Title: The Tripod
Rabbi Neil Lauer
The holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot are known collectively as the Shalosh Regalim (Three Festivals). They are given this designation because on these holidays there is a Torah commandment to be oleh laregel, for every male to make a pilgrimage to the Beit HaMikdash and bring sacrifices. But why were these three holidays chosen to have this status? What is it about these particular festivals that make them worthy of having this special designation? That is the subject of Rabbi Neil Lauer’s fascinating sefer, The Tripod.
The instinctive response to such a question is to try to find commonality among these three holidays, a unifying aspect to explain why these festivals are treated differently from others. Rabbi Lauer methodically examines the possible connections among these three holidays: the length of the holidays, the rituals observed on each, the seasonal offerings, and the agricultural and historical dimensions mentioned in the Torah. It becomes readily apparent that while there is often a correlation between two of the holidays, the third never seems to fit within that construct. For example, Pesach and Sukkot are each seven days long, while Shavuot is just a single day. There are Torah-prescribed mitzvot associated with Pesach and Sukkot, but none for Shavuot. On Pesach and Shavuot we bring offerings of the seasonal crops, the korban omer of barley and the shtei halechem of wheat, but there is no such offering on Sukkot. Both Shavuot and Sukkot are described in the Torah in relation to agriculture, as the time of harvesting and gathering, respectively, while Pesach is simply labeled the “holiday of springtime.” Finally, while all three holidays memorialize the past, only Pesach and Shavuot commemorate a significant event that occurred at singular points in time, namely our exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. By contrast, on Sukkot we remember the huts in which we lived or the clouds of glory that surrounded us during our time in the desert, an occurrence that spanned 40 years rather than a singular event like the other holidays.
Having exhausted the possible correlations between the three holidays, Rabbi Lauer suggests that it is not the similarities among these three holidays that define them as a unit. Rather, it is the fact that these holidays are all components of a greater whole. Rabbi Lauer demonstrates that there are three fundamental principles of Judaism that manifest themselves in our liturgy and in Jewish thought. Rabbi Lauer’s novel thesis is that the Shalosh Regalim embody these three essential tenets of Jewish faith. With this new perspective, Rabbi Lauer delves into the various aspects of each of the three festivals to understand their essence and significance.
The Tripod is an insightful work that looks at the Shalosh Regalim through a new lens. Rabbi Lauer brings the reader along through his discovery process, explaining each point clearly before moving on. The chapters of the book each contain interesting stand-alone ideas, while at the same time build to important overarching messages. The Tripod is easy to read, yet also challenges the reader to reflect on familiar concepts in a new way. This well-researched book incorporates both classical and contemporary sources. The Tripod offers a fresh perspective on them and is sure to deepen the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the Shalosh Regalim and Judaism as a whole.
The Tripod is published by Mosaica Press, and is available in Jewish bookstores and on Amazon.