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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Aliyah L'Regel

Pesach is only a few days away, and my wife and I are preparing for our first aliyah l'regel together: the ascent to Jerusalem to celebrate the three major holidays of the Jewish calender. As we've been making the arrangements, I've noticed a strange trend when we tell people we are going. People actually ask us why we're going. I've heard this from Americans and Israelis, religious and not. Some people guess - are you going to family? Friends? Is it a pilot trip? Some people have even asked, why Pesach?

My standard answer has been: Last year, at the end of the seder, we said, "Leshana habaa b'Yerushalayim" - next year in Jerusalem. So this year, we'll be in Jerusalem. We'll be continuting the millenia-old practice of families going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the holidays. We will be visiting friends and relatives during the chag, but we will have the seder together in Jerusalem, awaiting the day when we will be able to return again, and eat the korban pesach together with our friends and family.

Everyone seems to understand my answer, but no one seems to have thought about it. But aliyah l'regel is just one of the many opportunities to fulfill mitzvot that were not available to us until quite recently. The Rambam defines the mitzva of simchat yom tov - joy on the holiday - specifically as being in Jerusalem and eating the korban chagiga. We can't eat the sacrifice, but we can be in Jerusalem. So, despite all the financial disincentives offered by the airlines and hotels, we will be spending our first Pesach together in the holy city.

We actually only booked our hotel a few days ago. I called several hotels, and not one told me they were booked. And yet, they all seemed to have jacked up thier prices to double or more of their regular prices. I wonder if we can't be doing a better job of enabling more people to participate in the aliyah l'regel, and to do so more often. Here is an Eshel article called "Three Times a Year," proposing a way to encourage aliyah l'regel. Please read it, spread it around, and let me know your thoughts.

Chag Kasher V'sameach,
L'shana Habaa B'Yerushalayim!


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