Pilgrimage of Friends (Reeh)
The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. -George Bernard Shaw
A fun and curious commandment is the requirement which is known as the Second Tithe. The Second Tithe was only practiced in the days of the Temple. It involved the entire family journeying to Jerusalem together with a tithe of their produce and livestock. Once the family reached Jerusalem the requirement was for them to eat from their bounty. That was it, have a fun meal in town, certainly one of the easier and more physically pleasurable commandments on our list.
What is curious about the commandment is that at the end of the pronouncement, its stated purpose is given as “so that you will learn to revere God.”
The Meshech Chochma on the verse in Deuteronomy 14:23 wonders as to the correlation between a festive meal in Jerusalem and reverence of God.
He explains that it’s referring specifically to the Sabbath and Holidays in Jerusalem. When a pilgrim would come to Jerusalem in the times of the Temple, he would see his brothers, the Kohens, busy with divine service and involvement in Torah laws. It would inspire him likewise to dedicate himself more to divine service and study of the Torah.
During the weekdays this was less effective as everyone is busy making a livelihood, but on the Sabbath and Holidays, when we are prohibited from working, then a person has the time, the attention, and the freedom to take note of the divine service. The pilgrim is encouraged to emulate his friend and give more importance to the Torah and its precepts.
All that just from a festive meal.
May we have many occasions to partake of inspiring, celebratory feasts.
To the memory of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz z”tl, a true Torah giant.