Torah Reading: VAYELECH: Deuteronomy 31:1-30.

With the Torah almost complete except for the concluding Song (HA’AZINU) and Moses’ Blessings (VE-ZOS HABRACHAH), it was necessary to ensure the transmission of authority from Moses to his divinely-appointed successor, Joshua and the transmission of the Torah to the nation as a whole and to all the later generations.

Parshas VEYELECH describes how the leadership of Israel was transferred to Joshua in the eyes of all Israel in order to give him perfect legitimacy after Moses would be gone. Having instructed Joshua to be strong and courageous in leading the people into the Land, Moses wrote the Torah and gave it to the Cohen-Priests and the Elders of Israel. (According to tradition, on the last day of his life, Moses wrote the Torah scroll that was to be kept in the Sanctuary as well as a Torah scroll for each of the Twelve Tribes, a total of thirteen scrolls.)

Moses then gave the commandment known as HAKHEL after the first Hebrew word of Deut. 31:12. “ASSEMBLE the people, the men, the women and the children and the proselyte that is in your gates, in order that they should hear and in order that they should learn and revere HaShem your G-d and take care to perform all the words of this Torah.” This mass assembly is to take place in the Temple once every seven years during the festival of Succos of the year immediately following the Shemittah (Sabbatical) year. Everyone is to assemble in the “Women’s Courtyard”, where the king is to read publicly extensive sections of the book of Deuteronomy setting forth G-d’s Covenant with the Israel and the blessings and curses (Sotah 41a). The HAKHEL Assembly was undoubtedly a formidably powerful experience for all who took part, and so it will be when it is restored. The effects of the public reading of Deuteronomy are described in the Book of Kings (Kings II, chs. 22-23), which tells how in a time of deep crisis in Eretz Israel, King Josiah solemnly renewed the Covenant and brought the people to rededicate themselves to the Torah and its commandments.