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Devarim 31:10-12 mentions that at the end of shemittah (Sabbatical) year all of Israel should gather during the holiday of Succot to hear the Torah read.

I gather that the reason Succot is chosen is that is the first holiday of the new year and people are already in Jerusalem for their pilgrimage. (I.e., perhaps, the Torah didn't want to inconvenience people to make a separate special trip some other time.)

Why is this done specifically after the shemittah year? What is the connection between shemittah and hakhel? I couldn't find anything in any of the Mikra'ot Gedolot commentaries.

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The Meshech Chachmah explains that Hakel increases(exemplifies) the test of shmittah. It is now the end of shmittah and everyone is itching to go back to their fields and vineyards which hasn't been worked the whole year . Now if at the end of shmittah Klal Yisrael is gathering(traveling) to hear the Word of God in Yerushalayim shows how much they love the Torah and miztvos.

  • Could you provide a link to the source, please? – DanF Sep 14 '17 at 2:13
  • Vayelech 9, I just looked at the original text,what I wrote is from Ateres Rashi who quotes the Meshech Chachamah. I believe that the Meshech Chachma is saying more then the Ateres Rashi brings,but the idea is very similar. – sam Sep 14 '17 at 2:32
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The following is based on R' Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on these verses.

Let's work backward from the ultimate purpose of this special reading, which the Torah is kind enough to tell us (v. 6):

הַקְהֵ֣ל אֶת־הָעָ֗ם הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֤ים וְהַנָּשִׁים֙ וְהַטַּ֔ף וְגֵרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ לְמַ֨עַן יִשְׁמְע֜וּ וּלְמַ֣עַן יִלְמְד֗וּ וְיָֽרְאוּ֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְשָֽׁמְר֣וּ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃

Gather the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere the LORD your God and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching.

Gathering brings us to hear the reading, which inspires us to keep up our learning at home and to infuse the fear of God into everything we do, so that we end up knowing how to and caring to apply the Torah's commands to everything we do.

It all, ultimately, leads to the application. And when do we fully apply the Torah? When we're working in the world, particularly in the part of the world we're meant to keep the Torah in, primarily - the Land of Israel.

And when do we work in (and on!) the Land of Israel? For six years out of every seven, starting after the end of the Shemita year. The moment when the Israelite national agricultural economy is about to kick back into gear is the moment when the Israelite nation needs to rededicate itself, as a unit, to learning and following the Torah.


Side note: R' Hirsch also points out that the timing of this observance on Sukkot enhances the same theme: Just as we're about to start doing agriculture and business again, we're also recalling the time "when it was not agriculture or business, but where the miraculous grace of God provided for everybody ..." When we dedicate ourselves to applying the Torah to the coming period of economic activity, it helps to already be in the frame of mind (and of Sukka!) that the real source of our well-being and safety is not the economy, but the Almighty.

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At a simple level, they've spent the last year not working the land; now that it's time to go back to work, this is their pep talk on how to approach normal life with a higher spiritual purpose.

  • I don't know. This answer sounds a bit too "simplified" for me. One could argue that they need a spiritual uplifting annually. They are not exactly "going back to work" immediately after Succot, anyway. That's harvest time, and the season is over. – DanF Sep 13 '17 at 19:57

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