Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

An interesting and timely acquisition I came across recently is the first edition of a small book (just 27 pages long) on Hakhel, authored and published anonymously by Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim (known as the “Aderet,” 1843-1905), who served as rabbi of Ponovezh and was the father in-law of R. Abraham Isaac Kook. Printed in 1889 in Warsaw and titled Zecher Lamikdash, the book was written anonymously and includes an approbation by the author himself.

The mitzvah of Hakhel refers to the Torah commandment of assembling all Jewish men, women and children once every seven years following the Shemittah year, such as this current year. The ceremony took place during the holiday of Sukkot, and the assembled people would hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel.

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Though the mitzvah is understood to apply only when the Jews are all residing in Eretz Yisrael, the Aderet in this work and in an additional book he wrote on the subject encouraged to idea of reviving the mitzvah of Hakhel in modern times. While the Aderet didn’t live to see the idea put in to practice, since the 1940s every seven years a zecher l’Hakhel ceremony has taken place at the Kotel, despite some rabbinic opposition. In the second such ceremony, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel participated.

Zecher LaMikdash was originally published with several approbations, including by R. Shmuel Mohliver, R. Yosef Dovber Halevi Soloveitchik (the Beis Halevi) and the above-noted haskamah by the author himself. Despite the book being written by himself, the Aderet appended to his haskamah a lengthy list of comments on the book that was appended to the approbation and published within the book.

From his introduction:

“I saw the book Zecher Lamikdash, small in size but of great quality, whose author discusses the mitzvah of Hakhel. I rejoiced in finding a savior to this mitzvah, and we shall be grateful for the author, may G-d be at his side. We see that the author has his intentions for G-d’s name as he published it anonymously, and in addition, has devoted the book to those that live on the mount of Hashem.”

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.