Hakehel Unity Law and Order
One of the last mitzvos in the Torah is the mitzvah of Hakhel (הקהל). The pasuk says:
ויצו משה אותם לאמר מקץ שבע שנים במעד שנת השמטה בחג הסכות, בבוא כל ישראל לראות את פני ה’ אלהיך במקום אשר יבחר תקרא את התורה הזאת נגד כל ישראל באזניהם, הקהל את העם האנשים והנשים והטף וגרך אשר בשעריך למען ישמעו ולמען ילמדו ויראו את ה’ אלהיכם ושמרו לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת
And Moshe commanded them, saying “At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of Shemitah, during the Holiday of Sukkos, when all of Yisroel has come to appear before the Hashem your G-d in the place which He shall choose, you shall read this Torah before all Yisroel and they should hear it. Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and the convert that is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Hashem your G-d, and observe to do all the words of the Torah (Devarim 312:10-12).
On the night after the first day of the Yom Tov of Sukkos, during a year that followed Shemitah (like this year), all of Klal Yisroel got together in the Beis Hamikdash to hear certain portions of the Torah read to them. (All the sources agree that the reading was from the book of Devarim, the words “this Torah” are understood to refer to it specifically).
This was a time especially conducive to achdus (unity). All loans were cancelled on Shemitah and on Sukkos we leave the material comforts of our own home and dwell in our Sukkah instead. The removal of the distractions of money and the material world cause the entire nation to fully bond with each other. This is because the entire nation is refocused on the spiritual side of life with an awareness that the entire nation is ultimately part of one neshama (soul). As we learned in last week’s parsha,we all enter into arvus – becoming guarantors for one another. As a result of this, we become fitting to repent as a unified nation upon hearing the spiritual lessons which were featured in the reading of Hakhel.
As well as being a lofty and spiritual moment, Hakhel was also necessary on a physical level. After a Shemitah year, when all fields are left hefker (free for everyone);the poor man, the rich man, the passer-by and even the owner have equal rights to the produce. At the end of the Shemitah year, all unpaid loans are nullified (in other words, regardless of when the money was borrowed and when it was due, once the end of the Shemitah year arrives, it is forbidden for the lender to exact payment). Both of these laws might cause someone to begin thinking, “
– What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” which is considered the category of unlearned people (Avos 5:13). The passuk says, “וכל בניך למודי ה׳ – all of your children are learned in Hashem (Yeshaya 54:13).” Therefore, immediately following Shemittah, there was the Mitzvah of Hakehel which required men, women and children to be present so as to say: Re-acquaint yourselves with the laws of the Torah which includes the laws of ownership, because from now until the next Shemitah year every Jew must be scrupulous in respecting the proprietary and property rights of others.
A Gutten Shabbos and Gemar Chasimah Tovah
Rabbi Dovid Sochet