Parshat Vayeilech 5777: The Message of Hakhel and Shabbos Shuva

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat Vayeilech is being sponsored by Benjamin and Gina Fishman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for the continued improving health of their daughter Rivka Nechama bat Gittel Yehudis. To the Fishman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayeilech 5777: The Message of Hakhel and Shabbos Shuva

By Moshe Burt

Once again, this year our Parshat Vayeilech falls out on Shabbos Shuva. Our Parsha speaks at length about the Mitzvah of Hakhel — the communal gathering which took place every seven years; that is at the beginning of the year following the end of the Sh’mittah year. The Artscroll Stone Chumash explains (page 1095):

The mitzvah of Hakhel is where Sefer Devarim is read by the [reigning] Jewish king through to the end of Shema (Sefer Devarim, Perek 6, posuk 9), the second paragraph of the Shema (Perek 11, posukim 13-21) and from Perek 14, posuk 22 through to Perek 28, posuk 69 which concludes in Parshat Ki Tavo.

The Hakhel is a Mitzvah dating back to Moshe Rabbeinu’s mussar talk on the last day of his life when he convened the entire nation; men, women and children — from the wealthiest to the most itinerant woodchopper, to the Ger:

…So that they may hear and so that they may learn and fear Hashem and guard to do all the words of Torah. (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 12)

Sefer Shem Mishmuel, written by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, z”l, the Rebbe of Sochaczev, as rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski beautifully explains why Israel’s reigning king’s role in reading Hakhel is crucial (page 425):

The Rambam notes that the king is a central focus for Klal Yisrael, a product of their communal needs — like the heart within a body:

His heart is the heart of all Klal Yisrael… (Rambam, Yad, Hilchos Melachim 3:6)

Since the king is the heart of the people, it must be he who reads from the Torah at Hakhel. For Hakhel… is a very special moment in Jewish national observance. It is the time when Klal Yisrael reconnects to their source by internalizing the most basic messages of the Torah. It is therefore fitting that the “heart” of the people should activate this re-connection, for just as the physical heart pumps blood through the whole body, so too does the spiritual heart — the king –infuse his entire nation with the ideas of the Torah.

This author has noted over the years that the concept of the Hakhel learned back in Philadelphia, back in the “Old Country,” was that even infants, those not even yet cognizant of language would be touched by this communal gathering and be affected by the enunciation of Halachot.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash notes on Hakhel (Commentary on Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 12):

The time to inculcate values in children is from their earliest youth, and especially by the example of the parents and others who sincerely strive for the ideals they preach…. Thus, for bringing their children to Hakhel, parents deserved to be rewarded, for they demonstrated that the Torah was precious to them.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 1094) cites Or HaChaim who cited a teaching of the Zohar:

The most holy and righteous people are sensitive to spirituality, and are able to tell when the soul begins to ebb away from the body.

So we learn from Torah, with the added clarity of the above citings, that an insightful Torah, Mussar atmosphere and surroundings insures the growth of a Torah-rooted generation and of Torah-grounded leaders rather than a self-affectionated, self-aggrandised, self-serving, corruption-
laden political, governmental “leadership” of intrigue.

We learn in our Parsha (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 16);

“Hashem said to Moshe. ‘When you go and lie with your ancestors this nation will rise up and stray after the [false deities] of the land into which they are coming. They will thus abandon Me and violate the covenant that I have made with them.’”

Torah Gems, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg (page 314) cites a Mikra MeForash which notes;

Torah refers to this as “rising up”, when it would seem more proper to use a verb such as “to descend.” Rather, what this teaches us is that the people will rise up. They, rather than their leaders, will be the rulers, and that will result in their falling to the lowest depths.

The “people”, rather than their [Torah] leaders, will be the rulers resulting in the nation’s fall to the depths?

