Chazak Chazak V’Nitchazek ~ Be strong, Be Strong, and Let Us Be Strengthened
This year January 1st falls on a Friday and the Torah portion for the Shabbat of New Years is Parashat Va-y’chi, which is the final Torah Portion in the Book of Genesis. In this Torah portion we give a final farewell to Jacob and Jacob says goodbye to his family before dying. It is a bittersweet moment, but one that gives closure and brings together a fractured family.
Likewise, I believe that this New Year’s probably felt the same to many of you. Many have posted on social media about how you couldn’t wait to say goodbye to 2020. Many of you debated whether or not the year 2020 felt like a year, a decade, or a century. I don’t think there are any of us that didn’t struggle in some way during 2020. Sure, there were beautiful moments as well, but collectively many of us struggled (and continue in that struggling) to deal with a pandemic and an unpredictable society.
I hope that as we look back at 2020, just as Jacob looks back upon his life, we each will find that scattered amongst our year there were many blessings despite some measure of struggle. Being able to look back and find blessings amongst trying times is an important virtue because it’s what gives us strength and helps us make meaning out of chaos.
Traditionally, as we finish one book of the Torah and begin another we say the phrase “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” which means, “Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened.” I think we should utter these words as 2020 comes to an end rather than the phrase many of you would probably rather choose, “good riddance.”
I think we should say, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” because it’s a way of affirming our hope and belief that we should only come out of 2020 stronger than when we went into it. It’s also a way of finding the sacred in the mundane. We could either see this moment – the moment between 2020 and 2021 – as just another calendar change, or we could see it as a sacred moment where we invite the Divine in to help make this moment holy. We can make it holy when we take stock of the year that was and reach our hearts out in hope for the year that will unfold before us. Let us not say, “This year was worse than the last, I hope next year will be better.” Instead let us say, “This year is over, let us work to make the next year better. When 2021 comes to an end let us make sure that more people have found justice and wholeness in their lives.” May we all enter into this New Year stronger, wiser, and healthier than when we started the last and may we also come together to constantly strive to make this world a sacred place for all.
Philip N. Bazeley