This Shabbat, we read from the final Torah portion before beginning the yearly cycle anew next week. In it, Moses, prior to his death, bestows blessings upon all of Israel and to each tribe. And at the end of the reading, which marks the completion of the fifth book of the Torah, the Ashkenazi communities call out, Chazak, Chazak, v’ Nit’chazek. Be strong! Be strong! And we will be strengthened!
The Haftorah that follows in some way mirrors this resolution, as it recounts Joshua leading the Israelites into the land of Israel, thus ending their 40-year journey from Egypt out of slavery. Joshua is bolstered by the call from God: Chazak v’amatz! Be strong and of courage!
This search for fortitude in the face of struggle is both universal and particular; it is grounded in the Torah but also in history. During Napoleon’s rise to power, he faced a formidable opponent in the Russian Army. At one point, with Napoleon and his forces on one hill and a Russian general and his forces on the other, Napoleon saw a man in the ravine below running back and forth, up and down the hills on which the two opposing forces were arrayed. The man stopped on one of the hilltops and called out excitedly, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the City of Peace!
Where do you see Jerusalem?, asked Napoleon. I cannot see her.
The man turned to Napoleon and said, You cannot see Jerusalem because you are looking with your eyes and not your heart.
Today and in this season, at this time in our collective history, the call to be strong, to have courage feels especially important. There are a myriad of forces assembled on opposite hillsides, a host of issues and ills bearing down upon us. May we be strong. May we be strengthened. And may we be courageous enough to see Jerusalem in our hearts and to pursue peace.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.