Watch Your Step!
One of the most impressive artifacts in the ancient world was the throne of King Solomon. The ascent to his throne was marked by six glorious steps. Each step was bedecked with golden statues that would propel the King effortlessly to the next elevation. Carved on each step was a Torah axiom that portrayed a philosophical underpinnings of his leadership.
Etched onto the fifth step was the prohibition of erecting a "matzeivah" - a one stone altar (Devarim 16:22). It seems strange that King Solomon, the wisest man in history, would consider the construction of multi-stone altars as a cornerstone of his political philosophy. To confound matters, the Patriarch Jacob, himself, worshiped in this fashion!
Perhaps the answer is metaphoric. An altar is the point in the universe where God and man intersect. When we stand before God, we can never stand alone. Our strength and worth stem from the collective. Jacob was a
trailblazer. He faced an often hostile world and stood alone by necessity. He had no choice but to worship on a one stone altar.
Once the Nation of Israel is born, one stone alters are anathema. Before God... united we must stand. An important lesson for both Kings and commoners.
(See Shem Meshmuel, Shoftim 5670)
Rabbi Daniel Green