The mitzvah of Hakhel — gathering together
TorahParshat Lech-Lecha

The mitzvah of Hakhel — gathering together

Genesis 12:1 - 17:27

(File photo)
(File photo)

In this week’s Torah portion we celebrate our forefather Avraham, whom G-d commanded to leave his birthplace and travel to the land of Israel where he would continue to spread the knowledge of G-d to the entire world.

We are taught that Avraham would gather the men, our matriarch Sara would gather the women, and they would teach them about G-d and his ways.

Avraham and Sara were the greatest example of leadership: On the one hand, they would meet people individually, feed them and through kindness and impress upon them the belief in G-d; on the other hand, they also gathered the masses and spoke to inspire the population through lectures and teachings.

Each Jewish male and female is a son and daughter of Avraham and Sara, and their virtues, examples and DNA run within each of us. G-d gave us the great gift of being a light unto the nations as well as the emissary of G-d to our families, friends, acquaintances and community. We enhance their lives by inspiring them to a deeper connection with G-d and through being a messenger, a partner with G-d, in taking care of their needs.

Giving individual attention is best in certain times and situations; other times, groups and community are most effective.

From the time that the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, every seven years there was a special mitzvah that was fulfilled during the holiday of Sukkot. The mitzvah, called Hakhel, would be celebrated by all Jewish men, women and children — even newborns. They would all gather together in the Holy Temple, where the King of Israel would read from the Torah, recreating the experience of Mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah for the entire people.

This year, 5783, is the year that this mitzvah, the Hakhel gathering, would be celebrated. The Lubavitcher Rebbe of Blessed Memory made it a point to highlight the importance of gathering together during this year of Hakhel — to use every effort to gather Jewish men, women and children together as much as possible. Gathering with others and group celebrations of our traditions and beliefs is always important, but this year it is the call of the hour!

Next week we mark the Hebrew anniversary of the tragedy at the Tree of Life building. Jews had come together in celebration of faith and tradition and, for a tragic moment, hatred and evil broke the bonds of community and the fabric of togetherness.
This year and this week are the perfect times to strengthen and heal, to exemplify Avraham, Sara and the Kings of Israel, who gathered the masses together. If you are a leader in your home, office, community or class (which we all are), it’s time to Hakhel — gather!

Gather people together this coming Shabbat on the anniversary of that tragic day and transform it into a day of bonding with other Jews, and celebrate faith in G-d and the gift of the mitzvot that were given to us by G-d on Mount Sinai.

But it doesn’t end this Shabbat; let’s utilize this entire year to throw away all the devices and distractions of life, and focus on the bonds and connections we have with others. We are a special nation, a unified people and there is no gift greater than developing our connection with more amazing and loving people.

Remember that what unites and sustains us is G-d, His Torah and His mitzvot. So, furnish these gatherings with inspiration from the Torah and find ways to make a mitzvah the center of the event. Our special bonds will become ever stronger and we will merit the true unity of all the Jewish people, the true Hakhel — gathering — with Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days. PJC

Rabbi Elchonon Friedman is the spiritual leader of Bnai Emunoh Chabad. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.

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