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Public Reading of Torah During Succoth Revived in Israel

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Several thousand pilgrims today participated in the first revival of the ancient custom of “Hakhel,” the public reading of the Torah during the Succoth holiday of the Sabbatical year.

The custom, discontinued since the Dispersion, required that the Kings of Israel read the Torah to pilgrims from all parts of ancient Israel who assembled near the Temple. The readings, held every seventh year, marked the completion of the Sabbatical year.

Today’s prayers and subsequent blessings by Chief Rabbis Ben Zion Usiel and Isaac Herzog were broadcast over loudspeakers. Many of the pilgrims, among whom were a high percentage of recent immigrants, arrived in decorated cars and trucks which climbed Mt. Herzl where the reading was held. Afterwards the pilgrims joined in a huge procession which circled the city behind several bands. Crowds in the streets cheered them on.

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