Hakhel celebrated on Chol Hamoed in the Beis Hamikdash was an extraordinary event. Multitudes of Yidden - men, women, and children - from Eretz Yisroel and beyond would make the long trek to Yerushalayim.
Although Hakhel is only celebrated by the Beis Hamikdash and the Mitzvah does not apply today, the Rebbe made an enormous shturem about Hakhel. This began in the earlier years of the nesius (and even earlier) and culminated in the year 5748 when the Rebbe went on a campaign that every person should become a “Hakhel Yid” and bring Hakhel into their lives.
The Rebbe’s first recorded mention of Hakhel was at a Farbrengen in Otwock, Poland on Chol Hamoed Sukkos 5692 while spending Yomtov with the Frierdiker Rebbe. The Rebbe was instructed by the Frierdiker Rebbe to Farbreng for the Chassidim. In Reshimos, the Rebbe records notes from this Farbrengen which seemed to have a large focus on the concept of Hakhel, as 5692 was a Hakhel year. In the same time period, the Rebbe also kept a fascinating correspondence on these subjects with his father, HaRav Levi Yitzchak.
The Rebbe’s Koch in Hakhel seemed to be his own Chiddush; In the Farbrengen of Simchas Torah 5748 (See Ois Vov) the Rebbe mentions that we don't find a specific emphasis on Hakhel by the earlier Rebbeim. Still, by the Rebbe himself, the focus on Hakhel didn't start all at once. In the first years of the Nesius, we find only a smattering of Hora'os about Hakhel, but as the years went on, it became a major focus and a huge Shturem
In 5713, the first Hakhel year in the Rebbe’s Nesius, we find many letters and Sichos devoted to the topic. One Farbrengen that stood out was a special Chol Hamoed Farbrengen (in addition to the Rebbe’s yearly Farbrengen for the Talmidei Hayehsivos) in honor of Hakhel where the Rebbe spoke at length on the subject.
In the following Hakhel years of 5720, 5727, and 5734, the Rebbe said many Sichos explaining the concept of Hakhel and how it applies today. The Rebbe also mentioned it very often in letters; in fact, every Michtav Kloli, all letters to Mosdos Chinuch, and even telegrams for Yom Tov, had a mention of Hakhel. In these letters, the Rebbe emphasized the significance of Hakhel and the effect it should have on every single person.
For general Sichos and letters in the Rebbe’s Torah, click here.
In the Hakhel year of 5741, many people traveled to spend Tishrei with the Rebbe and Hakhel became a much more central focus of the Rebbe’s Sichos. Amongst many new Hora’os, the Rebbe introduced the concept of Hakhel gatherings and that all children should participate in at least three Kinusei Hakhel: before Rosh Hashanah, during Asseres Yemei Teshuva, and on Sukkos. See the Farbrengen of 29 Elul 5740.
After Maariv on the first night of Sukkos that year, instead of wishing the customary “Gut Yom Tov” and leaving the Shul, the Rebbe began saying a Sicha. The Rebbe explained that although Hakhel (and simchas Beis Hashoieva) would be held in the times of the Beis Hamikdash on Chol Hamoed, that was simply because certain aspects of Hakhel could not be arranged on Yom Tov. However, in the times of Galus we do not have these constraints, and “the Hakhel that we make now—gathering Yidden together, men, women, and children—must begin on the first day of Sukkos.” See Sicha Here.
The Rebbe went on to deliver Sichos every night of Sukkos, serving as the Rebbe’s personal Kinusei Hakhel. The clearest indicator of 5741 being a new Koch in Shnas Hakhel was the Rebbe’s personal addition to the overview of the year 5741 in the Hayom Yom, where the Rebbe added a line about Shnas Hakhel: מעורר שהשנה שנת הקהל את האנשים והנשים והטף גו' לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת.
