Student Rabbi Ross Levy’s Message March 2019

“חזק חזק ונתחזק”

“Be strong and let us strengthen one another”

Next week, together we will read and study the final portion of the book of Exodus. The Tabernacle, God’s holy dwelling-place, will have been completed, and our people’s story will continue with the laws and regulations stipulated in the book of Leviticus. Just as Jewish living always recognizes moments of transition, the Hebrew phrase written above chazak chazak v’nitchazek is traditionally exclaimed upon completing a book of the Torah. It echoes the blessing bestowed upon Joshua following Moses’s death, and seeks to foster strength among all in the community at a time when the future is uncertain.

This message of strength and encouragement also speaks to our own community. As the seasons begin to turn and we continue with our annual Torah cycle, we find ourselves obligated to perform a new type of building. While this past month the text showed us what it meant to be physical builders—how each of our unique abilities contribute to the sacred Tabernacle residing in our own midst. As we turn to the book of Leviticus, our task turns from the physical to the spiritual. The people of Israel are now tasked with constructing a complex system of holiness, where every aspect of life is understood to play a role in the religious life of the community. With physical structures already in place, the spiritual structures of ritual must equally be built by the unique contributions of each part of the community. So too with our own community. With many of the physical frameworks constructed, we must now begin the work of service, bringing holiness in to the lives of all.

The challenges of recent illnesses that have unfortunately impacted many in our community have served to highlight the inspirational work of helping and healing that we can provide when coming together. One of the most prolific medieval commentators on the Torah, Rashi, provides a blessing that Moses gives to the Israelites before completing the work of the Tabernacle. In reference to Exodus 39:43, he writes, “And then Moses blessed them, saying, ‘May it be the will of God that God’s presence (shechina) rest upon the work of your hands’”. May God’s presence continue to rest upon the hands of all those in our community who perform the holy work of caring for those in need, and may we go from strength, to strength—strengthening each other with the work of our hands and our hearts.

Chazak chazak v’nitchazek
“Be strong and let us strengthen one another”
May it be God’s will
Student Rabbi Ross Z. Levy