Weekly Dvar Torah: Hakhel and Joy

Every seven years, after the closing of the year of Shmita, the king had a special Mitzvah to gather all Jewish men, women and children, to the Beis Hamikdash, and he would read some portions of the Torah for the purpose of reinforcing the fear of G-d.

This Mitzvah was performed on the second day of Sukkos.

Every detail of this Mitzvah is most fascinating, the timing, the format, the components and more.

The time was on the second day of Sukkos, the holiday of our rejoicing, Zman Simchaseinu, when the Jewish people rejoice with Hashem, and Hashem rejoices with His people.

It took place during the holiday of Sukkos when all the Jews have to ascend to Jerusalem and celebrate.

The Mitzvah belongs to the king, and the object of the Mitzvah are the Jews.

Just as with the Mitzvah of Tefillin, the obligation is for men to put them on, and the object of the Mitzvah is the Tefillin, or by the Mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles, the obligation is for the women to light them, and the object of the Mitzva is the candles, so too in the case of Hakhel, the obligation is for the king to gather the people, and the object of this Mitzvah is we the people.

The goal of this Mitzvah is to instill the fear and awe of Hashem in every person present, men, women and children, regardless of their ability to comprehend what is being said

When we think about all of the above, we learn some very important and inspiring lessons.

Hakhel happens after Shmita, after a full year of rest, when we could not work the fields and were concentrating on the study of Torah, and now as we are about to embark on six years of working the land, it is the perfect time to refresh our commitment to Hashem with clear rested minds and fresh new energy, to accomplish our mission in life to make the world a dwelling place for G-dliness.

Hakhel happens during a time of Joy, when we are all in good spirits, that’s when we are able to rise above all pettiness and feel close to Hashem, the source of all Joy.

“The Divine Presence rests upon an individual neither from an atmosphere of sadness, ….. but rather from an atmosphere imbued with the joy of a mitzva (Talmud Shabbos 30,2)”.

The whole Mitzvah consists of the gathering of ALL Jews, nobody is left behind, this is the idea of unity, and it happens during Sukkos, the holiday of unity, when we all enter the Sukkah, as the Gemara says, that all Jews are worthy of sitting in one Sukkah (Talmud Sukkah 27,2), there is no limit to the size of Sukkah, we should all be fitting into the same Sukkah, the greatest form of unity.

In the Sukkah we walk in with our entire body, head to toe with all our clothing, no part of our body is excluded from the Sukkah, no distinction between more or less important parts of ourselves.

On Sukkos we use the four kinds which represent all categories of Jews, and we hold them together to shake as one, because this is the festival of unity.

When joyful, by nature we tend to be inclusive, nobody should be left out, we grab each other and dance, dancing alone just doesn’t have the right feel.

Being the object of this once in seven years Mitzvah, feeling rested and refreshed, all the people together as one, during the time of overt unity and joy, reinforcing our love and fear of Hashem while celebrating and feeling G-d’s joy, what better and happier occasion can we ask for.

Just thinking about this should put us on our feet and set us up for the greatest joy, feeling close to Hashem the source of all joy.

Next week we should pile up all these reasons and really rejoice, and literally dance away, because this is when Hashem is close to us and He dwells upon us when we are in a mode of Simcha, true happiness.

And let’s not forget that this is also the week when we pray for all the 70 nations, that they too should have a year of peace and prosperity, and that the entire world should enjoy unity because all good will be in abundance.

When doing so we will be inspired for the rest of the year of Hakhel, to feel close to Hashem and fear Him with our total being, men women and children alike.

What a wonderful feeling to know of and feel the closeness of G-d.

Have a dancing Shabbos and Yomtov,
Gut Shabbos, Gut Yomtov

Rabbi Yosef Katzman

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