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Lecture #241: The History of the Divine Service at Altars (LI) – The Prohibition of Bamot (XXVIII)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy


“To the Rest and to the Inheritance”

            Having seen that Chazal define the relationship between the rest and the inheritance as the relationship between Shilo and Jerusalem, let us now examine the concepts themselves: In what sense is Shilo the "rest," and in what sense is Jerusalem the "inheritance"?

In Parashat Re'ei the Torah relates to the future building of God's house in the place that God will choose:

You shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatever is right in his own eyes. For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God gives you. But when you traverse the Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God gives you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there; there shall you bring all that I command you; your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow to the Lord. (Devarim 12:8-11)

What are the rest and the inheritance? The Gemara in Zevachim 119a) explains:

Our Rabbis taught: "For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance." "Rest" – this is Shilo; "inheritance" – this is Jerusalem. And thus it says: "My inheritance is become unto Me as a lion in the forest"; and it says: "Is My inheritance unto Me as a speckled bird of prey?" (Yirmeyahu 12:8-9); [these are] the words of Rabbi Yehuda.

Rabbi Shimon says: "Rest" – this is Jerusalem; "inheritance" – this is Shilo. As it is said: "This is My resting place for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it"; and it says: "For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation" (Tehilim 132:14, 23).

Granted according to the one who says: "Rest" is Shilo, hence it is written: "To the rest and to the inheritance." But according to the one who says: "Rest" is Jerusalem, while "inheritance" is Shilo, it should have said: "To the inheritance and to the rest." This is what it says: Not only have you not reached the "rest" [Jerusalem]; you have not even reached the "inheritance" [Shilo].

The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: Both [words] allude to Shilo.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said: Both allude to Jerusalem.

The Gemara brings four opinions regarding "the rest" and "the inheritance:[1]

1. Rabbi Yehuda – The rest is Shilo, the inheritance is Jerusalem.

2. Rabbi Shimon – The rest is Jerusalem, the inheritance is Shilo.

3. The school of Rabbi Yishmael – Both are Shilo.

4. Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai – Both are Jerusalem.

Let us start with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda that "the rest" refers to Shilo, and "the inheritance" refers to Jerusalem.

Shilo as “The Rest”

In his commentary to Devarim (chap. 12) R. David Zvi Hoffman explains that following Yehoshua's conquest of the land, there was already relative rest, and therefore the city is called Shilo, which is derived from the word shalva, meaning "calm." And similarly in Yaakov's blessing: "The staff shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the scepter from between his feet, until Shilo come, and the obedience of the people be his" (Bereishit 49:10) – the place where the people of Israel will arrive after their extended wanderings is called Shilo; until they come to the city of calm.

According to this understanding, it is possible that had Israel kept God's Torah, Shilo would have remained the place of rest forever, but the Mishkan was destroyed, and Jerusalem was later chosen as the inheritance.

The Mishna in Zevachim (14:6) states: "When they came to Shilo, bamot were [again] forbidden. [The Mishkan] there had no roof, but [consisted of] a stone edifice ceiled with curtains, and that was the 'rest.'" The Rambam explains in his commentary to the Mishna (ad loc.): "Since there was there a building, it is the rest, because they rested and there were no journeys there. God already warned against offering sacrifices on bamot if there was rest. This is what it says: "For you have not yet come to the rest and to the inheritance," which implies that when they come to it, it will become forbidden to them to offer sacrifices at bamot."

This is what Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes in his commentary (Devarim 12:9):

"Not as yet" – at the time of this provisional state when the nation is already settled but the Mishkan has not yet become permanently stable. The term rest, the political rest, as occurred after the greater part of the Land had been taken into possession under Yehoshua; for then the Mishkan received in Shilo its first permanent resting place, after it had been in Gilgal during the fourteen years of conquering and dividing the land.

