By: Steve Kirschenbaum
The Chumash in Devarim 13:1, in prohibiting Bal Tosif and Bal Tigra, stresses that we aren’t permitted to add to or detract from any of the Mitzvos of the Torah. Nonetheless, we sometimes come across a Mitzvah that has in fact changed over time. One such instance is the Mitzvah of Birchas HaMazon described in 8:10, a D’oraisa obligation after one ate bread to satiation.
The Gemara Berachos 48b discusses the origin of the text of Birchas HaMazon. When the Man fell from heaven to sustain Klal Yisrael in the Midbar, Moshe composed the first Berachah of Birchas HaMazon. Although there’s presently a Biblical obligation to offer thanks to HKBH for giving us Eretz Yisrael as well, this obligation did not commence until Yehoshua conquered the Land. True, the Land already belonged to Avraham Avinu from the time he fulfilled the directive in Bereishis 13:17, however the obligation to thank G-d for giving us Eretz Yisrael didn’t begin until the Land was delivered to Klal Yisrael during the time of Yehoshua. So, it was Yehoshua who instituted this second Berachah of Birchas HaMazon, the Birchas HaAretz, and it then became part of the D’oraisa obligation to recite as well.
Similarly, in the days of David and Shlomo, the Biblical obligation expanded to include a third Berachah. When David HaMelech conquered Yerushalayim and established it as his capital, he composed the first section of the third Berachah, and after Shlomo HaMelech built the Beis HaMikdash, he added the second half of the third Berachah. So, the nature of the Mitzvah of Birchas HaMazon has changed over the course of generations, with the addition of the latter two Berachos in the days of Yehoshua, and then David and Shlomo.
The two halves of this third Berachah correspond to two aspects of the uniqueness of Yerushalayim. First, Yerushalayim is the Mikdash Melech, the Sanctuary of the King, which is what sanctions the offering of Korbanos, specifically of Kodshim Kallim. Additionally, Yerushalayim is the Ir Melucha, the Royal City, the official capital of Eretz Yisrael. All of Eretz Yisrael is considered the Paltin Shel Melech (royal palace).
Says Rav Hershel Schachter, the distinctiveness of Yerushalayim as the Ir Melucha enables us to understand why the Mishnah in Kesubos 13:11 teaches that if one spouse wishes to relocate to Yerushalayim from another location in Eretz Yisrael and the other spouse refuses, the latter is considered to be at fault for the dissolution of the marriage. This has relevance regarding the requirement to pay the Kesubah upon the couple’s divorce. Apparently, there’s a greater Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael to live in Yerushalayim than in the rest of Eretz Yisrael. Since Yerushalayim is the capital of Eretz Yisrael, it’s considered a greater Mitzvah to live there and develop this city than to live in the rest of the country.
Says Rav Schachter, this duality of Yerushalayim’s uniqueness is why the city was divided between Shevet Binyamin, in whose section Korbanos were offered on the Mizbeach, and Shevet Yehudah, whose section contained the government’s official buildings, as mentioned in the Gemara Zevachim 53b. The Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 1:10 rules that only a king of the Malchus Beis David has the right to use Yerushalayim as his capital, because G-d authorizes only such a king of the Malchus HaNivcheres (chosen kingdom), to serve as the human representative
of the kingdom of Hashem in His capital. This is in line with the Gemara’s requirement that mentioning of Malchus Beis David is indispensable to the Berachah of Boneh Yerushalayim, for the re-establishment of this kingdom is necessary for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim to be considered complete.
This understanding of the dual role of Yerushalayim can provide the basis for an answer to a question raised by the Chasam Sofer in his Teshuvos. The Gemara Zevachim 54b teaches how Dovid HaMelech and Shmuel HaNavi were ‘residing in Ramah and working on the adornment of the world,’ attempting to determine based on Pesukim the correct site on which to build the Beis HaMikdash. If it was understood that a parcel of land close to Yerushalayim, in Yehudah, was worth far more than one distant from Yerushalayim, in the Galil, how could there have been any doubt regarding the placement of the Beis HaMikdash within Yerushalayim? Additionally, if Yerushalayim was never divided among the Shevatim in the days of Yehoshua, and so, one could not charge rent for houses in Yerushalayim based on the Gemara Yoma 12a, the uniqueness of Yerushalayim should have already been well recognized.
Says Rav Schachter, yes, it had been recognized for centuries that Yerushalayim was unique in terms of property value and monetary ownership, but it was thought that these differences were due to Yerushalayim’s status as the capital of Eretz Yisrael. The Ir Melucha was not apportioned between the Shevatim, in the same way that, in the US, the capital city of Washington DC isn’t part of the neighboring states, but is a district unto itself. It may have been that there would be a different city which would house the Beis HaMikdash, and so, the true location of the Mikdash Melech still had to be ascertained through the efforts of Dovid and Shmuel.