Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As we are at the beginning of a Shnas Hakhel, Year of Hakhel, here are two letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe concerning the Year of Hakhel.

On 18 (Chai) Elul 5712, the Rebbe wrote:

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“…At the end of this Shemittah (Sabbatical) Year, and on the threshold of the New Year, we are reminded of the great mitzvah, which is “a strong pillar and a great credit to our religion” (Sefer HaChinuch) – the mitzvah of Hakhel, when all the people, men, women, and children gathered during the Festival of Sukkos at the holy place i  Jerusalem – may it be rebuilt by our righteous Messiah, speedily in our time – to hear selected portions of the Torah, portions inspiring to piety, love and appreciation of the Torah, and the observance of the mitzvos, particularly the mitzvah of tzedakah.

“Although at all times we are commanded to bring up our children in the way of the Torah and mitzvos, the mitzvah of Hakhel, coinciding with this season, impresses upon us our duties towards the children with special force and timeliness.

“Therefore, let every Jewish father and mother, every Rabbi and leader, every communal worker and person of influence, heed the call of the mitzvah of Hakhel: to gather the masses of Jewish children and bring them to the yeshivos, talmud Torahs and Torah – true educational institutions – to increase in Torah-tzedakah, the support of true Torah institutions and ensure their existence and growth, in order that all Jewish children, boys and girls, be brought up in the spirit of piety and love for G-d, love for the Torah and mitzvos, and love for one another.”

On 19 Kislev 5748, the year of Hakhel, the Rebbe wrote:

“…The mitzvah of Hakhel, as ordained in the Torah, is that at the end of every seven years, immediately after the year of Shemittah, when Jews make their pilgrimage to the Bais HaMikdosh (Temple), during the festival of Sukkos, all Jews had to be gathered (Hakhel) – the men and the women and the children, even babies, and the king read to them sections from the Torah, selected for their content to stimulate Jews in the observance of mitzvos and strengthen them in their faith and in Yiddishkeit, and it made a profound impression on them, as if they heard it from G-d himself.

“Although the mitzvah of Hakhel, in its concrete and plain form, is connected with the time of the Bais HaMikdosh, there is the well-known principle that all matters that are connected with the Beis HaMikdosh, such as sacrifices and the like, are in their spiritual content relevant at all times. This is why the daily prayers, which have been enacted in the place of the sacrifices, substitute for them. A Jew prays with all his heart, offers himself completely in submission to his Creator, and is ready to sacrifice the best of his possessions and his most passionate interests (the “fat and the blood”) to the will of G-d – and it is acceptable to G-d as a “burnt offering” in the Beis HaMikdosh. Indeed, also during the times when Jews had a central Sanctuary and Mikdosh and actually offered sacrifices there, it was the Jewish heart that He desired most, in accordance with His imperative, request, and promise: “Let them make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them” – in their most innermost Jewish hearts.

“It is also obvious how strongly the mitzvah of Hakhel emphasizes the Torah-education of our children. It follows that also those who are grown in years but are still “children” in Yiddishkeit; all those “who know not,” who, for one reason or another, did not get the proper Jewish education, and even those who belong to the category of “one who knows not to ask,” namely, those who do not know, and do not feel, that they miss something and should ask and seek help – these also must be assembled to let them hear and learn what Torah is, what a mitzvah is, in a manner of learning that would imbue them with the fear of G-d, and , most importantly, that they should “observe and do all the words of this Torah,” the Torah from Sinai that shall never be changed – all of the above with such impact, “as if they heard it from G-d himself.”

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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at Lubavitchyouth@gmail.com.