Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10
Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten
Before the Temple in Jerusalem was built it was permitted to build personal altars and offer sacrifices on them. At this time period there were also communal altars. The personal altars are called small altars whereas the communal altars are called great altars. The great altar is referred to in I Kings 3:2, The people, however, continued to offer sacrifices at altars, because up to that time no house had been built for the name of the Lord. The king went up to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great altar
Our mishnah outlines the differences that existed in this time period between great, communal altars and personal, small altars.
1) There is no difference between a great altar and a small altar except for the pesach offering.
2) This is the general principle: any animal which can be brought as a vow-offering or a freewill offering may be brought on a [small] altar, any animal which is not the object of a vow or a freewill-offering may not be brought on a [small] altar.
Section one: An individual cannot sacrifice the pesah at his own altar, but rather must bring it to the communal altar. The Talmud explains that not only the pesah cannot be offered at the small altar, but all mandatory sacrifices as well. This is illustrated in the next sections general principle.
Section two: Only voluntary offerings can be offered at a small altar. Mandatory offerings, such as the tamid, the musaf, the pesah, sin-offerings, guilt-offerings, holiday-related offerings and others, must be brought to the central altar.