intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
Meat Eating in Temple Times
The meat that Am Yisrael ate in biblical times came primarily from permissible "pure" domestic animals; cattle, sheep and goats. However, the consumption of these animals for food was quite restricted simply because of their high value, even though they were quite common. The Gemara (Chulin 16b) notes, "…(It is written) 'When the Lord your G-d shall enlarge your border, as He promised you, and you will say, I will eat meat (for you will have a desire to eat meat, to your hearts' entire desire may you eat meat." Devarim 12:20). R. Yishma'el says that this Pasuk is stated specifically in order to permit Bnei Yisrael to eat meat at will (i.e. upon entering Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael would be permitted to slaughter kosher animals and eat the meat without offering sacrifices whenever they wished).
Previously in the wilderness, the animal first had to be offered as a Korban. "Any man from the House of Israel who will slaughter a bull, a sheep, or goat in the camp or will slaughter it outside the camp and he has not brought it to the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed - the Mishkan, the Desert Sanctuary - to bring it as a Korban to G-d before the Tabernacle of G-d - it shall be considered as bloodshed for that man, he has shed blood , and that man shall be cut off from his people…and they shall slaughter them as Shelamim to G-d" (Vayikra 17:3-5). The Gemara then asks, "Why were they forbidden in the beginning (in the wilderness)? Because they were near to the Mishkan. And why were they permitted subsequently? Because they were far from the Mishkan (Mikdash)". After all, "when they entered the Land, their land was spacious and those who lived at a distance were not able to come to Jerusalem (and offer sacrifice at the Mikdash) every day" (Rashi). But before Shlomo HaMelech built the Bayit Rishon, there was an interim period called Tekufat Heter Bamot - when private sacrificial altars (Bamot) were sometimes permitted. The Mishna reads, "Before the Mishkan was set up, Bamot were permitted and the (priestly) Avoda was performed by the firstborn. But after the Mishkan was set up, Bamot were forbidden and the Avoda was performed by Kohanim. …After they came to Gilgal the Bamot were again permitted. After they came to Shiloh the Bamot were (again) forbidden. (After crossing the Jordan, Am Yisrael set up the Mishkan in Gilgal where it remained for 14 years during the conquest and the parceling of Eretz Yisrael among the people. Then the Mishkan was set up at Shiloh - Yehoshu'a 18:1 - where it remained for 369 years (Note Zevachim 118b) until its destruction.). After they came to Nov (I Shemu'el 21:1) and to Given (I Melachim 3:4), the Bamot were permitted. After they came to Jerusalem (and built the Mikdash), the Bamot were forbidden and never again permitted. (Zevachim 14:4-8).
During Tekufat Heter Bamot "formal" meals were frequently linked to the offering of Shelamim. Saul, soon to be anointed King of Israel, and his servant entered the city of Ramah seeking the "Seer" Samuel. They find that "he is come today into the city because the people have a sacrifice in the high place. …for the people will not eat until he comes and bless the sacrifice and afterward the invitees will eat. (Incidentally, this is the source for making a Beracha over the eating of Shelamim.
Rashi supplies the Nusach. "…Asher Kidshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Le'echol Et Hazevach - …Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to eat of the sacrifice" (I Shemu'el 9:10-13). Later as King, Saul and his entourage once had a festive banquet on Rosh Chodesh. David though invited refrained from attending. King Saul upon noticing David's absence said, "…he is (ritually) impure, surely he is impure." The Radak and the Ralbag raise the possibility that the meat ingested at Saul's Rosh Chodesh feast were from Shelamim sacrifices. This would explain why it was necessary for the invitees to be in a state of ritual purity. David's excuse was that he had a Zevach Mishpacha, a family sacrifice, in his home town of Beit Lechem which required his presence (I Shemu'el 20:25-29).Metzudat David explains that "on that day the members of his (David's) family would offer Shelamim (and eat the meat) in their city."
But not all the meat eaten was from Shelamim - even in Tekufat Heter Bamot when Korbanot could be offered on every hill top. The substantial gift of Abigail "wife of Naval" to David and his men included "five sheep ready dressed (slaughtered and prepared)" which certainly were not Shelamim meat (I Shemu'el 25:18). "And the Lord sent Nathan unto David… There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing; save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared. And it grew up with him, and with his children, it did eat of his own morsel and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveler to the rich man, and he forbore to take of his own flock and of his own herd to dress for the wayfaring man that had come unto him, but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him." The Navi who spun such a picturesque parable did not speak of Shelamim and Korbanot (II Shemu'el 12:1-4). "And Solomon's provision for one day… ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and gazelles, and roebucks, and fatted fowl (I Kings 5:2,3).
And the newly completed Bayit Rishon was only a few meters away! Solomon's provisions also included animals which, while "pure" (kosher), were ineligible for Korbanot. In short, the rural population was not dependent on Shelamim for their meat supply; they were free to slaughter and eat non-sacrificial meat at will. Bamot persisted after the building of the Beit HaMikdash because the rural population found it difficult to understand why the time-honored custom of local sacrifice fell out of Divine favor. And it is important to understand that this was not necessarily because of ill will or idolatrous inclinations on the part of Am Yisrael.
Could it be that Am Israel were shepherds and had huge flocks but wouldn't eat lamb chops? The Torah does cite one example from our history when we did refuse to eat lamb chops. After Yetzi'at Mitzra'im, Bnei Yisrael started to wail, "Who will feed us meat?" Moses was in despair and turned to G-d. "Where shall I get meat to give to this entire people when they weep to me saying, 'Give us meat that we may eat.' Can sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them…?" G-d answered Moshe in his distress and "a wind went forth from G-d and blew quail from the sea and spread them over the camp… (Bamidbar 11:4-34). Despite their unholy lust for meat (for which they were severely punished), and surrounded as they were by their numerous flocks and herds, they were unwilling to slaughter even a single sheep or goat!
Catriel's book in progress: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service