THE TORAH ordains that every able-bodied Jew must make a pilgrimage to the Temple of God on the Three Festivals. "Three times in the year shall everyone of the males appear before the Lord, thy God . . . No one shall appear before the Lord empty. Every man according to what his hand can give, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee" (Deut. 16:16-17).

Our sages say that certain individuals are absolved from making that pilgrimage. I will mention only three notable categories which are excluded from this command because of certain defects in their personalities and attitudes.

Suma be'achat me'enav. One who is blind in one eye is patur from coming to the Temple of God. He who is afflicted with a one-sided view of life is unfit to perceive and grasp either the sacred majesty of the Bet Hamikdash or the inspiration of the holiday spirit.

There are those who are either over-optimistic or unduly pessimistic about Judaism. In either case they have a wrong and one-sided view of life. They are sumim be'achhat me'enehem. They have a deficiency in one of their eyes. I have known people who when observing the flurry of religious activity before and during the High Holidays are so carried away with enthusiasm that they break out in a paean of song. When they witness the rush to the cemeteries and the packed Synagogues they feel certain that everything is just fine in Jewish life. They see only one side of the picture and refuse to look at the other side. They do not stop to consider what is happening to our Synagogues throughout the remainder of the year. And so they go home rekam -empty. They make no resolve to work for Jewish education, for Torah or for the Shule because, they say, everything is getting along famously without them. They point to the great outpouring of men and women on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and they say, "Judaism is on the upswing and there is nothing to worry about!"

There are others whose defective vision is in the opposite direction. They are the great pessimists who see only the seamy side and the shady spots of life. They are the Calamity Janes and Ikes of our people. They point, almost with glee, to the abysmal ignorance and the religious indifference that pervades the Jewish scene, and they clasp their hands and say that it's no use! There is nothing to be done because nothing will help. Judaism, according to them, is galloping like a blind horse downhill and will soon crash and die. They consider the High Holiday Jew a hypocrite and his enthusiasm a sham and a farce.

Such people also return rekam-empty from the House of God. For if everything is lost, why should they bother to help? What's the sense of working for a lost cause? Their onesided and deficient view provides them with an easy excuse for doing nothing.

The sages advised such a man to stay home, so as not to contaminate the other people with his pessimistic and destructive views.

Only those who have a good and balanced view - who can see with both eyes the good and the bad, the clouds and the sunshine - are urged to make the pilgrimage to the House of God. Such men and women have built Synagogues, Talmud Torahs and Yeshivas in America in the past, and are continuing to support them in the present. Such men and women have drained the swamps and invested their fortunes in Israel for decades, and are continuing their devoted service to the Holy Land to this very day.

A second category that is incapable of deriving any substantial benefit from a visit to the Temple is the chiger, the one who limps, a person who is nebech, lame or crippled.

I am sorry to have to say it, but you know that this is true. We have among us people who are evolving a religion of chigrim, of spiritual cripples, hinkedike yiddishkeit.

Their entire philosophy and approach to Judaism is crippled. If it weren't our own tzarah it would be laughable. Consider for example the ads in The New York Times, and New York Post. Before the High Holidays several hotels advertise that divine services will be conducted by a prominent Cantor and Choir, and that shrimps and lobsters will be served. A Cantor with shrimps and a choir with lobsters - if that is not crippled Judaism, what is?

Then there are so-called siddurim, prayer books, which declare in their introduction that since God and Nature are one, God cannot answer prayer. What need is there for a Siddur? And the answer is: to satisfy the yearning of man to commune in the company of other people with a mystical force. If that is not lame thinking, what is?

Our sages, therefore, ruled that one who is so afflicted, need not make the pilgrimage, for he will return rekam, emptyhanded, anyway.

The third is, "He who is unable to go up on his own feet." Here our rabbis have touched upon one of the most vulnerable spots in our lives. Until recently American Israel lived on the spiritual resources of European Jewry. The new immigrants who came here after the First and Second World Wars have injected new virility and spiritual strength into our communities. Rabbis, scholars, teachers, books, religious articles were supplied to us me'ever la yam, from across the ocean. Time and tragic events have changed the picture today, and the American Jew must learn the art of laalot beraglav, to stand on his own two feet. He must produce all these things himself. He must become spiritually self-sufficient and religiously self-sustaining.

There are those who speak glibly of the pious parents and grandparents they had. They show you their pictures and their old and worn prayer books and prayer shawls. But all this has no connection with their own personal lives. As far as they are concerned they are items that rightfully belong to a museum. And the question I ask is: how long can a religion thrive if it is dependent only on the yerushah of our forebears - if we treat these cherished religious items as museum pieces, if we view our forebears as having belonged to some fantastic world - far beyond our reach or interest?

The plea of our sages is that we strive to make the religion of our fathers our own. Only thus can we purge ourselves of moral paralysis - of not being able to be spiritually independent and self-sustaining.

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