The worship of Hashem is vastly different from the corrupt practices of the idolaters. Moshe makes this point several times:
You shall not do so to Hashem, Your G-d (Devarim 12:4; see also verses 30-31).
In many other commandments throughout Parashas Re’eh, the uniqueness of the worship of Hashem is emphasized.
This is especially true regarding the exclusiveness of the Sanctuary: Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose (YIVCHAR) from all your tribes to put (L’SHA’KEN) His Name there, to His habitation shall you seek (L’SHICHNO TID’R’SHU) and there shall you come (U’VATA SHAMMA) (verse 5).
As long as the people lived in the desert, sacrifices were permitted only in the Mishkan (from L’SHA’KEN). As soon as they entered Canaan, the Mishkan was set up in Gilgal, where it remained for the 14 years of conquest. During that period, the Mishkan ceased to be exclusive, so it became permitted at that time to offer sacrifices elsewhere as well, on local altars called bamot. After Gilgal, the Mishkan was moved to Shilo, where it stood for 369 years. Afterwards, the Sanctuary was established, first in Nov, and then in Giv’on, for a total of 57 years. Finally, the permanent Temple (called by Rambam and others Beit HaBechira, from YIVCHAR) was built. From this point on, no other site may be used as a Temple, since Hashem had chosen to put (L’SHA’KEN) His Name there (Zevachim 119a; Rambam, Laws of the Sanctuary, 1:2-3).
Of course, the expression the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose (YIVCHAR) from all your tribes — as well as similar expressions throughout RE’EH (12:11, 14, 18, 21, 26) – actually refer to Jerusalem. But, why doesn’t Hashem reveal that fact now? Surely, Hashem knows where the Temple would stand! Moreover, Mount Moriah was widely known to be special: it was where Avraham performed the Akeidah (Binding of Isaac) and worshipped there (Bereishit 22:1, 14).
Indeed, ancient traditions identified it as the place where Noach, Kayin, Hevel and Adam offered sacrifices (Rambam, op. cit. 2:2). Finally, the Torah was very precise about the boundaries of the Land (Bamidbar 34:1- 5); So why the evasiveness when it comes to the Sanctuary? Chizkuni (R. Chizkiya ben Manoach, mid 13th Century) suggests that the Torah does not specify Jerusalem as the place of the Sanctuary, since in fact the Shechina would also reside elsewhere, namely Gilgal, Shilo, Nov and Giv’on.
Rather than waste words, the Torah used an expression, the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose, which would include them all. This is an example of the dictum: “A person is required to teach his student in a concise manner” (Pesachim 3a).
It is clear from this that Chizkuni regards all the places where the Sanctuary stood as being equally “chosen by Hashem.”
This is not, however, the view of Rambam. To him, only the permanent Temple in Jerusalem is the Beit HaBechira. Rambam discusses this issue in The Guide to the Perplexed (III 45), and suggests three answers: If the Torah had announced Jerusalem at the outset, then 1) many nations would have tried to conquer it beforehand, knowing how valuable it is to Israel; or 2) those in possession of it would have exerted every effort to ruin it, leaving “scorched earth” before it would fall into the Israelites’ hands; or 3) every tribe would desire that the site of the Temple would be located in its portion, and this would lead to internecine strife, as actually occurred over the selection of the tribe of Levi (Bamidbar, Chapters 16-17). Rambam considers this last answer the most prominent, adding, “hence the command not to build the Beit HaBechira until after the crowning of a king, in order that the decision would be in the hands of one person, and thus all disputes would be forestalled, as we explained in the Book of Judges [Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 1:1-2].”
Although the Sanctuary is the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose, nevertheless, the people must also play a role:
to His habitation shall you seek (L’SHICHNO TID’R’SHU). On this, the Sifri (62) says: “Seek, through the mouth of a prophet. But lest you think this means you should wait until a prophet tells you, the text says to His habitation shall you seek and there shall you come: First seek to find it, and then the prophet will tell you. So do we find with David:
Remember, Hashem, for David, all his suffering.
When he swore to Hashem, vowed to the Mighty One of Yaakov: “I shall not enter the tent of my house… Nor shall I give sleep to my eyes … Until I find a place for Hashem, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Yaakov” (Tehillim 132: 1-5).”
As Malbim (R. Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael, 1809-1879) explains, D-R- H (the root of TID’R’SHU) means to search by oneself for something. Thus, the Torah teaches that Hashem will not make the first step in revealing the location of the Sanctuary through His prophets; rather, the people of Israel must take the initiative by seeking. Then, when conditions are suitable, He will bestow the prophetic spirit to respond to their search.
But this search, suggests Ramban, might not end, even when the Temple has been built, for to His habitation shall you seek means, in his words, “That you should walk from a great distance and inquire, ‘What is the way to the House of Hashem?’
And they should say to each other ‘Come, let us ascend to the Mountain of Hashem, to the House of the G-d of Yaakov’ (Yesha’yahu 2:3); as it says, Zion shall they request; their faces are directed towards there (Yirmiyahu 50:5).”
Perhaps the Torah did not reveal where is the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose so that we will never stop searching for it. And when it is rebuilt – speedily, in our days – we will constantly strive to deserve it.