Inheritance, after the last possession of the land with Jerusalem was obtained under David. Shilo was a transitory rest which was already indicated from the beginning by its external construction: "There had been no roof, but [consisted of] a stone edifice ceiled with curtains" (Zevachim 112b). This is why it is called both "house" and "tent"…

Jerusalem was the inheritance, the everlasting inheritance. Even at the time of its fall God still calls it "His inheritance": "I have forsaken My house, I have left My inheritance… My inheritance has become to Me as a lion in the forest… My inheritance is a long clawed eagle to Me" (Yirmeyahu 12:7-9; and see Zevachim 119a).

"The rest" refers to the political rest which Israel reached in the aftermath of Yehoshua's conquest of the land, and then the site of the Mishkan was fixed in Shilo. The inheritance is the term referring to the completion of the final conquest by David, in Jerusalem. Indeed, there is no detailed account of any conquests in the book of Yehoshua after reaching Shilo, and it is generally accepted that the conquest of Jerusalem constituted the completion of the conquest. As is well known, Yevus was the only foreign enclave remaining in the mountainous region until it was finally conquered by David.

In Shemuot Ra'aya to Parashat Vayeshev, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook attaches spiritual significance to this division. He writes as follows:

The basis of the dispute that divided the tribes stems from the question, what is the way to fix Israel's sanctity in the world. Yosef's position was that through openness toward the nations, by intensifying the connection with them, it would be possible to teach them faith in God… In contrast, Yehuda's position was that Israel's sanctity must stand apart from the nations, a nation that dwells alone, so that they not intermingle with the nations or learn from their actions.

The children of Yaakov under the leadership of Yehuda saw the consequences of the approach of Efrayim, of Yerov'am, who set up calves and endangered the national survival of the people of Israel, and therefore they searched for ways how to forestall the danger….

The difference between the two approaches, that of Yehuda and that of Yosef, found expression upon Israel's entry into the land, in the Mishkan and the Mikdash. "For you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance" (Devarim 12:9). Chazal expounded: "'The rest' – this is Shilo; 'the inheritance' – this is Jerusalem" (Zevachim 119a). The rest from the troubles of war and conquest was only temporary, without permanence, and the Mishkan moved along with them on their journeys, and therefore the rest is Shilo. In contrast, inheritance has no interruption ever, the Temple is fixed in its place eternally, and therefore the inheritance is Jerusalem.

Shilo – in the portion of Yosef, Jerusalem – in the portion of Yehuda… The difference between the rest and the inheritance, between the Mishkan and the Mikdash, between Shilo and Jerusalem, between Yosef and Yehuda, also finds expression in the laws governing the eating of sacrificial meat. In Shilo, "lesser sacrifices were eaten anywhere that [Shilo] could be seen" (Zevachim 112b), sanctity without boundaries: Lesser sacrifices could be eaten in any place from which Shilo could be seen. "'Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine through the eye' - [this means,] let the eye which would not feed upon and enjoy that which did not belong to it, be privileged to eat [of sacrifices] as far as it can see" (Zevachim 118b). This parallels Yosef's position, that the sanctity of Israel is not restricted within partitions, but open to the full view of the eye, and to every eye. However, in the Mikdash in Jerusalem, they ate [the sacrifices] within closed partitions, with Israel's sanctity being confined within boundaries, in accordance with the position of Yehuda.

These two positions, which stand one alongside the other, Yosef and Yehuda, will co-exist until the future. (pp. 151-152)

First, Rav Kook defines rest as an impermanent situation. The Mishkan moved with Israel on its journeys, whereas the Mikdash was fixed permanently in one place. The Mishkan in Shilo was in the portion of Yosef, while the Mikdash in Jerusalem was in the portion of Yehuda (according to Chazal).

At the Mishkan in Shilo lesser sacrifices were eaten "in the view of all," because "Yosef's position" was to show and teach the nations, as opposed to the Mikdash where there were closed partitions and the sanctity of Israel was kept apart from the nations. Yosef's reality was a temporary reality, in contrast to Yehuda's reality which is fixed, and hence the distinction between Shilo and Jerusalem is that between rest and inheritance.

