Four Steps to Hashem - Vayeilech
הַקְהֵל אֶת־הָעָם הָאֲנָשִׁים וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטַּף וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ וּלְמַעַן יִלְמְדוּ וְיָֽרְאוּ אֶת־ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֔ם וְשָׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרי הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת:
In what is one of his last speeches to Am Israel, Moshe Rabeinu teaches us the mitzvah of Hakhel. Every seven years, at the end of shnat hashmita, the entire nation is supposed to gather together for this special event. One of the unique things about this mitzvah is that we are specifically asked to bring the children, even though they aren’t obligated to fulfill mitzvat Talmud Torah.
Rashi says that this commandment is issued to us ‘so those who bring them will receive rewards’. Still, it seems that the reason to bring them isn’t only because it’s worthwhile. Bringing them unites the entire nation, because we secure the future by passing on the torch to our children. In that way, not only do we in the present deepen our connection to Hashem and Torah, but we make a real effort to connect our children as well.
Another important aspect of this event can be found in the four verbs the Torah uses when speaking about the reasons and outcomes of Mitzvat Hakhel: ישמעו, ילמדו יראו ושמרו. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that these four verbs are the process the individual and the nation are supposed to take upon themselves as part of this mitzvah.
At first, the whole nation hears, in a crowded assembly, the main ideals and beliefs behind the mitvah. The nation declares that the main responsibility of ours is to be the presenters of Hashem’s will and Torah. That we do by hearing the mitzvoth together in the special event of Hakhel.
Next comes the individual’s part- where he is supposed to work hard by himself to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvot and will in his own life. This stage is achieved only by learning, an everyday effort of understanding and conceptualizing the holy ideas of the Torah.
Only once we have succeeded in completing the first two stages, can we now achieve the next one-Yirat Hashem. Every individual, is combined of himself and the whole nation, thereforw he shall work with both ingredients. Personal work and effort can’t do the trick, but neither can only focusing on the nationwide level. Public and personal, hearing and learning are all needed to gain true Yirat Hashem and devotion.
Then, and only then, can we get to our biggest hope and wish- consistency. The ability to overcome all the obstacles life presents us with, and still be able to maintain our faith and actions on a daily basis .
These four stages represent a process each one of us can take upon ourselves. Starting with an ideal that we believe in, a general goal which we aim for. Then, building our way slowly and steadily with a lot of hard work and simple learning. Learning with mind and heart, trying to get a real sense of things. If we have succeeded in those steps we will be able to be consistent in our spiritual life.