Parshat Vayeilech 5776: Internalizing the Message of Hakhel During the Ten Days of Teshuvah

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua Vayeilech is being sponsored by Nachum and Michal Kligman of Ramat Beit Shemesh in thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for all the Blessings He has given us. To the Kligman family, many thanks for your continued kindnesses. May you know only simcha, success, good health, nachas from your children, and only good things in the year to come and in all years to at least 120!

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 5776: Internalizing the Message of Hakhel During the Ten Days of Teshuvah

By Moshe Burt

This year our Parshat Vayeilech falls out on Shabbos Shuva and 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.

Sefer L’lmod U’Lamed (page 188) notes that the Hakhel is meant:

To emphasize the need for parents to maintain close watch on their children’s development… To set the proper example for their children, especially during the early years when they are their children’s primary role models.

R’ Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” builds on this theme of parents closely following their children’s development:

Rashi cites the Talmud (Chagigah3a) that the young children are brought along in order to bring reward to their parents.

… Even though they [young children] do not understand what is being said, just being there when the king reads the Torah in the presence of the entire nation will have a major influence on the child for the rest of his life. He gains an experience of how important Torah is for the entire people. This teaches us even today to do all we can that children should learn at an early age the extreme importance of Torah. Every experience makes an impression… (Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm: “Chochmah Umussar,” vol. 1, page 150)

So we learn from Torah, with the added clarity of the above citings that the nurturing of children in 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-aggrandized, 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?”

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’nai 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 brethren Jonathan Pollard and 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 last summer’s Gaza war. 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 V’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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