A Year of Hakhel

Today’s post is from Rabbi Hirshi Sputz from Chabad of Center City. Hakhel, the subject of his post, will also be the topic at our March 9 Learning in Pairs program. 


A Year of Hakhel – to gather together as one.

Picture this scene: Millions of Jews – men and women, infants and their great-grandmothers, scholars and laypeople – assembled in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. A hush falls over the mammoth crowd as the royal king of Israel ascends on to a platform and reads sections of the holy Torah. The nation is inspired and invigorated. A display of unity and a statement of purpose converge to revitalize and refocus a multifarious people.

Though seemingly improbable, this scene repeated itself in ancient Jerusalem every seventh year. This event was known as Hakhel, “assemble!” It was the only event that required the attendance of every Jew, reminiscent of the historic moment when our nation stood at Mount Sinai, when every member of our nation was present and when G‑d lovingly gave us the Torah.

At the end of every seven years… Assemble the people: the men, the women, the children… – Deuteronomy 31:10-12.

Hakhel Today

This year is that Seventh year – The Hakhel year. Although the biblical mitzvah is only in effect when all the Jewish people reside in the Holy Land, The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly encouraged all Jews to utilize this auspicious year to assemble– men, women and children – to strengthen and encourage our commitment to G‑d and his Torah.

This Hakhel year is an opportune time to promote Jewish unity with gatherings. We should use this spirit to unite with friends and family and recreate in microcosm the grand Hakhel event.

The Center City Kehillah, directed by Miriam Steinberg-Egeth, is an outstanding organization that is infused with the Hakhel spirit. It unites the many Jewish organizations together in a way that bring Jews in Center City together as one community. Kol Hakavod. Keep up the good work.

We, at Chabad of Center City, focus on this initiative to unite many Jews through Hakhel groups.

  • We’ve started a weekly Schmooze & Learn group for the Jewish residents at the Hopkinson house every Wednesdayevening.
  • We’ve launched a study group on “The Prophets” at 1420 Walnut Street for the Jewish professionals meeting every Tuesday.
  • A new “Lunch & Learn” at 1800 JFK Blvd. for members of the Jewish Business Network and other professionals in the city will meet the last Wednesday of every month.
  • We have arranged communal Shabbatdinners.

Since the inception of these Hakhel groups, people have united together in a powerful way. These gatherings continue to be the catalyst for Shabbat meals, social life, and Torah learning. Participants have shared that these gatherings have enhanced their lives with inspiration and friendship.

Future Hakhel plans include:

  • A weekly Kabbalah class (Jewish mysticism)on Wednesday mornings starting this month.
  • A Yiddish club in the Rittenhouse Square area.

We are open to your recommendations for other activities. Please contact me at RHS@JewishPhilly.com

When the temple will soon be rebuilt in Jerusalem, the Grand Hakhel practice will be renewed, with Moshiach himself reading from the Torah scroll. May we merit this experience speedily. Amen!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Hirshi Sputz
Chabad of Center City