Discovering the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘Our Father, our King! Reveal the honor of Your Majesty speedily… and ingather our exiles among the nations… and bring us to Zion Your city with rejoice…’ (Musaf of 3 festivals) The element of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the three festivals is so dominant that these three festivals are called the ‘three legs’ – ‘shalosh regalim’, hinting to this element of walking by foot to the Temple on these occasions. Even today, in absence of the Temple there is a custom to ascend to the Old City of Jerusalem in conjunction with the three festivals, as is Biblically obligated when the Temple is standing. In a similar manner, the Sages instituted that one ascend to one’s Torah Master/Rabbi in conjunction with each festival. This teaching fits perfectly with the commandment of ‘cleaving to God’. Just as one is meant to cleave to the Holy Presence through pilgrimage on the three festivals, so too one is meant to connect to the Holy Presence that rests with the Godly righteous. Our Sages ask: how can we be commanded to cleave to the Holy Presence, on which it is said ‘He is a Consuming Fire’? They answer: one can cleave to the Godly righteous and thereby cleave to the Holy Presence. Indeed, our Sages taught that ‘the awe of your Master/Rabbi should be like the awe of Heaven’ (Avot 4, 12).
These teachings may shed light on the widespread custom today of myriads of Jews visiting Maarat HaMachpela on the festivals. Maarat HaMachpela of Hebron is the originating point of all the Godly righteous and visiting this spot means cleaving to the Holy Presence which rests with these righteous. Also, according to the Midrash Moshe Rabeinu was taken from Mount Nevo to rest with our Patriarchs at Maarat HaMachpela. In this way, visiting Maarat HaMachpela also means visiting our greatest Torah Master, Moshe Rabeinu, to whom the entire Torah was revealed, ‘even what a future student will discover in his Torah study’.
In Hebron today one can connect to the ancient path our ancestors took in Hebron via the ‘Biblical pathway’ in Hebron, which passes by ancient archeological findings and more. Following this path we continue the same route of our countless ancestors who made pilgrimage to our holy Patriarchs, of whom Kaleb, David, and Maimonides are just a few.
This parsha uses the term ‘Shalosh Regalim’ in context of Bilam’s journey to bring a curse upon Israel, which was turned, by the grace of God, into a blessing. The ‘three legs’ concept in this parsha refers to the three times Bilam was detained from continuing on his journey by his donkey, or more exactly, by the angel that frightened this donkey. Our Sages explain the usage of ‘three legs’ in this context to hint to the merit of the three festivals of pilgrimage in saving Israel from Bilam’s curse. Interestingly, in the Talmud we find the term ‘three legs’ used in yet another context, Moshe Rabeinu’s implore to save Israel and not place himself in their stead. Our Sages explain that Moshe pleaded that he not be taken to replace the People of Israel as the People of God by the claim that if the merit of ‘three legs of a chair’, i.e the three Patriarchs, is not sufficient to withstand God’s wrath, even more so Moshe as an individual, ‘one leg’, will not be sufficient to withstand. By this teaching we gain an added level of meaning in the ‘three legs’ terminology used in context of Bilam. ‘Three legs’ not only connote the three festivals of pilgrimage, but they also connote the three Patriarchs, as we have also shown parallels between the three Patriarchs and the three festivals in the past. In addition, we learn that these three festivals and Patriarchs also represent the stability of Israel and their connection to the Holy Temple and Land. The stability of Israel by these three is explicit in the fore-mentioned teachings of the Sages, and the stability of Israel’s connection to the Land is mentioned in the Torah which says that ‘no one will covet your Land when you arise to appear before HaShem your God (pilgrimage to the Temple) three times a year’. In Hebron all these ideas come together, for this is Hebron, City of the three Patriarchs and Moshe Rabeinu, to which Israel make pilgrimage and connect to the Godly righteous, also standing as our Ancient Stronghold in the Land of Israel.
Real Stories from the Holy Land: ‘During the nine days before Tisha Bav I was supposed to move my possessions to a house with my family so that this house would not be demolished by the Minhal Haezrachi – ‘the Civil Administration’. I asked a Rabbi if this is possible, since generally speaking one is not to move to a new apartment during the ‘nine days’. The Rabbi permitted this, since for the sake of settlement of the Land of Israel one may move even during the ‘nine days’. However, when we moved the electricity in the house did not work at all. After a number of efforts, I decided to declare in the house: ‘we are not planning to move in here right now, we just brought our possessions so that this house not be demolished.’ Immediately, the electricity in the house began working…’ A.Y.K
Sources: Brachot 32a, Suka 26a, Rambam Talmud Torah 5, 7
 Rambam Deot 6, 1
 Ketubot 111b