Halacha uses many units of length (amot/cubits), volume (k'zayit/olive), etc. There are multiple opinions regarding how to translate these into modern equivalent units. For instance, the Chazon Ish says an amah/cubit is 56-58 cm, while Rabbi Chayim Na'eh says it is 45-48 cm.

There have been a great deal of archaeological findings in Israel in the last 200 years regarding how Jews lived during the Biblical and post-Biblical periods. Has anyone attempted to apply these findings to determine accurate conversions for these various halachic measurements?

For example, Yisrael Finkelstein, the lead archaeologist in the Shiloh excavations believes he has identified the location of the original Mishkan (Tabernacle) based on excavated foundation stones along a length of approx. 25 meters (about 50 amot, the length of the Mishkan). Has anyone (presumably in the academic world), made a detailed study of such findings in order to weigh in on the relevant halachic debates?

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    It's highly unlikely they had that precise a measure back then. They probably just used their arms to say 50 arm lengths and called it a day.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 0:38
  • @DoubleAA in the vision of Yechezkel 40:5 it seems to be implied from the rod of the angel that they had exact measurements for standard amos. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 1:32
  • @trustme not at all. It just implies they kept everything in one project in proportion. Think about it: if the people working different sides had different size arms, you don't end up with a square.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 4:14
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:37
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    The Torah repeatedly instructs merchants to maintain fair and consistent measurements for trading purposes. So while they were physically limited to the level of precision they could achieve due to technical constraints (perhaps measuring to the closest 50 grams instead of the closest 10 grams, for instance), they still did make an effort to be consistent. It seems that, at the very least, in matters of trade they attempted to have universally accepted standards...
    – ChaimKut
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


Dr. Yehoshua Brand has an essay where he explores the original length(s) of the 'amah' measurement based on critical analyses of Rabbinic texts and archaeological findings (Klei Zchuchit BeSifrut HaTalmud 221ff.).

  • Bibliographic entry from Israel's national library beta.nli.org.il/he/books/NNL_ALEPH001856864/NLI
    – ChaimKut
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 8:59
  • @ChaimKut Note, your link is not to the book I reference. This one is.
    – Oliver
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 12:50
  • Ah, correct. Klei HaHeres was his magnum opus. Klei Zchuchit was an unfinished work published posthumously.
    – ChaimKut
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 16:57

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