Jerusalem as The Inheritance

In the Gemara in Zevachim (119a) the verses that are cited as support for the assertion that Jerusalem is the inheritance are: "My inheritance is become to Me as a lion in the forest….Is My inheritance unto Me as a speckled bird of prey?" (Yirmeyahu 12:8-9).[2].

The Rambam writes in his commentary to the Mishna (ad loc.) as follows:

Jerusalem is called "the inheritance" because of the permanence of its sanctity and existence, and the prophet said about it: "And He will not forsake His inheritance" (Tehilim 94:14). As it was already stated earlier that God chose Jerusalem for His habitation, and He selected Israel as His treasure.

And it says later that God will not forsake this nation which He had chosen for His inheritance, nor the place that He had chosen. This is what it says: "For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation" (Tehilim 132:13); "For the Lord has chosen Yaakov unto Himself, and Israel for His own treasure" (Tehilim 135:4); "For the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Tehilim 94:14). The eternality of its sanctity was already explained: "This is My resting place for ever" (Tehilim 132:14).

Chazal are unable to adduce verses based upon which Jerusalem can be directly identified with inheritance. The only verse that connects inheritance to Jerusalem is the verse in the Song of the Sea which might relate to Mount Moriya: "You bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O Lord, which You have made for You to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established" (Shemot 15:17).

The words, "the mountain of Your inheritance," can be understood as referring to all of Eretz Israel,[3] but there are commentators who identify "the mountain of Your inheritance" with "the place which You have made to dwell in." Thus writes the Bekhor Shor: "In the mountain of Your inheritance which is the place which You have made to dwell in." This is also the view of the Ralbag: "'In the mountain of Your inheritance' – this is Mount Moriya where the Temple was built, as it is the place which is most prepared for the Divine bounty to adhere to, and therefore it says that it is the place for God's dwelling." The Ibn Ezra as well, in his long commentary, raises this as a possibility: "Or he alludes to Mount Moriya."

Shilo denotes the spiritual elements that are not restrained or bounded by physical frameworks, and therefore lesser sacrifices are eaten there in the view of all, whereas Jerusalem's goal is to spread the spiritual elements in the material world, and so it appears within partitions.

According to this rest is an abstract spiritual value, whereas inheritance stems from the stone's grip on the ground. The idea of a tent is a temporary structure, and therefore its external and material framework is cancelled in relation to its sanctity.[4]

We have seen two ways to relate to the concepts of rest and inheritance:

1. Shilo expresses a temporary situation, and therefore it is only "rest." In contrast, Jerusalem expresses permanence and eternity, and therefore it is "inheritance."

2. Shilo, where lesser sacrifices are eaten in the view of all, is not constrained by physical reality; the material world does not limit and define it, and therefore it is expressed through an abstract spiritual value. Jerusalem, on the other hand, which is bound by partitions, leads to spiritual revelation in the material world, and it is precisely that revelation which is permanent and eternal.

In the next shiur we will consider the position of Rabbi Shimon, who identifies the rest with Jerusalem and the inheritance with Shilo.


(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] Later in the discussion, the Gemara raises two more possibilities which we will not expand upon here: According to one possibility the reference is to the rest from the conquest, namely, that the conquest ended when they reached Shilo; according to the second possibility, the reference is to the rest of the ark. Similarly regarding the inheritance: One possibility is that there the territories inherited by each of the tribes were divided up between them; and the second possibility is that we are dealing with eternal inheritance.

[2] Further study is needed in order to understand how the verses in Yirmeyahu conclusively prove that Jerusalem is the inheritance.

[3] See, for example, Amos Chakham in his Da'at Mikra commentary, ad loc.

[4] See Rav Hendler, Chen ha-Makom al Shilo, pp. 159-182.