Why are we not required to trek to the Beit Hamikdash on Rosh HaShanah to experience the Kedushah of Hashem? After all, isn’t the whole purpose of Rosh HaShanah to do Teshuvah and get closer to Hashem? The Beit HaMikdash would seem like the most ideal place to accomplish this goal.
One possible answer was suggested to me by Dave Weinberg (TABC Class of 2008). During the month of Elul, we do not need to go to Hashem - He comes to us. This can be seen through a famous parable quoted in the Zohar, in which Hashem is compared to a human king. All year round, the king meets with people only in his own palace. Once a year, however, the king goes out to the fields, where he meets individually with everyone, even the farmers. Similarly, once a year, during Elul, Hashem comes out of His palace and can be reached easily by everyone. When Elul is over, however, Hashem does not just leave us and go back to his palace; he takes us back with Him.
My father added that on Rosh HaShanah, we say, “Seu She’arim Rosheichem, USeu Pitchei Olam VeYavo Melech HaKavod,” “Raise up your heads, O gates, and raise up gates of the world, so the King of Glory may enter” (Tehillim 24:9). Perhaps the gates are being raised for Hashem as he reenters his palace. Additionally, the gates of the world can be understood as an entrance for the Olam, for the inhabitants of the world, who are invited in with Hashem.
Rav Wolfsan further develops this point that Hashem brings us back to his palace with Him. He explains that on Rosh HaShanah, the entire world is transformed into one giant Beit HaMikdash (see Rosh HaShanah 26a). This answers our original question as to why we are not commanded to travel to the Beit HaMikdash on Rosh HaShanah; in fact, we are in the Beit HaMikdash. This idea is hinted to in the Tefillah of Rosh HaShanah. Usually, the Beit HaMikdash is the only place in the entire world where we are allowed to fully prostrate ourselves on the floor before Hashem (see Megillah 22b and Mishnah Berurah 131:40). On Rosh HaShanah, however, throughout the world we bow in this manner. A reason for this is because the entire world is considered the Beit HaMikdash.
Parashat Haazinu also alludes to our closeness to Hashem. “Ki Cheilek Hashem Amo Yaakov Chevel Nachlato,” “For Hashem’s portion is His people; Yaakov is the measure (lit. rope) of His inheritance” (Devarim 32:9). The Vilna Gaon explains why the word Chevel, a rope, is used as the word for measure. A rope has the ability to attach two things together. Our relationship with Hashem is like that of two objects attached by a rope. Even when we sin, our tie with Hashem is never severed. In addition, a rope has the ability to bring the two items closer together or hold them farther apart. So too, at certain times Hashem comes closer to us. And, unfortunately, when we sin, Hashem can distance Himself from us, but He never cuts His tie with us.
At this important time of year, when Hashem is so close to us, may we all strengthen our Avodat Hashem and ultimately merit keeping a short rope between ourselves and Hashem, So doing, we will be able to witness Hashem’s true palace, the Beit HaMikdash.