Shekalim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three
This mishnah teaches that the thirteen prostrations mentioned in mishnah one above were made in front of the thirteen gates in the Temple. The mishnah proceeds to name the gates. The commentators explain that the prostrations were to thank God for the glory of the Temple.
1) And where did they make the prostrations?
a) Four [times] in the north, four [times] in the south, three [times] in the east, and twice in the west, in front of the thirteen gates.
2) The southern gates close to the west [side were]: the Upper Gate, the Fuel Gate, the Gate of the Firstborn [Animals], and the Water Gate.
a) Why was it called the Water Gate?
b) Because through it was brought in the flask of water for the libation on Sukkot.
c) Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says: through it the waters trickle forth and in the time to come they will come forth from under the threshold of the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1).
3) On the opposite side in the north close to the west were: Jechoniah Gate, the Gate of the Offerings, the Gate of the Women, and the Gate of Song.
a) And why was it called the Jechoniah Gate? Because through it Jechoniah went out into his captivity.
4) In the east was the Nicanors Gate, and it had two small gates, one to the right and one to the left.
5) There were also two gates in the west which had no name.
Section one: This section teaches where in the Temple the thirteen gates were located.
Section two: The Upper Gate was on the southwestern side, which was the highest point of the Temple. The Fuel Gate was used to bring in the wood used to fuel the altars fires. The firstborn animals were brought in through the Firstborn Animals Gate (should be obvious, but still..). The mishnah offers two explanations for why the Water Gate was called as such. The first explanation is that this is where the water libation, offered on Sukkot (we will learn this eventually in Sukkah 4:9), was brought into the Temple. The second is that in the future, when clean living water flows out of the Temple and cleanses the salty water of the Dead Sea, the water will begin to trickle forth from this gate (see Ezekiel 47). There is no Nixon connection.
Section three: On the opposite side, in the North, there were four more gates. Jechoniahs Gate was named after the King Jechoniah who was taken captive and put into exile by Nebuchadnezzar (see II Kings 24:15). Sacrifices, which were slaughtered in the northern part of the Temple, were brought in through the Offerings Gate. The Womans Gate was a special entrance for women when they brought their sacrifices. The Gate of Song was used to bring in the musical instruments which the Levites used.
Section four: In the east was Nicanors Gate, named after Nicanor who according to legend brought the gates from Egypt. Nicanors gates were surrounded by two smaller gates that were included in the tally of thirteen gates.
Section five: The western gates were infrequently used and hence had no special name.