Year-round Kedushah by Hillel Koslowe


In the Maftir of Parashat Re’eih, last week’s Parashah, we find the Pasuk that we recite during Tefillat Mussaf of the Shalosh Regalim: “Shalosh Pe’amim BaShanah Yeira’eh Kol Zechurecha Et Penei Hashem Elokecha BaMakom Asher Yivchar,” “Three times in the year, every one of your males shall appear before Hashem, your God, in the place He will choose” (Devarim 16:16). Then, in the beginning of Parashat Shofetim, the Torah discusses establishing Shofetim and Shoterim, judges and officers, throughout Eretz Yisrael (16:18). What is the connection between the Shalosh Regalim and the establishing of Shofetim and Shoterim throughout Eretz Yisrael?

To answer this question, the Or HaChaim (ad loc. s.v. Shofetim) notes that during the Shalosh Regalim, when Jews go to Yerushalayim, everybody witnesses the Sanhedrin HaGadol. Because the Sanhedrin HaGadol is the ultimate court, it would be very tempting for Jews to simply rely on it for their cases and delay bringing matters for adjudication until the Shalosh Regalim. However, Hashem does not want Bnei Yisrael to postpone court cases until the Shalosh Regalim; therefore, He mandated that there be courts throughout all of Eretz Yisrael.

Perhaps, the underlying message of this point is that while being in Yerushalayim and witnessing Hashem’s glory and the Sanhedrin HaGadol is inspiring and religiously uplifting, that is not how life is meant to be lived. Day-to-day life does not consist of being directly in God’s presence and having the best court available to us; rather, we have Batei Kenesiyot and local courts to help us pray to Hashem and follow Halachah. So while the Shalosh Regalim and time spent in Yerushalayim may recharge us religiously, that is not meant to be our routine. Therefore, even though the Sanhedrin is the best court, Jewish communities need ordinary courts available to them year round.

After discussing the court system, the Torah (Devarim 16:22) presents the prohibition of building Matzeivot. Additionally, the Torah mentions that Matzeivot are hated by Hashem. Korbanot brought on Matzeivot, in contrast to Korbanot offered at the Beit HaMikdash during the Shalosh Regalim, are not necessarily presented in Yerushalayim; they are brought in Jewish communities, wherever that may be.

If the Torah requires Jews to visit Yerushalayim and the Beit HaMikdash only three times a year, why are Matzeivot – local Korbanot – not allowed? And why would Hashem hate Matzeivot? Don’t they display that a person is invested in his relationship with Hashem all year round, not just three times a year?

Perhaps, Hashem hates and forbids Matzeivot because there is no substitute for Yerushalayim. If Jews were able to bring Korbanot year round, throughout their communities, Yerushalayim would lose its unique status, and Jews would not feel it necessary to go to Yerushalayim for the Shalosh Regalim. To make sure that Yerushalayim has a special place in every Jew’s heart, Korbanot can be brought only in Yerushalayim.

It may seem that up to this point, we have concluded two antithetical points. First, based on the Or HaChaim, we concluded that day-to-day life is not meant to consist of constant glaring Kedushah, and that Jews need not spend all their lives in Yerushalayim. But then, based on the prohibition of Matzeivot, we concluded that there is no substitute for Yerushalayim, for it has a special place in all Jews’ hearts.

However, upon further analysis, we can see that there is no contradiction. While we must recognize that Yerushalayim contains the ultimate Kedushah, life doesn’t require constant Yerushalayim – there is also a need for day-to-day spiritual life, and that day-to-day life need not feel like the Shalosh Regalim. But we cannot become so content with life outside of Yerushalayim and the Beit HaMikdash that we be desensitized to its inherent Kedushah.

We are currently in the midst of Chodesh Elul, and before we know it, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot will arrive – and then will pass. These days are days of spiritual rebirth and growth; however, after these spiritually elevated days, we must not regress religiously. So long as we gain from Elul and the holidays that follow, and we keep the growth with us, the seemingly mundane days that follow can be as spiritually elevating and rewarding.

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