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In the description of the construction of the tabernacle in Shemot (Exodus) 26 The JPS translation of Exodus 26:28, it says "and the middle bar in the midst of the boards, which shall pass through from end to end."

Is this bar horizontal, or is it slanted? If it is slanted, then the structure is what a civil engineer would call a truss. Trusses are very strong for their weight. Since the tabernacle is designed to be portable, it seems like a reasonable thing for G-D to do, but the text doesn't say that it is sloped.

  • The fact that there is only one should make it obviously horizontal. – user6591 Aug 18 '16 at 17:53
  • There was only one middle bar, that when pushed through the boards, made a "U" running from the doorway curtain, down the length of one wall, the back, and then up the length of the third wall back to the doorway. It wasn't a wire, it was a bar that defied nature. Which would keep the structure quite solid, though. – Micha Berger Aug 23 '16 at 18:58
  • Are the curtains which are the roof so heavy that gold-covered cedar board would need a truss to support them? – Micha Berger Aug 23 '16 at 18:59
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My understanding has always been that “the middle bar in the midst of the boards, which shall pass through from end to end” was horizontal as you can see in the picture from here. enter image description here.

Boys are constructing a model mishkan. The boy on the extreme left of the picture is inserting the middle bar into the boards.

Also if you see hewikipedia there is a picture with the annotation

במרכז הקרש - החור המשמש את הבריח התיכון.
In the middle of the board there is a hole which is used for the middle bar.

It is horizontal.

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Before I answer your translation, I'd like to work with two others that I've seen that are a bit easier to understand.

The Sefaria translation is "halfway up the planks," not "in the midst of the planks." According to that translation, "pass through from end to end" would seem to be from one end of the Mishkan to the other, and thus you have no choice but to understand it as horizontal.

Artscroll's translation is "the middle bar inside the planks," as if there was the plank with a support inside and a coating outside, not unlike the way the Aron was built (25:10ff). This sounds more similar to your translation, and it seems to imply that there were beams inside the planks to help keep them sturdy. Thus, they were neither horizontal nor slanted but rather vertical.

If you take the JPS translation at face value to indicate one of the beams, without specifying which one, the question shouldn't be horizontal and diagonal, but rather vertical or diagonal. To this the various commentators to chapters 26 and 27 seem to indicate that they were vertical. (Logically, this makes sense as well. These beams were huge; if they were slanted even the tiniest bit, they would fall over with a big, loud, thud.) Though, this translation doesn't seem to explain what "pass[ing] end to end" means. Thus, I'm going to assume that JPS had in mind what Artscroll said.

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    Where please do the various commentators to chapters 26 and 27 seem to indicate that they were vertical? – Avrohom Yitzchok Aug 18 '16 at 10:51
  • For instance, Rashi to 27:10 in describing the "outer" poles says their sockets were like the letter vav, partly straight into the ground and partly sticking out to hold the bottom of the curtains. Again, this only helps if you take Artscroll's translation. Sefaria's seems to agree with you, @Avrohom. – DonielF Aug 18 '16 at 15:22

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