The Gemara (Yoma 21a) says:
But didn’t Rabbi Levi say that this matter is a tradition that we received from our ancestors: The place of the Ark of the Covenant is not included in the measurement of the Holy of Holies. Based on that measurement, the Ark should not have fit inside the hall. The Holy of Holies measured twenty cubits by twenty cubits (see I Kings 6), and a baraita states that there were ten cubits of space on either side of the Ark. Therefore, it was only through a miracle that the Ark fit in the Holy of Holies.
From Shemos 37:1 we also know that the Ark was 2.5 amos in length. So we see that there was a miracle : 10 to one side of the Ark plus 10 on another plus 2.5 amos of the length of the Ark itself would be greater than the 20 amos of the Holy of Holies.
But what would happen if theoretically (since no one would actually be allowed to do this in practice) one would hold a tape measure from one side of the Holy of Holies to the other and note the markings on the tape where the Ark started (A1), the Ark ended (A2) and where the tape reached the other side of Holy of Holies (E). It seems like to be consistent with the facts from sources above, these markings would be:
- A1 = 10 (distance to one side)
- A2 = 12.5 (since A2-A1=2.5 is the length of the Ark)
- E = 22.5 (since E-A2 = 10, distance to the other side)
But then E (which would represent the length measurement of Holy of Holies) would be inconsistent with 20 as mentioned in I Kings 6:20. Since A1,A2,E would have to take on some values when measured, what would those values be?