Friday, April 13, 2007


by Reb Ben

The Gemara cites a verse in Shir HaShirim that states mah yafu peomayich baneolim bas nadiv, how lovely are your steps in sandals, O daughter of the noble? The Gemara explains that this verse refers to the lovely steps of the Jewish People when they ascended to Jerusalem for the festival. Rabbeinu Bachye in Parashas Mishpatim cites a Medrash that states that when the Torah instructs the Jewish People to ascend three times a year to Jerusalem, it is said shalosh peamim and shalosh regalim, which literally mean three times. In Yeshaya it is said tirmisenah ragel raglei ani paamei dalim, it is trampled underfoot: the feet of the poor, the soles of the meek. From the verse in Shir HaShirim we derive a law that one is only allowed to ascend to Jerusalem for the three times a year pilgrimage by foot and one is forbidden to ascend in any other manner. This law is derived from the fact that Scripture uses the words peomayich and neolim, which allude to one walking as opposed to traveling on an animal or in a wagon.

It is noteworthy that the Sfas Emes explains that the concept of neilas hachag, the traditional festive meal that is eaten at the end of the three festivals, is based on this verse in Shir HaShirim. The word baneolim alludes to the lock, i.e. the safeguarding of the festival. Perhaps we can extend this idea further, based on what the Sfas Emes writes elsewhere that the word regel alludes to the physical and what a person performs by rote. On a festival, however, one should take the physical acts that he is engaged in and he should make a manul, i.e. a lock to it. When one is ascending in a physical sense to Jerusalem, he should essentially trample the regel, i.e. he should negate the physical and capture the spirituality of the festival. One should trample the feet of the poor, i.e. the poor in knowledge, who until now was starving for a spiritual ascent. One should trample the soles of the meek, i.e. the one who until now was not courageous enough to ascend the spiritual ladder should cast away his physical existence and conduct himself on a spiritual plane. This was the focus of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as one “rose” above the physicality of this world and acquired spiritual gains on the festivals.


The Gemara states that one cannot ascend for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the three festivals half-way. The Tamara interprets the words half-way to mean that those who are engaged in work that cause them to emit foul odors are exempt from ascending to Jerusalem. This ruling teaches us a powerful lesson. Prior to entering into the Holy Shabbos, one should take care to remove any vestige of contamination or defilement that may have attached itself to him during the week, because one cannot appear before HaShem when in a state of contamination and defilement. Shabbos is a day of purity and holiness, and we must prepare ourselves appropriately so that we can bask in the light of the Divine Presence.