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Parashat Behar-Bechokotai

May 12, 2023
15 Iyyar 5783
Leviticus 25:1-27:34
36th day of the Omer

Dear Friends,

As we approach the end of the Hebrew School academic year, we invite you to join us on Shabbat morning and celebrate our children and their wonderful families. Not only will we be celebrating them, but also Danny Guenzburger, who will be reading Torah in commemoration of his own Bar Mitzvah. Together we will recite Chazak, Chazak, V'nitchazeik, be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another as we finish the third book of the Torah, Leviticus.

These are the words that we say when we complete a book of the Torah. What are they doing here? The first part of the phrase begins in the singular and then in the second part becomes plural. We go from the individual to the community. why do we recite he invocation to be strong after completing something? Should we not simply be pleased that we have accomplished something? There is more going on here. When we come to the end of something, we may feel a sense of accomplishment, but along with that sense of accomplishment comes the question: what’s next? More importantly, how will I handle what comes next? Being encouraged to be strong gives one the ability to keep moving forward; even more importantly, we are told that we do not have to be strong all by ourselves.

Coming to the end of a school year, saying a firm farewell to winter and even spring, indicates that we are undergoing a time of transition. It is one we go through every year, but where we stand in relation to that transition changes every year. In the same way, we are not in the same place as we explore the double portion that concludes the book of Leviticus. Every year, a different section may catch our attention, inviting us to delve more deeply.

Our own response to change was brought home to me this week in a very concrete fashion. Our living room window was framed by a majestic tree. It was a gateway to the changing seasons, a place where birds made their homes, where squirrels jumped from branch to branch, and where even raccoons had nests. It was one of the blessings of our home. But the tree showed signs of being sick. We saw those signs, but we really did not want to see them. This week the tree was cut down. Our first response was about us and our loss, but then we took some time and realized that the tree was a danger to the trees around it.  We experienced change -- major change. Even the way light came into our home changed, and so we were challenged to say Chazak, Chazak, V'nitchazeik. 

As with many Hebrew words Chazak has multiple meanings:

to be bound to
to be attached to
to support
to preserve
to strengthen
to have courage
to hold fast
to encourage
to retain / to keep
to prove helpful
to uphold

We need all of these attributes as we go through times of transition. It is much more fulfilling and meaningful when we reach out to one another as we are going through these beginnings and endings.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784