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    The Hakhel assembly – Vayelech

    Sefer_TorahEvery seven years the whole populace gathered for the Hakhel (“Assemble!”) convocation, in order to hear the king read the Torah (Deut. 31:12).

    Everyone had to attend: “men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities”. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says that the men came to learn, the women to listen and the children to secure a reward for those who brought them (Hag. 3a).

    According to Maimonides (Hil. Chagigah 3:4), the assembly was in the ezrat nashim, the women’s court of the Temple, which was apparently used for general meetings.

    It is not clear whether the text means that the men and women stood together or were separated on gender lines. The latter seems more likely because social mores kept the sexes apart on public occasions in order to prevent inappropriate behavior.

    We are not certain what the situation was with the children – did the boys stay with their father and the girls with their mothers?

    There was probably a regulation that said that up to a certain age the mother had the children with her, boys as well as girl, but thereafter the boys stood with the men.

    We are not told how family members found each other again afterwards in view of the massive numbers of the Children of Israel.

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