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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Vayelech

Everyone Is Going

"Do I really have to go, Abba?"

"Yes, Avi."

"Who else is going?"

"The whole family - Imma and I, and all of your brothers and sisters."

"What about Saba and Savta?"

"They are going also."

"Uncle Aaron and Aunt Rachel?"

"Yes, along with their children."

"What about the next-door neighbors?"

"They are all going - even the little infant and their great-grandfather."

"Everybody on our street?"

"Of course."

"Is there anyone who is not going?"

"Not that I know of."

"But why? It must be a very important event if everyone is going."

"It is. Once event seven years, the entire Jewish nation - men, women, and children, gathers together on the second day of Succos in the Beis HaMikdash."

"What do they do over there?"

"They listen."

"That's good. You always tell me that it is important to listen. What do they listen to?"

"Words of Torah, from the beginning of Sefer Devarim."

"But we just read the beginning of Sefer Devarim two months ago in the Beis HaKinesses. Didn't they hear it then?" "Okay, Avi. I will tell you the whole story. We are going to perform a very important mitzvah called Hakhel. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that we gather the entire Jewish nation together to perform this mitzvah. The foundation of Klal Yisrael is the Torah. It is what separates us from the other nations. It is or glory and our greatness. It guarantees us a wonderful life, in this world and the next. Therefore, it is only fitting that we gather everyone together to hear these words of Torah. This demonstrates its paramount importance. In addition, it fills everyone's heart with a tremendous desire to learn Torah. From learning Torah, they will come to know Hashem, and merit to receive all of His goodness."

"Wow. It really is important to go. I want to be a part of this National Mitzvah. When everyone gets together, I want to be there."

Kinderlach . . .

What is the most important thing in our lives? The Torah. We have no mitzvah of Hakhel in our days. How do we show the importance of the Torah? We stand up and kiss the Sefer Torah when it is removed from the Aron Kodesh. We stand up when a Talmid Chochom approaches us. He is a living Sefer Torah. Most importantly, we learn Torah with all of our koach (strength). We listen to shiurim (Torah lectures). We stretch our minds to understand Hashem's Word. And we review it many times until we remember it. It becomes a part of us. It sinks into our bones and our hearts. And it guides our lives. Kinderlach, you should all be adorned with the glorious crown of Torah.


"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."

"How, Abba?"

"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."

"Why, Abba?"

"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.

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