Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Concerning the year of Hakhel, the following is from a letter of the Rebbe dated 6 Tishrei 5734 (1974) – a year of Hakhel. In this letter, the Rebbe calls the Jewish nation “a Hakhel people.”

“…the Jewish community is not limited to the time when they are in a state of a ‘full moon,’ but also when in exile, ‘spread and dispersed among the nations.’ For even then, they are ‘one people, whose laws are different from those of all other nations’ – a fact that is known to and acknowledged by all nations of the world.

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“Because even when Jews are in Golus (exile), it is only the Jewish body that is in exile, but the Jewish soul is never exiled and is free from any external subjugation. Consequently, also while in exile Jews must not ignore their task, nor underestimate their capacities, however limited their material powers may be, inasmuch as a Jew’s material resources, as already noted, are bound up with the spiritual, and in the spiritual realm there are no limitations, also during the time of exile.

“In plain words: Wherever Jews find themselves, in the Diaspora or in the Land of Israel, even a single Jew in a remote corner of the earth – it behooves every Jew and Jewish community to remember that they are part of the whole Jewish people and are representatives of the entire Jewish people, the one people ever since the Torah was given at Mount Sinai and until the end of time.

“What has been said above also has special relevance to the new year we have just entered, the year of Hakhel – “Gather together the people – the men and the women and the children,” which reminds us of the mitzvah that was observed in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, immediately following the year of Shemittah, (Sabbatical Year), during the Festival of Succos. On this occasion all Jews, men, women, and even small children, were gathered in the Beis HaMikdash, and the king read to them certain portions from the Torah, and all present ‘listened with rapt attention, with reverence and awe and joyous trepidation, as on the day when the Torah was given at Sinai . . . and they felt as if they were now receiving the Torah for the first time from G-d Himself, for the king was the emissary to convey the words of G-d.’

“And while the mitzvah of Hakhel, in its plain and actual application, is connected with the existence of the Beis HaMikdash and cannot now be actually carried out, it is nevertheless like other mitzvos of this category, extant and applicable spiritually also in the time of exile and everywhere, since the Torah is eternal also in its details and not limited in time and place.

“Thus, the mitzvah of Hakhel reminds us that wherever Jews are, and however dispersed they may be, each one remains an integral part of the Hakhel-people, the one people, through embodying in oneself and in one’s daily life the one Torah, as in the day when it was given by the one G-d; and everyone, without exception, has the G-d-given task to ‘hear, and learn, and fear G-d, your G-d, and observe and do all the words of the Torah.’

“And this is also the ultimate purpose and factor that should animate and direct all decisions of every Jewish society, organization, community, and the like.

“This is also the way to bring closer the true and complete Geula (Redemption) through our Righteous Moshiach, who ‘will restore the Beis HaMikdash and gather in the dispersed ones of the people Israel,’ which will bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy, ‘I will restore unto the nations a clear language, that they all will call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one consent,’ and, finally, bring all the world to its highest perfection of being ‘filled with the knowledge of G-d as waters cover the seas.’”

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