Chazak - Redefining Strength

Friday, 1 January, 2021 - 2:47 pm

This Shabbat we conclude the reading of the book of Genesis. It is our tradition that as we conclude the reading of one of the five books of the Torah, we declare: “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek – Be Strong, Be Strong, and We Will Be Strengthened.”

Nine months ago, towards the beginning of the pandemic, we concluded the reading of the book of Exodus and at that time we declared Chazak from our homes. While many Synagogues have reopened to some degree, we are still far from normal (whatever that means…). Many have still not been able to return to communal Jewish life.

What this means is, that we will have declared Chazak on all five books of the Torah in this pandemic era. What kind of strength are we drawing or proffering during this time? We are all so vulnerable. We seem to be the opposite of strong. What kind of strength can we offer each other from a distance? We have zoom Shiva calls. Zoom Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and other simchas. Where is the Chazak? What is the Chazak?

And yet, who said Chazak has to be defined the way we would conventionally define it? If we have learned anything from this Covid business, it is that we have had to reframe our definitions of most things in life.

During this pandemic, Chazak is watching people be there for each other under trying circumstances. Chazak is the dedication of our healthcare heroes and frontline workers. Chazak is seeing the dynamic, ironclad faith of people whose loved ones, or they themselves, have been dealing with the worst the pandemic has to offer. Two names come to mind. Rabbi Levi Goldstein, who was touch and go for months, and today is home sharing his story of strength with others. The second is Sarah Dukes. Her husband, Rabbi Yudi Dukes, is still fighting for his life. She has been a fortress of strength for him, her family and everyone in her circle. You can search for her posts on Facebook. They are a stand-alone doctrine of faith and strength. May Hashem bring him a complete recovery speedily.

Of course, we beg Hashem to bring us the kind of Chazak that doesn’t need a magnifying glass or philosophy major to appreciate. All we want is Tov HaNireh V’Hanigleh – Open and Revealed Good. But in the fleeting phase of challenge that we face, we must draw strength from the redefined Chazak.

May Hashem bless our world with the Chazak that we can all relate to. May Hashem bring healing to all those that are ill. May Hashem send us the complete and final redemption through the coming of Moshiach.

Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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