Imagine every single Jew – man, woman, child – was gathered together in one room, listening to the same words.
Imagine how noisy it would be!
If a rabbi’s sermon cannot capture the attention of 100 Jews, what words could ever capture the attention of all the Jews?
The Mitzvah of Hakhel, that’s what. When the king reads, all the people listen.
This year – the one following the Shemittah year – is called a Hakhel Year, a year of assembly or gathering. The Torah mandates, that on the second day of Sukkot following the Shemittah year, “assemble the people: the men, the women, and the children” and the king of Israel should read portions of the Torah before all Israel, “in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear God and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah… all the days that you live.”
We recreate these gatherings and derive lessons for them as we honor Hakhel this year, especially on this second day of Sukkot, when the original mitzvah was performed.
The Talmud relates three profound lessons in gathering together: 1) harmony within diversity; 2) we attest God’s oneness, God attests ours; 3) different opinions (different sheep) but only one shepherd.
A humbling story from R’ Pinchas of Koritz ties this sermon into a unified bundle of oneness – all under one Sukkah.