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Chazak - Stand Strong

Thursday, 17 July, 2014 - 9:07 am


Israel is still at war! Politically, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been referred to as hawkish, rigid and unyielding. At the same time, others refer to him as a man with the fortitude to stand strong in the face of adversity. All agree that he is strong and firm; the only question is whether it is a positive or a negative.

In truth there are two types of being strong; reacting and responding. Reacting is being stubborn and unyielding, generally based on the latest fads and trends.  Responding is a calculated decision based on one’s inner strength and convictions, not the whims of society.  

The tribes of the Jewish people are referred to as matot (in this week’s Torah portion) as well as shevatim (Genesis 49:28). Both these names are etymologically related to words that mean staff and rod respectively.

A rod is flexible while a staff is firm and rigid. A rod is freshly cut (or still connected to the tree) and the life-giving nurture it received makes it flexible. A staff, by contrast, has been disconnected from its tree a long time ago, and has become dry and hard.

When we recognize where we come from, when our connection to G-d is still noticeable, we can be flexible. Our inner strength and convictions are still “fresh” and flexibility cannot break us.

At other times, when we feel disconnected from G-d and G-dliness, we are hard and firm. If we bend, we break. During those periods, we need to recognize that while we are currently a ‘mateh’, a staff, we were once a ‘shevet’, a rod, and we need to ensure that our stubbornness is rooted in our Torah based Jewish values. As masters of our own environments, we can shape it according to the Torah's values.

To our brethren we say Chazak - Stand Strong!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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