This paper examines R. Judah he-Ḥasid’s approach towards journeys to distant places, including pilgrimage to the land of Israel. Unlike other twelfth-century rabbinic authorities who did not object to travel for various purposes and, in certain cases, even encouraged it, R. Judah he-Ḥasid held a uniform, consistent approach that opposed almost any journey beyond the local area. Some scholars have suggested that R. Judah he-Ḥasid’s opposition to undertaking a pilgrimage to the land of Israel reflects his opposition to messianic activism. However, this study suggests that R. Judah he-Ḥasid’s negative approach towards traveling to Palestine ought to be examined in light of his overall rejection of travel. In his writings, R. Judah he-Ḥasid laid out a new path to achieve redemption and atonement for one’s sins. This path does not depend on physical journeys to holy places or on the national redemption of the Jewish people, but rather aimed at achieving personal redemption, through the adoption of the pietistic way of life as detailed by R. Judah he-Ḥasid in Sefer Ḥasidim: repentance by confessing one’s sins before a sage and performing the prescribed mortification rites. This approach remained unique in Jewish thought, yet one can find parallels in Christian theology of the tension between stability and inner self-improvement, on the one hand, and the advantages of a physical journey to holy sites to achieve atonement for sins.
- Jewish-Christian relations
- R. Judah he-Ḥasid