Torah Portion: Mishpatim
Three pilgrimage festivals shall you celebrate for Me during the year (Shemos 23:14).
It is a positive commandment to celebrate during the festivals, that is, to journey to the Temple three times a year—before Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos—in order to be there at the time of the festival, as it is written: Three pilgrimage festivals shall you celebrate for Me during the year (Shemos 23:14). The essence of the pilgrimage is that we should go up there with an animal and present it as a Peace offering in honor of the festival.
Among the roots of this mitzvah is the idea that it is not proper to come before the Holy One empty-handed. And although, in truth, the Holy One needs nothing from us—as is written, If I were hungry, I would not tell you (Tehillim 50:12)—nevertheless, in our minds we envision it as though we are standing before Him and therefore it is proper that we perform the act of the offering at that time. Through the action of the offering we become worthy of receiving the good and our souls rise ever higher, as we will write later, with the help of Hashem.
Among the laws of the mitzvah we find that there is no fixed amount and even one is sufficient, be it a domestic animal or fowl, turtle-dove or young dove. The person is obligated to go up to Jerusalem either with the animal itself or money with which he will be able to purchase one in Jerusalem for the offering; but cash-equivalents are not sufficient. If the person did not bring his offering on the first day of the festival he can make it up on any of the subsequent seven days, provided that he himself was present there [in the Temple] on the first day.
This mitzvah applies when the Temple stands, to men but not women. One who is infirm, elderly, delicate to the point that he cannot walk on his own feet, or a slave are all also exempt. But otherwise everyone is obligated to journey for the pilgrimage, including individuals who are ordinarily engaged in a repulsive occupation, for they are acceptable before Hashem just like all the rest of Israel. It is the foulness of the soul that makes people repulsive before Hashem, not their occupation—as long as they do it with honesty.