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How To Do Hakhel Today

How To Do Hakhel Today

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You may have heard about Hakhel, the special once-in-seven-years event that took place during Temple times. Well, the good news is that even without the Temple, we can still host similar gatherings—and this is the year to do it! Here’s your one-stop-shop to guide you through this unique opportunity.

What Is Hakhel?

Hakhel was a gathering that took place on the holiday of Sukkot following the Sabbatical year in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Every Jew—man, woman and child—was expected to be present, and the king would read to them special selections from the Torah.

Nowadays, there is no Jewish king, and there is no Holy Temple. But the essence of this mitzvah, gathering together with fellow Jews for Torah study and inspiration, is something each and every one of us can do.

When to Hakhel

The entire year is a great time to hold a Hakhel gathering, but the best time is Shabbat and Jewish holidays, especially Sukkot, when the king would hold the original Hakhel. While it’s ideal to hold Hakhel gatherings as often as possible, for many people one gathering a month is a pretty good benchmark.

Where to Hakhel

The main factor when choosing a location is to find a place where you will be able to gather the largest amount of people for the most meaningful, inspiring experience. So think about whom you’ll be inviting and where they’ll be most comfortable when deciding on a location.

There is something special about holding Hakhel in a synagogue or another place where Torah is studied, since it’s the closest we have to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But your living room, backyard, classroom or boardroom are all ideal spots as well, if that’s where your gathering will be most successful.

In fact, you can even hold a virtual Hakhel via telephone, Skype, Facetime or whatever medium will bring Jewish people together.

One more note: Not every Hakhel gathering needs to be officially billed as such. If you are invited to a work meeting or are otherwise going to be among others, just start the meeting with a few words of Torah, and presto, it’s become a Hakhel.

How to Hakhel

When crafting your Hakhel program, here are some tips to bear in mind:

Make It Relevant: Think about what’s going on in the Jewish calendar. If there is an upcoming holiday or anniversary, you can incorporate a study of its significance into the program. One of the best (and little explored) topics for a Hakhel gathering is Hakhel itself. That’s right, you can read how Hakhel was done way back when as well as its modern incarnation. You may even want to study Maimonides’ depiction of the event.

“You gotta live with the times,” the saying goes. For us Jews, that means the weekly Torah portion. To prepare for a Hakhel session based on the parshah, we recommend you start with the cornucopia of learning we’ve collected for every week of the year. Parshah in Depth, the Chassidic Masters, and even the text of of the Torah with Rashi are just some of the many resources at your fingertips.

Don’t limit yourself to what we’ve suggested here. The Torah is broader than the earth and deeper than the sea, so feel free to look around for something suites your tastes.

Make It Fun: Invite your friends over to watch a Torah-related video, or throw a themed party that includes some Torah learning. If you’re the type who’d enjoy getting together to watch a class, Jewish.tv has a wealth of engaging, educational and entertaining videos on just about any subject under the (Jewish) sun. We particularly recommend the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe--Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory--as a wonderful springboard for lively discussion.

Make It Inspirational: When the king would gather the Jews, the purpose was to inspire awe of G‑d and mitzvah observance. When planning your Hakhel session, think of ways to foster a stronger sense of attachment to G‑d. Perhaps you can focus on a certain mitzvah, talking about its deep beauty and how it can be applied in our everyday lives. Even before the class begins, you can think of some practical suggestions that the conversation can lead to. That way, the Hakhel will continue long after you’ve said goodbye.

Make It Sweet: A military man once said, “An army runs on its stomach.” The same can often be said about the attendees of Torah classes. You may want to provide some good (kosher, of course) food and recite blessings before partaking, and the discussion will be all that much more appealing.

Network

Let your Hakhel take root and spread seeds. Speak to your friends and help them craft their own unique Hakhel gatherings. Use social media (and even old-fashioned “print” media) to get the word out there.

Final Note

You can do it! Even if you are not a rabbi or public official, or even if you’ve never viewed yourself as a leader, you can create a successful Hakhel gathering. Why? Because, hey, everyone enjoys getting together with friends and doing something positive for our world.

Appendix: Invitation Central

You can use all forms of media to let people know about your Hakhel gathering. If you’re sending out texts or tweeting, you may want to write something like:

Join me at at [place] on [date] at [time] for Hakhel. Good food, good learning and good discussion are on the menu. #Hakhel

A sample email may be something like:

Title: Please Come to My Hakhel Gathering

Hi,

You may know that this year is a Hakhel year, when Jews all over the world gather for special sessions of Torah study.

I’m arranging a Hakhel gathering where we’ll learn some exciting Torah, enjoy some thoughtful discussions, and hopefully come out inspired. Your presence will add a lot, and I really hope you can make it.

We’ll be meeting at [place] on [date] from [time] to [time].

Please reply to this email to let me know that you’re coming.

Looking forward to seeing you,

[Your Name]

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