twelve steps in the Cheil:

וּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת הָיוּ שָׁם

There were twelve steps there.

Later, in Mishnah 5, the Mishnah relates that there are fifteen steps connecting the Ezras Nashim to the Ezras Yisrael, but it also adds the significance of this number:

וַחֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת עוֹלוֹת מִתּוֹכָהּ לְעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּנֶגֶד חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מַעֲלוֹת שֶׁבַּתְּהִלִּים

There were fifteen steps going up from in [the Ezras Nashim] to the Ezras Yisrael, corresponding to the fifteen ascensions in Tehillim [120-134].

Why does the Mishnah relate special significance to these fifteen steps, but not the earlier twelve steps?

  • 3
    Maybe there was no special significance to them?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 18:12
  • Maybe because twelve already had obvious special significance, one step for each tribe.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 2:12

1 Answer 1


Tiferes yisroel on mishna 5, the words "שעליהן הלוים אומרים בשיר":

בשמחת בית השואבה עמדו שם בט"ו שורות על הט"ו מעלות, ובכל שורה שררו שיר המעלות אחר, שורה אחר שורה. ולהכי נקראין המזמורים ההם שיר המעלות, וסיימו העומדים וגו' בלילות של סוכות

Meaning that on simchas beis hashoevah a row of people would stand on each step and each row would sing one of the 15 shir hamaalos - one row after the next and because of this these 15 psalms were called "shir hamaalos- the song of the steps.

Based on this I am suggesting that everything had special significance but the mishna only brought down the significance that was clearly seen on a practical level(that a row on each step would sing one of the shir hamaalos and thereby completing all 15). And it also hints to the reason why these 15 psalms were called "shir hamaalos"

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