Parshas Ki Savo
“Assemble the people, the men and the women and the children…!” (Devarim 31:12)
It is a positive commandment that we must assemble the entire nation of Klal Yisrael, on the year following the Shemitah (Sabbatical year) on the festival of Sukkos, on the second day of the festival, and to read in their ears certain parts of the book of Devarim. About this it says “At the end of the seventh year on the festival of Sukkos… assemble the people, the men and the women and the children…!”. This is the commandment of “Hakhel” mentioned in the Gemarah.
Amongst the roots of this commandment are that since the main advantage of Klal Yisrael is the Torah which separates them from all of the other nations for eternal life and infinite pleasure which is the highest thing that a creation can experience, it follows that when their advantage is the Torah that they should gather together at a certain time to listen to the words of the Torah, and through this a voice will go throughout all of the people-men, women and children-who will ask “What is this great assembly for which we have all gathered together?”, and the answer will be that it is to listen to the words of the Torah which is our essence, glory and splendor, and through this they will come to speak about the greatness of its praise and the splendor of its value, and everyone will bring the desire for it into their hearts, and with this desire they will learn to know Hashem and merit goodness and Hashem will be happy with His actions as it says explicitly in this commandment “And so that they will learn and fear Hashem!”.
Amongst the laws of this commandment are that it is the king who is obligated to read in their ears, and that he may read while sitting, and that if he reads standing he is praiseworthy.
Before the reading trumpets are blown throughout Yerushalayim, and they bring a large wooden platform upon which the king sits so that they can hear his reading, and all of Klal Yisrael who come up to Yerushalayim for the festival gather around him.
This commandment applies when Klal Yisrael are on their land. A man or woman who does not come at this fixed time to listen to the words of the Torah, or a king who does not want to read have transgressed this commandment. Their punishment is very great, as this commandment is a strong pillar and a great honor of the religion.