Moses commanded them, saying, "At the end of seven years, at
the time of the Sabbatical year, during the Sukkot festival,
When all Israel comes to appear before Hashem, your G-d, in the
place that He will choose, you shall read this Torah before all
Israel, in their ears,
12 Gather together the people - the men, the women, and the small
children, and your stranger who is in your cities -'so that they
will hear and so that they will learn, and they shall fear Hashem,
your G-d, and be careful to perform all the words of this Torah.
Moshe introduces one
of the last commandments in the Torah, the Mitzvah of
Hakheil, (literally - gathering) - the gathering of the entire
Vayikra, Leviticus (25:1-7), we read about how Eretz Yisroel
is governed by a seven-year agricultural cycle. During the seventh
year, the Shmita (Sabbatical) year, no work may be done in
the fields. The time that would otherwise be devoted to material
concerns, are dedicated to Torah study and spiritual development.
At the conclusion
of this period, the entire Jewish people assembled in Yerushalayim,
(Jerusalem), "the place which Hashem chose," during
the Sukkot Yom Tov (holiday). On the first day of Chol
Hamoed (the Intermediate Days of the Yom Tov), the Kohanim
(priests) urged the people to gather in the Bait Hamikdash
(7:8) relates how Hakheil was announced by trumpet blasts:
that day, the Kohanim stood at all the closed and open places
[of Yerushalayim] with golden shofars in their hands. They
sounded the shofars repeatedly."
A high wooden platform
was constructed in the Ezrat Nashim (Women's Courtyard -
the outer courtyard of the Bait Hamikdash) upon which the
king read selected inspirational portions of Devarim, (Deuteronomy)*
to the people. At the conclusion of the reading, he recited seven
blessings**, praising Hashem for causing His presence to
dwell in Eretz Yisroel.
read from the beginning of Devarim to the end of the first
paragraph of the Sh'ma (6:9), the second paragraph of the
Sh'ma (11:13-21), and 14:22 to 28:69. (Talmud Sotah
41a). These passages are all on the general subject of allegiance
to Hashem, the covenant, and reward and punishment. As you
can imagine, this was a deeply moving event for Klal Yisroel.]
1) R'tzay / Accept favorably... 2) Modim Anachnu /We
bow... 3)Ata B'Chartanu / You chose us from all the nations...
4) A blessing for the continued existence of the Bait Hamikdash,
ending Hashochain B'Tzion /He who dwells in Tzion 5) A blessing
for the continuation of the kingship 6) A blessing that Hashem
accept the service of the Kohanim favorably 7) The king's
own tefilla, ending Boruch Shomaya Tefilla / Blessed
be He who listens to prayers.]
the Sabbatical year, Bnei Yisroel had dedicated the major
portion of their energies to Torah study. Then, from Rosh
Hashana to Sukkot, they were preoccupied with the festive
season and the service associated with it. After the Sukkot
holiday, they returned to their homes and their worldly pursuits.
The Hakheil gathering served as a climax for these efforts,
and provided inspiration for the following years.
At the Hakheil
gathering, the Kohanim brought the Torah scroll to
the Kohain Gadol (High Priest), who presented it to the king
as he stood. The participation of these two individuals conveyed
an important lesson. There are three crowns: the crown of royalty,
the crown of Kehuna (priesthood), and the crown of Torah.
In the Hakheil experience, both the Kohain Gadol and
the king demonstrate that the Torah is supreme, above the
- Why did they come? "To learn."
- Why did they come? "To hear."
- Why did they come? "To give reward to those who brought them."
people responded to the Hakheil experience in different ways,
as indicated by this Talmudic passage. However, regardless
of these differences, the gathering left a powerful emotional impact
on all the participants. In Hilchot Chagigah (3:7), the Rambam
was ordained by the Torah to strengthen true faith. Each
individual felt as if he was just commanded to observe it by Hashem
The Torah specifically
obligates women to take part in this Mitzvah: Although women
are generally exempt from performing Mitzvot associated with
a specific time, an exception was made in this instance. The inspiring
effect of Hakheil was necessary for women, too.
The commentaries note
the importance of the children's participation.
ibid) comments that the mitzva of Hakheil is the Biblical
source for our bringing even young children to the Synagogue. (provided
that they are not soiled and do not disturb the service).
relates that children told each other:
remember when my father took me to Yerushalayim. We joined
the huge crowd in the Bait Hamikdash and the king read the
Torah to us."
Such an experience
certainly motivated children to "learn to be in awe of Hashem."
At what age did the
children participate in Hakheil? Ramban notes that
infants were not required to participate. A child was not obligated
to attend until he could understand and learn from the experience.
does not accept this view. He maintains that if it was physically
possible for a child to participate, he was required to attend.
Even if no cognitive impression would remain, the experience would
subconsciously shape his character and spur him to greater Torah
are relevant in educating our children, though one has generally
prevailed. On one hand, Sefer Chasidim sternly warns against
bringing children to the synagogue lest they disturb the worship
of the adults. Nevertheless, it has always been customary to bring
children to synagogue as soon as they are capable of maintaining
decorum. The impressions created by these early experiences play
a major role in the development of the child's Jewish commitment.
relates that the mother of one of the Mishnaic Sages (Rabbi
Yehoshua) used to bring his cradle to the study hall, so that
he could absorb the sounds of Torah study from infancy. In
modern times, it has become acknowledged that the time to inculcate
values in children is from their earliest youth, and especially
by the example of parents and others who sincerely strive for the
ideals they preach. Thus, for bringing their children to Hakheil,
parents deserved to be rewarded, for they demonstrated that the
Torah is precious to them.
in his sefer on Chumash, Nachalat Yaakov, is puzzled
by the Talmud Chagigah's unusual answer - that the reason
for bringing small children to the Bait Hamikdash for Hakheil
is "To give reward to those who brought them."
If all the adults
must be in the Bait Hamikdash for the mitzva of Hakheil,
where will all the children be? Should you leave them at home alone
and unsupervised'? Hakheil is not like the yearly Purim
reading of Megillat Esther, where the mother and father
can go to shul in two shifts so there is always someone to
watch the children. There is only one reading of Hakheil,
and everyone has to be there. So you have to bring the children
anyway. Why is there such a great reward for doing something that
we have to do anyway?
answers that the Talmud is telling us that when there is
something you have to do anyway in order to fulfill a mitzva,
that deed itself is a mitzva. Though bringing the children
is necessary, Hashem is telling us that if we need to do
it anyway, then it becomes an essential part of our own Avodat
Hashem, and the Torah tells us that we will be rewarded
for doing it.
Similarly, says the
Anaf Yosaif, the Talmud cited above shows Hashem's
love for the Jewish people. Hashem converted the necessity
into a "mitzva"; that is, if parents brought the
children l'shaim shamayim - because He so commanded, they
would gain extra reward.
Meam Loez, The Torah Anthology
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