Positive Mitzvah Sixteen

Hachel - Assembling Each 7th Year to Hear Torah Read

Devarim 31:12 Gather together the people - the men, the women, and the small children, and your stranger who is in your cites - 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 this Torah.

By this injunction we are commanded that all the people are to Assemble on the second day of Sukkot, after the end of every seventh year, and several verses of Devarim are to be read aloud to them.

Why was "small children" also commanded to be gathered to hear the words of the Torah? To give reward to those who bring them. (Rashi) In modern times, it has become acknowledged that the time to inculcate values in children is from their earliest youth, and especially by the example of parents and others who sincerely strive for the ideals they preach. Therefore, for bringing their children to Hachel, parents deserved to be rewarded, for they demonstrated that the Torah is precious to them.

The provision of this Mitzvah - namely, how it should be read, who should read, and what portions [of the Torah] should be read - are explained in the 7th Chapter of Tractate Sotah. The reading in the Assembly, as prescribed in this Mitzvah, was carried out by the King of Yisrael.

Sotah 41a

"They used to prepare for him in the Temple Court a wooden platform on which he sat, etc. The minister of the synagogue took a Scroll of the Law and gave it to the President of the synagogue, and the President of the Synagogue gave it to the High Priest's Deputy, and he gave it to the High Priest, and the High Priest gave it to the King, and the King received it and read it sitting"

Mishneh Torah, Korbanot, Hilchot Hagigah 3, 6

"Both the reading and the Blessings [that were pronounced in connection therewith] were said in the Holy Tongue [i.e. Hebrew]...Proselytes who are unfamiliar with it are nevertheless to direct their heart and apply their ears, listening in awe and fear, and rejoicing with trembling, as on the day when the Torah was given us at Sinai. Even great Sages who are proficient in the whole Law are under obligation to listen with extremely great devotion, while he who is unable to hear must direct his heart to this reading - Scripture having appointed it solely with a view to strengthening the true faith - so that one is to consider himself as though he had only now been commanded to hear it, and were hearing it from the Almighty, since the King is merely an emissary empowered to proclaim the words of Hashem"

The reading of the King consisted of the following portions of Devarim: 1:1-6, 11:13-21, 14:22-28:69 (ibid., 3:3).