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Be Strong, Be Strong, and May We Strengthen One Another

12/28/2023 12:47:19 PM


Rabbi Bryan Wexler

What do we do when we finish a book of the Torah? We rise and call out, “hazak hazak v’nithazek be strong, be strong, and may we strengthen one another.” We will recite this line at shul this Shabbat morning as we conclude the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and prepare to turn to the book of Shemot.  How appropriate that we will say this line specifically on Hazak Shabbat where members Hazak will lead the service. I hope you will join us!

Strength and courage are virtues that seem especially important right now.  The war in Gaza has now passed eighty days.  Every day we pray for the strength, courage, and safety for all of the members of Israel’s Defense Forces.  We have also seen a sharp rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world.  How can we respond?  How must we respond?  The answer, to me, lies in the powerful phrase of hazak hazak v’nithazek, we should not cower or hide, rather we must respond from a place of a strength and courage. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged each of us not to flinch in the face of hatred. Instead, he taught, we must summon an inner courage in order to work towards peace and a better world. He taught: 

   Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.
   Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
   Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
   Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
   Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
   Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
   But, conscience asks the question, is it right?

     - Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
       Radio Broadcast, KPFA, Santa Rita CA, January 14, 1968.

Hazak Hazak V’nithazek—three words that paint an important picture for this moment.
Hazak – Be strong. In thinking about strength, we encounter challenges, obstacles, and pressures. To be strong we need to have ourselves grounded in something that gives us roots, like our Jewish tradition and our sacred text, the Torah.
The second Hazak-- points to relationships; we are strong when we have people we can count on. Our friends, our families, and our TBS community are all sources of strength. 
V’nithazek – We must strengthen each other. This one is so important. How will we share our strength? How can we lean on one another? 
On Saturday morning, when we recite hazak hazak v’nithazek as a congregation, may we recite it as a prayer, as a proclamation, and as a promise that as we turn the page from Genesis to Exodus, as we turn the page to the New Year 2024, and as we hope to turn the page from a world filled with hate to a world filled with acceptance and love, we will do so through our strength and courage.
Hazak Hazak V’nithazek - be strong, be strong, and may we strengthen one another.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784