Parashat VaYeilech may be the shortest Parashah in the Torah, but that doesn’t mean it does not have its share of interesting Mitzvot. It contains one of the most unique Mitzvot in the Torah, the Mitzvah of Hakheil, the assembling of the nation to hear the Jewish king read from select portions of the Torah. The Torah lists the individuals obligated in assembling for Hakheil “HaKeil Et HaAm HaAnashim VeHaNashim VeHaTaf VeGeircha Asher BeSharecha” “Gather the nation, the men, women, and the children, and the Ger that is in your gates.” (31:12) Since, according to Ibn Ezra, the Ger referred to here is a Ger Toshav, a gentile who observes the Shevah Mitzvot Bnei Noach, the seven Noahide laws, why is he included in the assemblage of the Jewish nation if he is not even Jewish?
Before answering this question, we must first analyze the practice of Hakheil. Hakheil occurs on the Motzei Yom Tov Rishon of Sukkot in a year that follows a Shemittah year (such as this year) and only if there is a Beit HaMikdash. The Hakheil service was akin to our modern day Keriat HaTorah, Torah reading, but on a much larger scale. Before the Hakheil service would begin, Bnei Yisrael, who were spread out throughout Yerushalayim, were called to the Beit HaMikdash by the sound of the Chatzotzrot trumpets. Whereas in our shuls we have a moderately sized Bima, for the HaKeil service, a grand wooden Bima was carved and placed in the Ezrat HaNashim so that that when the king read from the Torah, the whole nation was be able to hear him. While in our shuls we take the Torah out of the Aron Kodesh and the Chazzan carries it to the Bima, during Hakheil the Torah would pass from the Chazzan to the head of the Kenesset to the Sagan(replacement for the Kohen Gadol) and to the Kohen Gadol before it finally came to rest in front of the king who was at the Bimah. Finally, after the Torah portion was finished, seven Berachot specifically established for this occasion were recited. While this is a very impressive ceremony, why was this held the year after a Shemittah year, and why was every Jew, man, woman, and child, supposed to be there, as well as, the far more troubling dilemma presence of a Ger Toshav?
Hakheil occurred immediately after Shemittah, when everyone was experiencing a spiritual high, having devoted the past year solely to furthering his relationship with God. Therefore, to maintain that high and solidify Bnei Yisrael’s faith in Hashem, we follow this spiritual high with the majestic Hakheil ceremony. As such, it was imperative that every Jew attend this spiritually uplifting experience, including any God fearing gentile, to be inspired to do Hashem’s Mitzvot. Although this year we may not have this ceremony, whenever we hear the Kriat HaTorah we should be reminded of this great event and the value of the Torah that Hashem has given to us.