As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), the prohibition against bringing sacrifices in places other than the Tabernacle in the desert or the Temple in Jerusalem was relaxed during times when neither the Tabernacle nor the Temple were standing. The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses this idea in greater depth.
According to the Mishnah, before the Tabernacle was set up bamot (=private altars) were permitted and the sacrificial service was performed by the firstborn; after the Tabernacle was set up bamot were forbidden and the service was performed by priests. During that time, the most sacred sacrifices were eaten within the curtains of the mishkan, and lesser sacrifices were eaten anywhere in the camp of the Israelites in the desert.
When the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into Israel and came to Gilgal, bamot were again permitted: the most sacred sacrifices were still only eaten within the curtains of the mishkan, but lesser sacrifices were eaten anywhere. When they came to Shiloh and established the mishkan there, bamot were again forbidden. The Tabernacle in Shiloh had no roof, but consisted of a stone edifice ceiled with curtains, and that was the menuhah – the ‘rest’ – referred to by the Torah (see Sefer 12:9, which permits sacrifices outside of the Temple until the people reach a place of menuhah ve-nahalah – rest and inheritance). Shiloh played the role of the City of Jerusalem in that holy sacrifices were eaten in the mishkan, within the curtains, and lesser sacrifices and second tithes were eaten wherever the city of Shiloh could be seen.
After Shiloh was destroyed (see Sefer Shmuel I, Chapter 4 and Sefer Yirmiyahu 7:12), the mishkan was moved to Nov and to Givon, and at that point bamot were again permitted. Still, the most holy sacrifices were only eaten within the curtains of the Tabernacle, but lesser sacrifices and the second tithe were permitted to be eaten in all the cities of Israel.
Finally, when Jerusalem was established as the center of Jewish worship with the erection of the Temple, bamot were forbidden and were never again permitted, and that was the ‘inheritance’ (again, see Sefer 12:9, which permits sacrifices outside of the Temple until the people reach a place of menuhah ve-nahalah – rest and inheritance). Most holy sacrifices were eaten within the curtains of the Temple, and lesser sacrifices and the second tithe were limited to within the walls of Jerusalem.