"This year is a very special, kinderlach. It contains a very rare mitzvah."
"Which mitzvah Abba?"
"Hakhel. In the times of the Beis HaMikdash we had an opportunity to perform this mitzvah only once every seven years."
"Please tell us about it, Abba."
"On the first day of Chol HaMoed Succos, on the year after the shmitta year, the chatzotzros (horns) would be blown in Yerushalayim. This would be the call for all of Klal Yisrael, men, women, and children, to gather together in the Beis HaMikdash. The king would sit or stand on a wooden bimah in the ezras noshim and read selected portions from Sefer Devarim."
"It sounds magnificent, Abba. What was the reason behind this huge gathering and reading?"
"The Keli Yakar has a fascinating explanation of the deep meanings of this mitzvah. The words that the king reads from Sefer Devarim are words of tochacha (constructive criticism). They are meant to arouse the people to do teshuva (correct their mistakes)."
"Teshuva? Chol HaMoed Succos is just six days after Yom Kippur. Why would we need to do teshuva so soon after being cleansed of all of his aveyros?"
"Excellent question, Chaim. The first four days after Yom Kippur, we are busy gathering the daled minim (four species), building the Succah, and preparing for the chag. There is no time to do aveyros. The first day of Succos is rich in mitzvos. One mitzvah brings another mitzvah; therefore, a tsaddik will not sin on that day either. The next day, the sixteenth of Tishrei, is the first day that aveyros are recorded for the new year. On that day, we need to do teshuva to keep us on the straight path. Hakhel prepares us for that teshuva."
"I will explain, Avi. Firstly, we gather together all of Klal Yisrael, men, women, and children. The huge gathering brings unity, which is essential to the acceptance of teshuva."
"Klal Yisrael can do teshuva either as individuals or as a unified group. Hashem will accept an individual's teshuva during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Now, six days after Yom Kippur, they had lost that opportunity. Hashem would accept their teshuva only if the people were united. They needed the unity of Hakhel to promote acceptance of their teshuva."
"That is so interesting."
"This unity is hinted to in the mitzvah of the first day of Succos. 'You shall take for yourselves on the first day (of Succos) the fruit of a beautiful tree (esrog), the branches of date palms (lulav), the twigs of myrtle tree (hadassim), and willows (aravos)' [Vayikra 23:40]. Our Sages relate that the four species represent four types of Jews who all unite to do the will of The Creator. The Succah itself also promotes peace. We leave our permanent homes to dwell in the temporary Succah, sheltered by Hashem's peace, as we say in our tefillos, 'spread upon us Your Succah of peace.'"
"How inspiring, Abba! However, I have a question. If Succos is so strongly tied to peace and unity, why do we observe hakhel only once every seven tears, after the shmitta year?"
"Aha! I was waiting for someone to ask that question, Esti. During the shmitta year, the produce of Eretz Yisrael becomes hefker (ownerless). Poor people can come and eat for free. This surely promotes shalom, because most disputes stem from disagreements about ownership. 'This is mine and not yours!' On shmitta, the produce is hefker; therefore, there are no arguments over who owns it. Two weeks after the end of the shmitta year is the ideal time to promote harmony in Klal Yisrael."
"Abba, we never realized the depth of the mitzvah of hakhel! It was quite an event."
"May we all merit fulfilling it this year."
Kinderlach . . .
This week is Shabbos Shuva. We stand in the midst of the days of teshuva, five days before Yom Kippur. This is the special time of the year that Hashem accepts the teshuva of individuals. We can each return to Him without the assistance of the Klal. This is a wonderful opportunity, kinderlach. In olden times, we had the mitzvah of hakhel to help us do teshuva after Yom Kippur. Nowadays, we do not have that mitzvah. Therefore, it is very worthwhile for us to seize the golden opportunity to do teshuva now, during these ten days. Return to Hashem! Wipe out aveyros! Do more mitzvos! Wipe your slate clean this Yom Kippur.
Hide and Seek
In times of tsaros (suffering), people may ask, "Where is Hashem?" Sickness, poverty, terrorism, family strife; where is Hashem? They may wonder, "How can a merciful G-d allow so much suffering?"
"And I will surely hide My Face on that day, for all of the evil that it did, because it turned to other gods" Devarim (31:18). Hashem hides His Face (so to speak). He "turns away" and allows the troubles to descend upon Klal Yisrael. Is this fair? Does the punishment fit the crime? It seems that the suffering outweighs the sin. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Hester Panim (Hashem's hiding His Face) is just and fair. Klal Yisrael turned away from Him. They followed foreign gods. They hid their faces from Him; therefore, He hides His Face from them. Serving foreign gods is like denying the whole Torah. Therefore, the tsaros come.
What is the remedy? To turn towards Him. To serve Him. To fulfill His mitzvos with joy. To speak to Him in prayer. To listen to His words of Torah. To help fellow Jews, His children. When the Jewish people turn towards Him, He turns to them. Seek Him and He will not hide.
Kinderlach . . .
Are you thinking about Hashem right now? What can you do this minute to please Him? Can you help Imma with the baby? Can you learn a Mishnah? Can you pray with kavannah (concentration)? Can you cheer someone up? Can you listen to someone who needs to talk? These are all ways to serve Hashem. Think about Him. Ignore those distractions that modern technology brings you on the little screen. They only serve to turn you away from Him. Turn towards Him. Stop playing the "hide" game. Instead, "seek" Him. Uncover the "hidden face".
Which blessing did Moshe Rabbeinu give Klal Yisrael? (31:6)
Which blessing did Moshe Rabbeinu give Yehoshua? (31:7,8,23)
Which "shira" did Moshe write? (31: 19,22,24)
Kinder Torah Copyright 2008 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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