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Peninei Halakha > Sukkot > 08 – Hak’hel > 02. The Reading

02. The Reading

Hak’hel must be read in the holy tongue, the Hebrew of Scripture, as the verse states, “You shall read this Torah aloud” (Devarim 31:11) – as it is written. Those who do not understand the holy tongue are still required to listen, just as when the Torah was given on Sinai (Sota 32a; MT, op. cit. 3:5-6).

All the readings were from the book of Devarim. The first section was from the beginning of Devarim until the end of the Shema paragraph (1:1-6:9). These chapters describe the preparations for entering Eretz Yisrael, the sin of the spies and its consequences, the conquest of the east bank of the Jordan River, and Moshe’s supplications to enter the land. This is followed by a lengthy section about the revelation at Sinai and the prohibition of idol worship, and an admonition to future generations to keep Torah and mitzvot and teach them to their children. As a reward, they will endure in the land. The first selection concludes with Shema (ibid. 6:4-9), which expresses the foundation of faith and includes the commandment to love God.

The second selection was the paragraph of “Ve-haya im shamo’a” (11:13-21), which speaks of reward and punishment for keeping the mitzvot. The third and fourth sections had to do with tithing: “Aser te’aser” (14:22-27) and “Ki tekhaleh le’aser” (26:12-15). The fifth section was about the king and his commandments (17:14-20). Finally, the sixth and final section was the blessings and curses (ch. 28), detailing the reward for Israel if they keep Torah and mitzvot, and the punishment if they do not (Sota 41a).

According to Rambam, everything from the section on tithes to the end of the curses was read straight through (14:22-28:69). This lengthy reading includes many mitzvot; 138 mitzvot appear here for the first time (§473-611 in Sefer Ha-ḥinukh), as do many more mitzvot that were mentioned earlier in the Torah. These include many interpersonal mitzvot, including tithing, charity, returning lost objects, appointing judges, rules of justice, and the prohibition upon charging interest. Other mitzvot relate to kings and war, prophecy and priesthood, and marriage, as well as many prohibitions connected to idolatry and magic.[1]

[1]. MT, Laws of Pilgrimage Offerings 3:3, based on y. Sota 7:8 and Rambam’s version of the mishna. The first opinion cited above is based on the text of the mishna as it appears in Sota 41a. According to this version, “Ki tekhaleh le’aser” was read before the section on the king, even though in the Torah it appears later, to keep the two sections on tithes together. Rashi has a third version of the mishna, according to which the blessings and curses were read after “Ki tekhaleh le’aser,” and the section about the king was read at the end.

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