Thursday, October 2, 2008



[The Jewish Idea]
Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kreuser SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

5 Tishrei 5769/3-4 October 2008

"Gather together the people - the men, and the women, and the small children, and the stranger who is in your cities - so that they will hear and so that they will learn, and they shall fear Hashem your G-d and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah."

Unique among the commandments of the Torah is the Mitzvah of "Hakhel",gathering the people to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem once in seven years to hear the king read a portion from the Torah. Our Rabbis explain to us that the men came to study, the women to listen - and the small children, why did they come? To give reward to those who brought them.

But why would we have infants brought to the Temple? It is a known halacha/law that infants and small children who are prone to disturb services in shul should not be brought so as not to disturb those that are praying; why, then, would we bring tens of thousands of infants to the Temple whose cries would drown out the king from reading the Torah portion? More, why are the women obligated to come to the Temple? For this is certainly a commandment which is regulated by time, and every commandment which is regulated by time, women are exempt from observing. As we find with the commandment of Succoth/Tabernacles, which is a time-related holiday of seven (or in the exiles, eight days), women are exempt from sitting in the succoth. Why, then, on this time-related commandment of "Hakhel" are womenobligated to come up to the Temple in Jerusalem?

The answer, I believe, lies not in the makeup of this particular commandment, which is certainly time-related, but in the fact that it took place in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is a unique place on earth and has its own physical laws that govern it. The Mishna relates to us that ten levels of holiness descended to the world; eight of these levels are on the Temple Mount. So packed with holiness is this small area of 250 meters by 250 meters, that its not really in this world. This fact is manifested that one-third of the Torah's commandments - two hundred - can be done only in the Temple. The intensity of holiness is so great that only certain people, and only under certain conditions, can go there.

Because the physical laws that govern this world do not govern the Mount, we find that on Yom HaKipurim/the Day of Atonement - the most holy of days, that the Israel courtyard would be full to capacity, so much so that the feet of the people would not be able to touch the ground due to the large numbers of people there, but when they bowed down during the service, the floor miraculously extended and each man had four amot/two meters to himself. Another example to show that the physical laws did not rule in the Temple was the fact that the Holy Ark in the Holy of Holies did not take up any physical space. For the Holy of Holies was 20 amot long, and one measurement from the wall on one side to the Ark in the middle of the room was ten amot; the measure from the other side of the Ark to the opposite wall was also ten amot, meaning that the Ark itself took up no physical space!

It is clear from here that the commandment of Hakhel was meant to bring the women and the small children to this ongoing miracle called the Temple. The intensity of this holy spot obligated the women to also come up and participate in this commandment, and also miraculously kept the youngsters quiet during this important service. How fortunate was the one who saw all this and was able to partake in this great ceremony. But as in years gone by, today, too, we can enjoy some of this great holiness, if only we will it. For one who lives in the Land of Israel already enjoys a level of holiness far above the rest of the world, as the Mishna teaches us: The land of Israel is holier than the rest of the world. How tragic it is, then, to still see the majority of the Jewish people wallowing in the tumah/uncleanness of the exiles. In years gone by, there was no choice for the Jew but to be in the exiles. Today, however, easily enough one can come home to the Land of holiness, of greatness, where Jewish destiny is unfolding and calling him. At any rate, one way or another, willingly or not, the Jew will be coming home, for the lights of the exiles are slowly going out.

With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen
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