Thousands gather for once-in-seven-years mitzvah of Hakhel

Thousands gather for once-in-seven-years mitzvah of Hakhel

Tens of thousands of Jews gathered in the Western Wall Plaza to reenact the once-in-seven-years mitzvah (commandment) of Hakhel. But in addition to this mass gathering, several smaller reenactments of Hakhel took place, indicating a rising interest in bringing back this Biblical reality.

In Deuteronomy 31:10-12, the nation of Israel is commanded:

“…At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the Feast of Tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.”

This command, which has become known as Hakhel, involves assembling all men, women and children in Israel – of both Jewish and non-Jewish descent – to hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel following the Shemittah year. In Temple-times, a large wooden stage was erected in the Temple courtyard where the king would read the designated sections of the Torah.

The Biblical requirement to perform this commandment is not incumbent upon the Jewish nation today since it is only when all the Jewish people reside in Israel. Nonetheless, there was a move to revive this unique commandment, at least in a symbolic manner, beginning in the early 1900s with Rabbi Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim (the father-in-law of Rabbi Kook), and then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shmuel Salant. Since 1945, after the conclusion of the Shmittah year, a Hakhel ceremony has taken place at the Western Wall.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people gathered at the Western Wall Plaza to hear the section of the Torah read. But in addition, the mitzvah was carried out as part of the Nisuch HaMayim (water libation) ceremony.

Silver trumpets (at Hakhel Photo by Joshua Wander)

Hakhel (Photo by Joshua Wander)

Kohanim carrying the Torah scrolls for Hakhel (Photo by Joshua Wander)


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