The Mishna on yesterday’s daf discusses a number of different types of musical instruments that were used in the Temple as part of the Temple service. Thus we find that between 21 and 48 trumpet blasts were sounded every day, there were between two and six harps that were used daily, a ḥalil (flute) was played together with certain holiday sacrifices. Finally, the Mishna teaches that “they did not play on an abuv (pipe) of bronze but on a reed pipe, because its tune is sweeter.”
The Gemara discusses these instruments as well as others that, according to tradition, were used in the Temple. The Gemara on today’s daf relates:
Rava bar Sheila quoted Rav Mattana in the name of Shmuel, who said: There was an instrument called magreifa in the Sanctuary; it had ten holes, each of which produced ten different types of tone, with the result that the whole amounted to one hundred types of tone. A Tanna taught: It was one cubit wide, one cubit tall, and a handle protruded from it. It had ten holes and each of them produced one hundred types of tone, amounting for the whole to one thousand types of tone.
Although Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak declares the baraita‘s teaching to be an exaggeration, from the description of this instrument it appears that this was a type of box that contained in it pipes of different lengths and widths, and with holes in them of different sizes that were spaced differently. Sounds were produced by means of pumping air into the pipes and covering the different holes.
Some suggest that the description of the Gemara may refer to the hydraulic organ which was used in the Roman period, and its invention is credited to a Greek engineer who lived in Alexandria in Egypt. The top part of this instrument has pipes of different sizes, through which air is blown, which causes the sounds to be produced.