Vayelech: Hak'hel

An awesome event.

Aloh Naaleh

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

In the days of the Beit HaMikdash, a septennial assembly called Hak'hel was held on the Sukkot festival following the Shmittah year. Throngs of men, women and children would gather to hear the king of Israel read portions from the Book of Devarim. Rambam teaches us that this awesome event was designed to reenact the Divine revelation and the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai:

"Proselytes who do not understand must set their hearts and lend their ears to listen with awe, fear and trembling joy, like the day on which it was given at Sinai. Even great scholars who know the entire Torah must listen with
A return to field and vineyard does not necessitate an abandonment of spiritual life.
exceedingly intense concentration. And one who cannot hear should think this reading in his mind, because the Torah established it only to reinforce the true faith. And one should see himself as if he is now commanded with regard to it, and hears it from the mouth of the Almighty; for the king is a messenger conveying the words of the Almighty." (Hilchot Chagigah 3:6)

But why after the Shmittah year? What is the unique link between Shmittah and Hak'hel?

Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in his Meshech Chochmah, explains that the Sabbatical year provides the Jewish farmer with a year free from agricultural labor and an opportunity to explore Torah study and spiritual aspects of life. Returning to the land contains an inherent danger of being swallowed up by the pursuit of material and economic goals. Hak'hel, thus, reminds the farmer that a return to field and vineyard does not necessitate an abandonment of spiritual life. On the contrary, the inspiration of the Mt. Sinai experience will inspire mitzvah motivation in working the land.

Sowing and reaping in the Holy Land can, and should be, a religious experience.
Rabbi Reuven Grodner resides in Kfar Adumim. He is the Director of the Hillel-Hecht Beit Midrash at the Hebrew University and an instructor of Talmud at the Pardes Institute. He is the author of the two-volume work The Spirit of Mishnaic Law.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.