Pilgrimage Holidays

Aug 8, 2015

שָׁמוֹר אֶת־חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב וְעָשִׂיתָ פֶּסַח לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב הוֹצִיאֲךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִמִּצְרַיִם לָיְלָה׃

Observe the month of Abib and offer a Pesach sacrifice to Hashem your God, for it was in the month of Abib, at night, that Hashem your God freed you from Egypt.

Deuteronomy 16:1

אִישׁ כְּמַתְּנַת יָדוֹ כְּבִרְכַּת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן־לָךְ׃

but each with his own gift, according to the blessing that Hashem your God has bestowed upon you.

Deuteronomy 16:17

In keeping with the theme of travelling to Jerusalem, Moses now brings up the three pilgrimage holidays. These three holidays are unique in as much as the people are commanded to come to Jerusalem in person to celebrate. Not only that, they must not arrive empty-handed. For each holiday, the males of the household must bring specific offerings according to the abundance with which God has blessed the family.


The three pilgrimage festivals are Passover (Pesach), the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Passover is to be held for seven days, and all leavened products must be removed from the household for its duration. It commemorates the exodus from Egypt. Shavuot is held seven weeks later for the same reason. Sukkot, Moses, says, celebrates the gifts God gives.


Among the pilgrimage festivals, only Sukkot is not connected here with the exodus. The Israel Bible points out that it is also unique in that it is meant not just for the Jews, but for the nations of the world. 70 bulls offered throughout the holiday in the times of the Temple represent the 70 nations of the world, serving as a message of universal solidarity in the service of the one true God of Israel.


The Israel Bible points to the significance of having three pilgrimage festivals. The number three indicates a strong bond, as it says in Ecclesiastes (4:12), “A chain of three cannot be undone.” Perhaps for this reason, the Children of Israel are commanded to appear in Jerusalem before God three times a year: to forge a bond with Him so strong it cannot be severed.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think these three holidays, as opposed to Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year) or Yom Kippur, require celebration by the nation in Jerusalem?

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