As we enter the year of Hakhel, I present for you a translation of a letter the Rebbe wrote in 1980.
By the Grace of G-d
In the Days of Selichos, 5740
“Seventh Year, a Shabbos unto G-d”
To the sons and daughters of our people Israel everywhere, G-d bless you all!
Heartfelt shalom and blessing:
In these days of intensified preparation for Rosh Hashanah:
Rosh Hashanah being not only the beginning of the new year, but also the “head” of the year that influences each and every day of the entire year, “from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”
And bearing in mind the basic principle that “action is the important thing,” namely, the moral lesson that has to be derived and translated into action in the everyday life.
It is appropriate to elaborate on one of the points that has been mentioned only briefly in the previous letter, in connection with the new year being a year of Hakhel, recalling the comprehensive mitzvah, in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, of assembling all the Jews, the men, women, and children, as one kahal (congregation), for the purpose of stimulating them in the observance of mitzvos, and strengthening their faith and yiddishkeit, etc., as discussed in the said letter.
The significance of the term “one kahal,” which characterizes this assemblage, is that in addition to having the quality of an assembly of a number of distinct and different individuals who are assembled together for a certain purpose, in order to achieve a certain goal with concerted efforts, which makes it possible to accomplish a great deal more than could be accomplished by all of them acting independently.
As we see from experience that a person can lift and carry a much larger load when another person helps him lift it. There comes into being an essentially new entity, a kahal, which can accomplish things that could not be done by the individuals, as individuals.
As can be seen from the example of the Mishkan: When the time came to make a sanctuary for the Shechinah, in accordance with G-d’s directive, “Make Me a Mikdash, and I will dwell among them,” it called for contributions of items, such as gold, silver, etc., donated by men, women, and, according to our Sages, also children; which were handed over to the “wise-hearted men,” who were to make the various parts of the Mishkan under the direction of Betzalel and Ahaliav; with Moshe Rabbeinu over them all. And only through all of them together was it possible to make, construct and erect a Mishkan, a fitting abode for G-d’s presence, which caused the extension of G-d’s dwelling also in them – within the heart of each of them.
In a similar way it is with the “small sanctuary” (mikdash me’at), the synagogue: When ten Jews come together to pray, a new entity, a tzibbur (“congregation”), is created; and only then can the Divine precept, “I shall be hallowed in the midst of the children of Israel,” through the recitation of Kaddish, Barchu, Kedushah, etc., be fulfilled. And it effects a change in every one of the congregation in that one becomes a part of a “sacred congregation.”
So it is in connection with Hakhel: It had to be carried out “When all Israel come… (then) read this Torah before all Israel… (in a manner of) hakhel, assemble the people, the men, and the women, and the children” – which made them all into one kahal, and they listened to the Torah “as… if they heard it from G-d,” “as on the day when it was given at Sinai,” when “Israel encamped there facing the mountain: Like one person, with one heart.”
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As mentioned in the letter, even though the mitzvah of hakhel, in its concrete form, is connected with the Beis HaMikdash, nevertheless its spiritual content is relevant in all places and at all times. It is particularly emphasized, however, each year at this time, when on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah the Torah reading is always from the sedra: “You are standing this day, all of you… your heads, … to the drawer of your water.”
On this occasion, too, all Jews stand together – from their highest (“heads”) to the lowest in rank (“water-carrier”) – and all are united with G-d by an everlasting covenant; yet not only as individuals, but in a manner of “all of you” – when all the individuals become one. In this way a new dimension is added to each of the ten categories comprising the Jewish people (as enumerated in the verse), each of them becoming a part of one entity, the Jewish people. And on “this day” (alluding to Rosh Hashanah) all Jews stand united by one and the same thought: to “crown” the Almighty; and by one and the same inner prayer: that He accept the coronation and reveal Himself as “King of Israel” and (also as) “King of All the Earth.”
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…With esteem and with redoubled blessing for a kesiva vachasima tova for a good and sweet year, and for hatzlacha in all above, both spiritually and materially,
Signed: Menachem Schneerson