Customs and Rituals

Has pilgrimage ever figured prominently in Jewish practice?

In biblical times Jewish males were expected to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem for three occasions, the feasts of Passover, Booths, and Weeks. Specific ritual requirements attended each of the three pilgrimage feasts. But since all were tied to the existence of the Temple, pilgrimage as a specific religious duty lapsed during the Exile and again when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. Throughout post-biblical Jewish history, Jews in the diaspora have continued to pray about Jerusalem and have longed to return to it. Since the Six-Day War of 1967, many have realized the dream of one day visiting the site of the Temple and praying at the Western Wall. Strictly speaking, modern-day Jewish pilgrims are not fulfilling a biblical injunction, since the Temple remains only a memory. But pilgrimage has in effect assumed a new form for many Jews. For most it is a journey of remembrance of a former dispensation and a chance to connect with deep roots. Some journey in the hope that they may live to see the glory of the Temple and its associated ritual practices restored.


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