The Power of Jerusalem

Sefer Vayikra, the third book of the Torah, primarily deals with laws concerning korbanot (sacrifices).

In Devarim 12:1-7, The Torah explains that korbanot were only to be offered at the place that God would choose.

During the thirty nine year period that B'nai Yisrael spent in the desert, korbanot could only be offered at the mishkan (tabernacle) and not on outside bamot (alters). When they arrived in Israel, there were time periods that certain korbanot could be offered on bamot as well. Once the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple was built in Jerusalem, outside bamot became totally forbidden and all korbanot had to be offered at the Beit HaMikdash.

The Gemara in Zevachim 112b explains that once Bnai Yisrael came to Jerusalem, the bamot became forbidden and were never again permitted because Jerusalem was the "nachala", inheritance foretold in the Torah.

Shadal explains that having one Beit HaMikdash would ensure that the entire nation would gather in one place and that the tribes would become integrated into a nation. If everyone could offer their korbanot wherever they wanted, then they would have no connection to the greater Jewish nation. Since the Torah's wish is that all Jews are responsible for one another it makes sense that they should all come to one central location.

Shadal adds that if each family brought their own korbanot on their own private bamot there could be distortions and possibly even idol worship. With all of the service of the korbanot restricted to one place, distortion is less likely to occur.

According to Shadal, the purpose of the korbanot was to provide Israel with a sanctuary for the worship of God and make God's presence felt.

Although we don't offer korbanot today, we do have Jerusalem and it should not be taken for granted. Jerusalem serves as a vehicle to unite Jews from all over the world who come to visit, study and settle.

Let's hope and pray that the time will speedily come when all Jews will unite and ultimately the third Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt.