Two Last Instructions

October 4, 2016 at 10:51 AM , , ,

“Assemble the people… in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear Hashem, your G-d, and they will be careful to do all the words of this Torah. …and now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the children of Israel; place it into their mouths…” – Devarim 31:12-19

הַקְהֵל אֶת הָעָם . . לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ וּלְמַעַן יִלְמְדוּ וְיָרְאוּ אֶת ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, וְשָׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת . . וְעַתָּה כִּתְבוּ לָכֶם אֶת-הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת וְלַמְּדָהּ אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל שִׂימָהּ בְּפִיהֶם – דברים לא, יב-יט

In his last days, Moshe conveyed to Bnei Yisrael two final positive commandments: the mitzvah of Hakhel and the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah.

These two mitzvos share a common objective: to allow future generations to experience some degree of what Bnei Yisrael experienced at the Giving of the Torah. With Hakhel, we replicate the events at Sinai by gathering the entire Jewish nation in one place, and listening to the king read select passages from the Torah, to “encourage them to perform mitzvos, and strengthen them in the true faith” (Rambam, Laws of Chagigah 3:1). Everyone in attendance, says the Rambam (Ibid, 3:6), “Should view himself as though he was instructed now for the first time regarding the Torah, as though he is hearing it now from the Almighty.” Similarly, when a person writes a Sefer Torah for himself, “Scripture regards as if he had received it at Mount Sinai” (Talmud, Menachos 30a).

Why do we need two such mitzvos, which fulfill the same purpose?


Prior to receiving the Torah, Bnei Yisrael declared, “We will obey, and we will listen,” (Shemos 24:7), expressing their commitment to both aspects of the Giving of the Torah that would take place at Mount Sinai: the giving of the Torah itself (to study and know it), and the giving of the commandments within it (to obey and observe them).

The Mitzvos of Hakhel and writing a Sefer Torah, whose shared purpose is to recreate the experience of receiving the Torah, each focus of one of these aspects. Hakhel focuses on invigorating our acceptance of the Mitzvos, as the Torah articulates, “In order that they will… fear Hashem, your G-d, and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah.” In contrast, the primary emphasis of writing a Sefer Torah is to strengthen our study of the Torah, as the Torah emphasizes, “And now, write for yourselves this song, teach it to Bnei Yisrael; place it in their mouths.”


—Likutei Sichos, vol. 34, pp. 189-190

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