This Friday, Erev Shabbos, and continuing until next Sunday, we enter into the saddest and most challenging period in Jewish history, commemorating multiple calamities, both in the biblical period, such as the tragic misfortune of the spies that Moses sent to survey Israel and continuing with the destruction of both Temples, and many other painful episodes throughout modern times that were recorded on the ninth of Av – Tisha B’Av.
At the same time, we read in the Torah the last portion of the fourth book, which actually is the conclusion that was literally dictated by G-d, and the fifth book which was given through Moses being the intermediary and his expression. At that time, the entire community rises and calls out with a sense of power and joy, “Chazak, Chazak V’Nizchazek”! Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened.
On some level, this is quite understandable as it is strength that we need during these dark, debilitating and depressing moments. However, the statement which is said with such joy and revelry seems to be part of these nine days and not just a response to them. It is as if the nine days themselves have an ingredient of strength that is an integral part of Jewish life.
There are multiple ways to eliminate darkness. One is to contain it in its own space and not it allow it to spread its pernicious effects. Another is to kindle a flame that dissipates the darkness. The third and most effective is for the darkness itself to become light. Similarly, when addressing an enemy or adversary where the initial most utilized pattern is to beat him down and contain his capacity, the second is to become so strong and illuminated that the enemy is not afforded any sense of presence. The third and most effective is to transform the enemy to ally.
There is an obvious question as to how G-d could allow the Temple to be destroyed when we are directed in the Torah with the prohibition not to destroy anything that is useful. The answer that our Rabbis give is that when replacing that which is destroyed by something greater and better, it is not referred to as destruction but construction. So too here the inner objective of all of these tragedies is to refine the world and bring it to a higher level, culminating with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the third Temple which will be built by G-d and be eternal, never to be destroyed.
It is our constantly challenging the darkness and the darkness challenging us, such as we experience today in our broken society and, thank G-d, succeed to sustain and grow against all odds, contrary to all predictions and completely beyond the pale of the natural process, that allows us to reach the holiest, most glorious highs.
So it is darkness itself that contains and gives us that powerful strength to move beyond it, to the extent that the former darkness recognizes the benefits in our illuminated way of life and subjugates itself to the truth of life.
Chazak, Chazak, V’Nizchazek! May we extract the strength imbedded in the darkness, derailing it from its vitriolic hate and transforming it to a peaceful and mutually supportive world.
Have a great Shabbos and a wonderful week,
Sholom D. Lipskar