Rav Yehuda taught in the name of Rav that when the Jewish people came to Jerusalem to fulfill the commandment of aliya la-regel (pilgrimage) on the holidays of Pesah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot, there was always enough space for everyone to bow at the appropriate time, even though there was little room on the Temple grounds and people needed to stand close together. This was one of the ten miracles that are recorded by the Mishna in Massekhet Avot (see Chapter 5).
These miracles include:
- No woman ever miscarried from smelling the meat of the sacrifices
- The meat of the sacrifices never spoiled
- No fly was ever seen in the Temple
- The High Priest never became impure before Yom Kippur
- There was never a problem with the Omer that was cut, neither with the shtei ha-lehem (the 2 loaves offered on Shavu’ot), nor with the lehem ha-panim
- The people would be crowded together, and yet would have room to bow down
- Neither snake nor scorpion ever injured someone in Jerusalem
- No one ever complained that there was no room for him in Jerusalem.
Although these are all described as miracles, in his commentary on Aggada, Shem-Tov ibn Shaprut argues that they can all be explained rationally. In his opinion, these “miracles” were not unnatural events, but rather it was the care and concern engendered by the holiness of the Mikdash that kept these things from taking place. For example, the kohanim were so careful and committed to their work that they made sure that the sacrifices were brought in a timely fashion to prevent the meat from spoiling or attracting flies, the communal sacrifices were never found to have problems, and the Kohen Gadol never became impure. Jerusalem was such a popular and busy place that snakes and scorpions never found ruins or abandoned areas to breed. And thanks to the high level of friendliness and concern for others, the people looked out for one another and made sure that there was always room for everyone