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Reb Lisa's Message


This week we begin the book of Numbers, (Bemidbar in Hebrew). Whenever we transition from one book to the next in Torah, we recite together, “Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek! Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen each other!”

Yes, indeed. We bless each other with strength. Each of us relies on the strength of the other–I need you. Similarly, we offer our own strength to another–you need me. This beautiful mutuality is the connective tissue, the divine glue that holds us together. Our individual strength fortifies the whole. And the whole nourishes us right back. This is the power of community.

I speak of course of all the communities of which we are a part and acknowledge the “super power “of inter-communal networks. Individual communities are strengthened by leaning on and supporting fellow communities. This is what we need in the world right now–all of us having each other’s backs.

The Jewish community is a marginalized and targeted group. When we have been at our most vulnerable, the wider communal network was activated and rallied around us. We leaned into the loving embrace of so many people who stood with us–who stood strong with us. And from that we were strengthened.

Aleinu. It is upon us to stand in strong solidarity with other communities who are targets of hate and harassment. As Reb Zalman of blessed memory reminds us, “The only way to get it together, is together.” It is only through the strength of connecting as a human family that we can really affect change.

In the Talmud, in tractate Brachot, we learn that four things need “chizuk” (strengthening): Torah, good deeds, prayer, and derech eretz (courteous behavior, or doing the right thing). May we all be strengthened to do what is right. When we are called to be a pillar of strength for those in distress, may we not shy away. Similarly, when we need support, may we not be afraid to ask for help.

In all the transitional and challenging places in which we find ourselves, including moving from one book of Torah to the next, may we be strong, strong, and strengthen each other.

Chazak Chazak, V’nitchazek!

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