Then, in the very next posuk (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 17);

“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles will befall them…”

How very much does this Torah Gems citing sound like modern-day self-affectionated, self-aggrandizing, corrupt Israeli Torah-devoid governance, even amongst some “religious” sectors — i.e. where some prominent political “leaders” hold that same-gender is acceptable, rather than the abomination which Hashem’s Torah deems it? And how very much this citing sounds like the great rhetorical noise, i.e., which Israel’s so-called “leaders” make — about the advent of Iranian nukes, or after terror attacks, or after massive day-after-day rocket blitzes from Gaza — rhetorical noise (boasts) which translate into far less than total victory in a War for Torah? These same so-called “leaders,” these big, brave Shotrim who show mercy to the cruel, arrest and persecute Jews who fight for Eretz Yisrael and for the Torah way against internal ruling subversion?

How very much these so-called big, brave “leaders” and their Shabaknikim and Yassamnikim “Shotrim” fit the descriptions of the above citings, i.e. the “people”, rather than their [Torah] leaders, will be the rulers resulting in the nation’s fall to the depths, as they smash Jewish heads and abuse women and babies in the dead of night and on Shabbos in countless venues? And how very much does this anti-Torah mercy to the cruel translate in the mindset of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLO, ISIL, Iran, etc. as weakness of the Jewish nation and her leaders, rendering Israel as weak and hypocritical before the nations?

Oh, that the Netanyahus, Bennetts, Lapids, Baraks, Livnis and a host of other wimp, Torah-lacking politicians, with their fingers in the air to see which way the populous wind blows, would come to realize and internalize Jewish values, as well as the rest of the above posuk (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 17):

They will say on that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because Hashem is not within me?”

And so, it seems very noteworthy that our Parshat Vayeilech is singled out, as it was last year, to fall out on Shabbos Shuva. In last week’s Parshat Nitzavim, Torah records Moshe relating the words of Hashem to Am Yisrael:

“It will be that when these things come upon you — the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you — then you will take it to heart among all the nations where Hashem, your G’d, has dispersed you; and you will return unto Hashem, your G’d and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today…” (rendered to English in The Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Perek 30, posukim 1-2)

The sefer “Majesty of Man”, by Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz renders “you will take it to heart” as “you shall call to mind” and cites S’forno (“Majesty of Man”, pages 283-284):

…This “calling to mind” is not simply a reminiscence of past events but a deep introspection by every Jew into his own subconscious. This reflection is necessary to determine the motivations for every deed he does. Once he has clarified the motivating factors, he can establish if they are in accordance with Torah. This is the essence of teshuvah — sincere introspection followed by honest comparison of one’s thoughts and deeds with the Torah’s absolute standards of right and wrong.

Rabbi Leibowitz then indicates that this thought of S’forno is echoed by Rabbeinu Bechaya in his sefer “Chovos HaLevavos” — Obligations of the Heart” and comments (ibid, page 284):

Bearing in mind the complexity of each individual, how is it possible to search for and find our true motivations? Though each person has his own complicated psychological code to decipher, the Torah assures us that every person is capable of breaking the code. Hashem has created each of us with the unique power of self-analysis. This great potential heightens our responsibility to scrutinize all our actions and correct them as well as [correcting] the motivating factors behind them.

Thus, it seems clear that the Hakhel of our Parsha connects with Shabbos Shuva as Hakhel would re-instill, reinvigorate and rejuvenate Torah, halacha and spirituality in our hearts, minds and subconsciousness, as well as to inculcate and nurture Torah values in children is from their earliest youth.

It seems to this author that these questions, points and more regarding both Parshat Nitzavim, and our parsha are crucial for the Kehal — the Am, today’s political governmental leaders, as well as for Rabbanim to internalize and ponder long and hard during Asseret Yomei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentence before Yom Kippur).

To repeat the point this author made in Parshat Nitzavim, Asserting and taking Mutual responsibility — it may just be key to The Ge’ula!

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos Shuva! May You, All of My Brothers, Sisters, be Sealed, for another Year of Life… Now and Always!

Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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