So it is strange to reflect that, by the time the Mishna was compiled around the year 200 C.E., no living person had witnessed a Temple sacrifice. Yehuda HaNasi was roughly as distant from the destruction of the Temple as we are from the American Civil War; and the amoraim, the rabbis of the Gemara, lived hundreds of years later. They were all trying to mentally reconstruct a series of long-vanished rituals that they knew about only from the Torah and from some scraps of oral tradition. Crucially, they had no diagrams, which would have helped enormously in figuring out the exact dimensions and placement of the altar, the courtyard, and the other parts of the Temple complex.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
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