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Recent Questions

Three Pilgrimage Festivals

The Bible speaks about the entire Jewish nation going to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals. Is that still practiced today?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

From a technical standpoint, it was only when the Temple was standing that people were required to appear three times annually and bring an offering – on Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 117:1; Nodeh BiYehuda O.C. 94; Chasam Sofer Y.D. 233; Yabia Omer O.C. 5:15; Tzitz Eliezer 10:1)

Nevertheless, citing the Midrash from Shir HaShirim, some opinions maintain that coming today to see the Temple Mount and the Western Wall still applies on the pilgrimage festivals (Ran – Ta’anit 7a; She'alat Ya'avetz 1:87; Yechaveh Daas 1:25; Teshuvah Kol Mevaser 2:10).

Whatever the case, today many tens of thousands of people make a point to come visit the site of the Temple and the Western Wall during the festival days. The Aish Center, whose spectacular rooftop terrace rises seven stories above the Western Wall Plaza, offers a particularly unique vantage point to fulfill this.

Your question also raises a unique aspect of pilgrimage that I think you'll enjoy:

Imagine we're a committee writing the Bible. If we made up a law that all the men in Israel are required to go to Jerusalem and visit the Temple, three times each year on the pilgrimage holidays, do you think it's a good idea?

On one hand, it unites the people. They get inspired to gather as a nation and see the priestly service in the Temple.

Why is it a bad idea?

If all the men are in Jerusalem, who's going to guard the land? What will happen when the enemies find out that no one is protecting the borders? It won't take long for them to figure out that three times a year the Jews leave themselves wide open to attack.

Of course, we could send the men in shifts, as opposed to all at once. But the Torah is very clear: "Three times each year, all your males shall present themselves before God, the Master and Lord of Israel" (Exodus 34:23).

And if one might think that is the making of a national tragedy, the very next verse promises: "[N]o one will be envious of your land when you go to be seen in God's presence" (Exodus 34:24).

In other words, don’t worry. God will make sure that no one will even think of attacking you! Who in their right mind would write this? The one thing the author of the Bible knows for sure is that he can't control the thoughts of their enemies, never mind the bullets!

Why take such an outlandish risk? Did the author actually expect the people to say, "Oh, that's a great idea; everybody'll just leave and we'll be unprotected. No problem." And even if by some fluke, the people swallow it, after the first pilgrimage or two, they're out of business, assuming they're still alive!

Which brings us to an astounding conclusion: Not only does this pilgrimage idea demonstrate that God has supernatural control, but simple psychology forces us to ask who else but God could write such a thing and expect people to accept it?

This is just another piece of evidence substantiating God as the Author of the Torah.

(based on Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminar)

Rollerblading on Shabbat

My fiance and I both enjoy rollerblading. I am curious to know if it is okay for us to rollerblade in a park on Saturdays if our intentions are to have fun rather than get in shape. Thank you very much.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It's funny you should mention this. I recently had to visit someone in the hospital on Shabbat afternoon, and walked 16 miles in the process. As I was walking, I saw some kids rollerblading, and thought to myself, "What a great idea. This could have really cut down my travel time!" It was too late to do anything about it, but I registered the idea for the future.

In answer to your question, it is permitted to use rollerblades on Shabbat, provided one does not carry them (i.e. when not wearing them) in a public domain. However, if rollerblades are customarily not used on Shabbat by observant Jews in your community, then you should also not use them. An exception could be made in case of pressing need, for example my hospital visit.

Number of Sheva Brachot for Second Wedding

I am God willing to be married in a few months. My fiancé and I are very looking forward to building a proper Jewish home together. Unfortunately, neither of us was religious in our younger years and we have both had past relationships. We’d like to know how many days of Sheva Brachot we should be celebrating. (I know that fewer are celebrated for a second marriage than a first.) Thank you in advance.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Mazal tov first of all on your upcoming marriage! May you and your future wife fulfill your dreams of building a true Jewish home!

In terms of Sheva Brachot, if you and your wife have had relationships in the past but were never in marriages (even marriages without a religious ceremony, or even just living together long-term as husband and wife) then the custom is to celebrate the full seven days of Sheva Brachot. Some permit doing so even if the spouses were married before, so long as there was never a valid religious ceremony, but the more common custom is not to do so.

Note that if one spouse was never in a relationship before at all, then there are always seven days of Sheva Brachot, even if the other spouse was married before. If however, one spouse was married (even without a proper ceremony) and the other had premarital relations, then there are only three days of Sheva Brachot, as explained below.

For second marriages when three days of Sheva Brachot are celebrated, the full seven blessings are recited only at the wedding itself. For the next three days, the Sheva Brachot are not recited at the end of the meal, but the special blessing “she’hasimcha bi’me’ono” is said at the start of Birkat HaMazon. Apart from this, the bride and groom spend the entire three days together, as with a first marriage, and may not go to work.

Finally, in general there is no actual obligation to celebrate Sheva Brachot every day for three or for seven days. It is only that if a meal is held in the couple’s honor, special blessings are recited. Likewise, even after three days for a second marriage, if the couple’s friends would like to, they could serve a festive meal in their honor – just without any special blessings.

Mazal tov again!

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62:6, 64:2; Chelkat Mechokek 54:4; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:12; Chatam Sofer E.H. 123; Teshuvot V'Hanhagot I 755.)

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

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