August 28, 2015

The Hakhel Mitzva

Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah Chagigah – Perek 3

It is a positive commandment to gather together the entire Jewish people – men, women, and children – after every Sabbatical year when they ascend for the pilgrimage holiday and to read so that they hear passages from the Torahthat encourage them to perfom mitzvot and strengthem them in the true faith,img245349

From which passages in the Torah should he read? He starts from the beginning of the chumash: “These are the words…” until the end of the passageShema. He then skips to the passage Vehayah Im Shamoa,and then skips to the passage asair te’asair. He then reads from that passage in order until the end of the blessing and curses, i.e., until the phrase: “besides the covenant He established with them in Choreb where he concludes.

How is the reading conducted? Trumpets are sounded throughout Jerusalem to gather the people. A large wooden platform is brought and set up in the center of the Women’s Courtyard. The king ascends and sits on it so that they will be able to hear his reading. All of the Jewish people who made the festive pilgrimage gather around him. The attendant of the synagogue would take the Torah scroll and give it to the head of the synagogue. He would give it to thesegen, who would give it to the High Priest, who would give it to the king. The transfer involved many people as an expression of respect.

The king accepts the scroll while standing. If he desires, he may sit when reading. He opens it, looks at it, and recites the blessings like anyone who is reading the Torah in a synagogue. He reads the passages mentioned in the previous halachah until he completes them. He rolls the scroll closed and recites the blessing afterwards as it is done in synagogues. He adds seven blessings which are: “Grant favor….” “We thankfully acknowledge You….” “You chose us from all the nations…” , for the Temple, for the Jewish people, for the priests, he offers supplication and prays according to his ability and concludes: “God, deliver Your nation Israel..”

… are obligated to concentrate their attention and direct their hearing, listening with reverence and awe, rejoicing while trembling as on the day the Torah was given at Sinai. Even great Sages who know the entire Torah are obligated to listen with exceedingly great concentration. One who is unable to hearshould focus his attention on this reading, for Scripture established it solely to strengthen the true faith. He should see himself as if he was just now commanded regarding the Torah and heard it from the Almighty. For the king is an agent to make known the word of God.