PILGRIMAGE - As a Form of Worship?
The journey or pilgrimage to the long-awaited meeting with the rabbi to give a pidyon (gift) and kvitl (note) and to receive a shmire (token) and a blessing is accompanied by great excitement and with the intention of fulfilling a mitzvah (commandment), just as any other commandment. A description of such a journey to R. David Moshe Friedman of Chortków (1828–1900), the son of R. Israel Friedmann of Ruzhin (1797–1850), encapsulates these intentions:
"And so, the main part of the journey to the rabbi lies in its preparation, since the pilgrimage is akin to all other mitzvoth, and as in all other mitzvoth a person has to prepare himself with introspection to begin with, so, too, the pilgrimage to the rabbi requires preparation and introspection in advance. And what does this entail? Uniting the Holy One blessed- be-He and the Shekhinah by means of this mitzvah or this pilgrimage to the rabbi. And there are two kinds of preparation: that is to say, the general preparation and the personal preparation: The general prepa ration entails first thinking of uniting the Holy One blessed-be-He and the Shekhinah by performing this mitzvah and the private preparation is to think of the essence of the mitzvah and this a person shall achieve through fear of Heaven, as it is written “the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord” (Ps. 111:10), that is to say, through fear of the Lord in Torah study and in prayer, a person can approach the source of wisdom, which is its inner essence, achieved through Torah study and the commandments, each on his or her own level.
"And when the person who is on pilgrimage to the rabbi engages in this preparation, then the tzaddik pours the abundance of his holiness upon the pilgrim and uplifts the acts of Torah study and commandments of the pilgrim to their roots [in the upper sefirot – heavenly spheres] and lights up his eyes and heart to comprehend even more of the inner meaning of his Torah and commandments. And this is an act of immeasurable benefit, and he who journeys more often to the rabbi will [thus] achieve more, for this is with- out end … and with every step, as he draws closer to the tzaddik’s place of abode, he shall achieve more and more. This is similar to someone who sees a fire from afar; as he approaches closer he sees the light shining before him more and more. David Moshe Friedman of Czortkow, Divrei David (Czortkow, 1904).