Parshat Vayeilech 5783: Hakhel in the Year Immediately Following Shmittah

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShavua, Vayeilech is being sponsored by Benyamin and Tracy Skriloff of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishmas for Benyamin’s Mother Chana bat Benyamin. To the Skriloff family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-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

Parshat Vayeilech 5783: Hakhel in the Year Immediately Following Shmittah

by Moshe Burt

In years where Nitzavim and Vayeilech don’t constitute a double parsha, Vayeilech falls out on Shabbos Shuva. Such has been the case in the previous two years and now.

This author has written in the past of posukim in one Parshat which seem to mirror or correlate with posukim, or with the overriding theme of another Parshat. One notable example of this phenomena is found in the connection between a posuk in Parshat Ki Tisa and and opening posukim of Parshat Pinchas:

“You shall anoint Aaron and his sons and sanctify them [as Kohanim] to minister to Me.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 30, posuk 30 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

“…Pinchas, ben Elazar, son of Aaron HaKohen, turned back My wrath from upon B’nei Yisrael, when he zealously avenged Me among them…. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace. And it should be for him and his offspring after him a covenant of eternal Kehunah because he took vengeance for Keilokei [his Lord], and he atoned for B’nei Yisrael.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 25, posukim 11-13 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

This author views the correlation of the posukim of both Parshiyot as evoking the various scholarly discussions regarding when and how Pinchas came to the Kehunah.

We seem to find a similar correlation between posukim in Parshat Vayakhel of Sefer Shemot and our Parshat Vayeilech — both Parshiyot seem to allude to, or directly address the Mitzvah of Hakhel.

In Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe speaks to the entire B’nei Yisrael explaining the importance of observing Shabbos by way of describing actions prohibited on Shabbos through correlation with the labors necessary to construct the Mishkan, as well as urging the B’nei Yisrael to donate materials needed for the Mishkan’s construction.

In our Parshat Vayeilech, Torah records that Moshe commands a convening of Hakhel:

“At the end of seven years, at the time of the Shemittah [Sabbatical] year, during the Succot festival, when all Yisrael comes to appear before Hashem, Keilokim, …you shall read this Torah [from the beginning of Sefer Devarim (Sefer Devarim, Perek 6, posuk 9) through to the end of Shema (ibid, Perek 11, posukim 13-21 and ibid, Perek 14, posukim 22 through Perek 28, posuk 69 concluding in Parshat Ki Tavo) before all of Israel, in their ears.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posukim 10-11 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary)

The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary provides Rashi’s understanding regarding posuk 10 (page 322):

“At the end of seven years.” — In the first year of the Shmittah cycle which is the eighth year. And why does (Scripture) call it “the Shemittah year” when it is the year that follows the Shemittah year? For the law of the seventh year still applies to it, regarding the harvest of the seventh year crop which goes out to the year following the seventh year, i.e. takes place after the seventh year.

Note citing Rosh Hashana, Daf 12, Amud bet: takes place after the seventh year. If grain attains a third of its growth during the seventh year, or if fruit trees bud during that year, the laws of the seventh year apply to them even if they are not harvested until the following year.

Hakhel is the convening of the entire nation; men, women and children, even the small children, infants — from the wealthiest to the most itinerant woodchopper, to the Ger:

“…So that they will hear and so that they will learn and so they shall fear Hashem, Keilokecha, and be careful to perform all the words of this Torah. (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 12, ibid)

“And their children who do not know — they shall hear and they shall learn to fear Hashem, Keilokecha, all the days that you live on the land to which you are crossing the Yarden, to take possession of it.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 13, ibid)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides additional details regarding Hakhel, including citing a Mishna, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (pages 347-349) :

The Hahkel ceremony took place at the close of the first day of Succot, on the year immediately following Shemittah. During the ceremony, the king, while seated on a wooden platform erected in the courtyard of the Beit Hamikdash, publicly read specific sections from Sefer Devarim, including the first two paragraphs of the Shema.
(Rabbi Goldin citing Mishna Sota 7:8)

…Every effort must be made to ensure that the Torah will remain an “open book,” a text that will be reproduced, studied, analysed and applied.

Hashem chose the Mitzvot of Hakhel, and Ketivat Sefer Torah, as the last two commandments to be delivered by Moshe to the B’nei Yisrael… specifically… to root the Torah text in the hearts and minds of the nations.

Every seven years, the people will assemble in force, young and old alike, to participate in the Mitzvah of Hakhel, to witness its most powerful political figure pledging allegiance to Hashem and His law through the public teaching of the Torah text.

The Torah’s message is clear. The balance a particular society strikes between individual and community will, in large measure, determine the character of the society itself. Only those societies that succeed in striking a healthy balance will eventually endure.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 348-349) :

Hashem commands the Mitzvah of Hakhel… in the presence of the entire nation, thereby injecting the community into the realm of textual study, often seen only in personal terms.

Hashem’s message to the nation… could not be clearer: Community and individuals must work together, hand in hand.

Recognize the personal obligation that each of us bears for the continuity of Judaism’s thought and idea… The flavor of your personal observance, the contributions you make to Judaism’s thought, the teachings you share with your children will all enter the flow of your nation’s journey and will help shape your people’s character. Each of you is cherished and each of you can make a unique contribution to the whole.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!

Good Shabbos Shuva! May You, All of My Brothers and Sisters, be Inscribed and Sealed for another Year of Life… Now and always!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.