Netzavim Vayelech 5766
By: Rav Michael Susman
In this week's parsha, we read of the final two mitzvot that Moshe Rabbenu transmits to Am Yisrael, the mitzva of Hakhael and the mitzva of writing a sefer torah. When explaining the basis for these mitzvot, the Chinuch (Mitzva 612 and 613) points to the common denominator which connects these two mitzvot, namely the centrality of the Torah. His explanations, however, in fact reflect different aspects of this centrality. When speaking of the mitzva of Hakhael, the Chinuch writes that given this centrality, it is only appropriate to read the Torah publicly, in a festive manner, in order to stress the importance and significance that the Torah represents for us. This in turn will increase the sense of appreciation and longing for the Torah, encouraging the people to aspire to ever greater levels of observance and scholarship.
When speaking of the mitzva of writing a sefer torah, the Chinuch stresses a different aspect. There, he speaks of the need to ensure that a sefer torah is always easily accessible to every individual, not merely to appreciate its significance or to deepen one's connection to it, but in order to study it and to thereby achieve a greater level of Yirat Hashem, fear or awe of God.
This shift in emphasis can be understood as reflecting the difference between a mitzva oriented to the individual as opposed to a mitzva oriented towards the community. Both the mitzva of Hakhael and the mitzva of writing a sefer torah are focused on deepening the commitment that we have to Torah and mitzvot, yet the difference in the setting is crucial. When speaking of the group, the emphasis is not on individual reflection or growth; these are not qualities which are easily developed in the public square. In that setting, the group dynamic plays a critical role. We are all impressed by public spectacles, they move us in ways that private reflection do not. We become part of a group dynamic, "buying in" to a system, and encouraging others to do so as well. This is very different from the situation facing an individual who sits alone, away from outside influences. This is a time for reflection and introspection, a time for a person to take stock and to decide how to move forward. When alone, a person is able to develop a sense of Yirat Shamayim in a far more profound and intense fashion than can be achieved in public forums. Hence, we can suggest that the Torah gives us two separate mitzvot with a shared goal of deepening commitment to the Torah which defines us, one mitzvah on the individual level and a second on the public level.
When describing the mitzva of Hakhael, the Torah (Devarim 31:12-13) seems to be very specific in explaining why we are commanded to perform this mitzva. " … So that they will hear and so that they will learn and fear their Lord, Hashem, and keep and perform all the words of this Torah. And your children who do not know will hear and learn to fear Hashem all the days that they live on th eland that you will be crossing the
In his book, Iyunim B'Parshat HaShavua (set #2), Rav Elchanan Samet quotes Rav Yitzhak Herzog, the first Chief Rabbi of
R. Samet then quotes the answer that R. Herzog gave at that first Hakhael commemoration more than sixty years ago. If we look back to Parshat Devarim (), we find Moshe Rabbenu's description of Maamad Har Sinai, in language which is strikingly similar to the language used by the Torah in describing the mitzva of Hakhael. In both places the word "hakhael" (gather) is used to describe what must be done, and in both places the target audience, the purpose of the reading and the centrality of doing the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael are identical. There can be no doubt of the connection between the two, or of the overarching purpose of the mitzva. Just as Maamad Har Sinai was intended to create and cement within Am Yisrael the centrality of Torah, so too the mitzva of Hakhael reaffirms that experience and creates an environment for the continued acceptance of Torah as being the basis of our religious and national identity. This of course brings us back to the Chinuch and his stress on the pomp and circumstance which creates the public ceremony of accepting the Torah.
May the coming year bring with it the coming of the Mashiach, and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, so that in two year's time we are zoche not only to remember the mitzva of Hakhael, but to fulfill it together, thus reaffirming Brit Sinai.
Shabbat Shalom vKetiva v"chatima Tova
|Additional shiurim from this category can be found in:||Parshat Shavua (Nitzavim)
Parshat Shavua (Vayelech)
|Uploaded:||Sunday, March 30, 2008|