ROSH HASHANA AND Yom Kippur come around every year with predictable consistency and it is sometimes hard to motivate ourselves for another round of synagogue attendance, sermons, dinners etc. Perhaps if we recognized that each year possesses its “mystical karma” and carries its own unique message, we would be energized anew and open our hearts to the soul stirring inspiration of this year’s High Holy Day season.
This year is called the year of hachel — gathering. In the times of the Temple, on the Sukkot following the shmita — the sabbatical year, the Torah mandates that the entire Jewish people, men, women and children gather together at the Temple for a massive assembly at which the king would read passages from the Torah before the assembled and inspire them to rededicate themselves to God and the Torah.
The eternity of the Torah leaps over the bounds of time and place. Hence, even those mitzvot that are restricted to the Temple precincts, such as the mitzva of hachel, also have a spiritual content which may be applied at all times.
The mitzva of hachel represents the strength that we have when we gather together as one community and encourages us to humbly recognize the inherent Godliness in our fellow and to nurture our own spark of Godliness, creating a sense of unity and harmony within the community and ourselves as well.
Just as individual Jews can be brought together to form cohesive communities, every individual can organize his own personal hachel – by marshaling and harmonizing all the diverse faculties within his own spiritual personality. An individual’s leadership qualities, his receptivity, his ability to learn from others – all these inner thrusts can be mobilized and directed toward the goals of hachel. With best wishes for a happy, healthy & blessed new year.
Rabbi Levi Block
Union County Torah Center, Westfield