"And Yehoshafat stood in the congregation of Yehuda and Yerushalayim in the house of G-d before the new courtyard." (Divrei Hayamim II 20:5)
What was new, explains Rabbi Yochanan, was not the courtyard of the Beit Hamikdash but rather a decree which this righteous king initiated. Up until his time it was permissible for someone who had become ritually impure to enter the Temple Mount and the Beit Hamikdash courtyard after immersion in a mikveh even though the sun had not yet set on the day of his immersion. At the scene described in the above passage it was decreed that only after the sunset following immersion would one be eligible to enter these sacred precincts.
When did this historic enactment take place?
A mighty force consisting of Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites gathered for an invasion of the Jewish kingdom. Fearing this attack, the king took it upon himself to seek the help of G-d. He proclaimed a fast throughout the kingdom and gathered all the people together to pray for Heavenly salvation. In his prayer to G-d he noted that Jews had built a sanctuary that bore the name of G-d in which they could cry out to Him in their time of affliction.
Against this background we may appreciate the timely significance of the new decree. Since he was placing such stress on the sanctuary as the center of his appeal to Heaven the king felt it necessary to add another dimension of holiness to its status. The prayers of Yehoshafat and his people were indeed answered with a miraculous rout of the invading enemy, and his kingdom was blessed with peace and quiet.
When More is Less
When the Torah designates which animals may be offered as voluntary olah sacrifices it specifies that "of the cattle shall you bring your offering of the herd and of the flock." (Vayikra 1:2)
Had the Torah simply designated cattle we could not have assumed that beasts were excluded. This would have been comparable to a situation in which a master instructs his servant to bring him wheat and the servant brings him both wheat and barley. This is not considered a countermanding of his command but as an additional fulfillment. But once the Torah specifies that the offering must come from the herds and flocks of domesticated animals, the beast is altogether ruled out. Now it is comparable to a master who instructs his servant to bring him only wheat. The barley he then brings in addition is no longer acceptable.
Tosafot calls attention to another gemara (Ketubot 98b) where this issue of countermanding versus addition appears in a different form. The question there is raised as to whatthe law is when a landowner delegates an agent to sell a half kur of his property and the agent sells twice that amount. Do we view the agents action as a fulfillment of his mandate for the sale of half and the transaction is therefore valid for that half, or do we view it as countermanding his order and thus rendering the entire transaction invalid?
There is yet a third version of this issue found in Mesechta Terumot (4:4). If an agent is aware that the landowner who delegated him to tithe his agricultural produce is accustomed to separating one fiftieth to give to the kohen as terumah and he intentionally tithes a larger percentage, the entire tithing is considered invalid.
An analysis of the different circumstances in each of these cases helps us understand the variances. While the attempt to sell an extra parcel of land may not actually harm the landowner, the extra tithing can create a serious problem of mixing terumah with non-terumah. Neither of these can truly be compared to sacrifices in which the offering of an unacceptable species does not compromise the value of the acceptable one.