|Positive Mitzvah Fifty-Two
The Three Annual Pilgrimages
We are commanded to go up to the Sanctuary three times a year. Scripture makes it clear that this going up means going with a sacrifice (Devarim 16:16), i.e. the Festival Shelamim (Peace)-offering. The Sifre says, "Three Mitzvot are observed on a Festival, and these are they - feasting, appearing before Hashem, and rejoicing." (Devarim 16:11) The Gemara of Chagigah also says, "Three Mitzvot are enjoined upon Yisrael on a Festival - feasting, appearing before Hashem, and rejoicing." (Chag. 6b) By "feasting" means bringing a Shelamim-offering, which is not obligatory on women.
The Mishnah relates the importance of this Mitzvah in ancient Yisrael. That among the regular officers serving in the Temple was one appointed to dig wells and cisterns to provide water for the pilgrims to Yerushalayim (Shek.5.1). A month before the Pesach Festival laborers were sent out by the Sanhedrin to repair the paths and roads that had been damaged by the winter rains, in readiness for the approaching pilgrimage (Shek. 1.1)
According to Josephus 2,565,000 pilgrims made their appearance in Yerushalayim for the Pesach on one occasion (War of the Jews, 6.9)