Leading up to the Hakhel year of 5748, it was clear that a major Shturem in Shnas Hakhel was coming. The Rebbe already began mentioning Hakhel in letters and Sichos towards the end of 5747. As 5748 began the Rebbe launched a new Mivtza for Hakhel, mainly to arrange Hakhel gatherings around the world for men, women and children.
Throughout the entire Tishrei, the Rebbe stressed on the Mitzvah and Mivtza of Hakhel, encouraging Chassidim to make gatherings. On Sukkos, the Hakhel fervor reached new heights. The Rebbe explained that one of the focuses of Hakhel on Sukkos is to gather Yidden to dance during Simchas Beis Hashoieva (See Sicha Leil Alef of Sukkos Ois Yud), and asked over and over that the Peulos of Hakhel should grow ever stronger. In the sichos on each night of Sukkos, the Rebbe explained the advantage of each day in relation to Hakhel, and expounded on the connection of each of the Ushpizin with Hakhel.
On the first night of Sukkos, the Rebbe spoke about the relevance of Hakhel to the first day of Sukkos when we gather the four Minim and connected the theme of Hakhel to that days Ushpizin (Avraham Avinu and the Baal Shem Tov), as well as the daily Shiurim. The Rebbe also addressed the people who were unsure if the Hakhel directives apply to them, stating that their Hiskashrus to the Rebbeim will surely cause them to act in a manner of Lechatchila Ariber.
On the second night, the Rebbe again connected Hakhel to that days Ushpizin and Shiurim and spoke about the unique connection between Hakhel and the second night of Sukkos, being Motzei Yom Tov Rishon of Sukkos.
On the third night, the Rebbe spoke strongly about Mivtza Hakhel and Ahavas Yisroel. The Rebbe addressed people who think they've already done all they can for Hakhel. The Rebbe said that it is demanded of such a person that he should focus and live Hakhel so much that when someone looks at him, all they see is Hakhel.
On the fourth night, the Rebbe spoke of the unique connection to the Hakhel on that night, being a Motzei Shabbos, allowing Simchas Beis Hashoeva to be celebrated with music and instruments similar to how it was observed in the Beis Hamikdash. The Rebbe also encouraged the Simchas Beis Hashoeva in the spirit of Hakhel to be extra special and spread throughout the world.
On the fifth night, the Rebbe again spoke about spreading the message of Hakhel around the world, while unifying Yidden at the same time. A noteworthy part of the Farbrengen was where the Rebbe said that Hakhel should become such a big part of one's life that when he meets his friend they should mention Hakhel before the Moed, See Ois Zayin. The Rebbe also said in that Sicha how the great Shturem that he is making about Hakhel must translate into greater action. But by far the greatest Chiddush in the Farbrengen was where the Rebbe changed the long-standing Chabad custom to put down the Estrog for certain parts of Hallel, stating that in connection with Hakhel - uniting all Jews - it was necessary to hold all of the Daled Minim together throughout the entire Hallel.
On the sixth night, the Rebbe stressed the connection of Hakhel to every single Yid, men, women, and children.
The Rebbe continued Koching in the theme of Hakhel throughout the rest of Yom Tov. At the end of Yom Tov, on Motzei Shabbos Bereishis after Kos Shel Brocha, the Rebbe said “Hatzlacha Rabba umuflaga to every single person in Hakhel es Ha’am Hoanoshim Vehanashim Vehataf.” The Rebbe concluded by encouraging the Tishrei guests to bring the message of Hakhel to their community. The Rebbe also encouraged the Orchim to do this by the Yechidus Klolis held special for the Tishrei guests on 26 Tishrei.
On Shabbos Parshas Lech-Lecha, the Rebbe thanked all the Chassidim who brought into action the words of the Pasuk “Lech-Lecha Mei’artzecha” in order to be by the Rebbe during the time of Hakhel.
Shnas Hakhel Resource Site
Vaad Or Vechom Hahiskashrus
In recent days, a Michtov Kloli of the Rebbe dated from “the days of Selichos 5727” has been circulating. This letter carries a special, timely message. Just like this year, the letter was written at the conclusion of a Hakhel year.