This week we come to the end of the book of Leviticus. There is an Ashkenazi tradition upon arriving at the end of each book of Torah in which the community says "Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek! Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened!"
“Chazak”, as with most Hebrew words has multiple meanings or connotations which perhaps helps us understand why call upon it three times.
to be bound to
to be attached to
to have courage
to hold fast
to retain / to keep
to prove helpful
I like to imagine that each time we speak it we are calling upon its varied attributes; asking that words of Torah and the lives we have honored in reading them will support and encourage each of us on our own journey's to wholeness and connection. There is a recognition in the repetition that we are bound to them, and they are forever a part of us.
At our congregational meeting this Sunday, we will study words of Torah, welcome new board members and perhaps most profoundly, offer gratitude to those outgoing board members that have been of sacred service during this difficult transition in the life of Kol Tzedek.
I have been reflecting on the nature of synagogue leadership and Rabbi Michelle pointed me towards this article written by Pastor Erin Wathan following Easter. She writes:
"In writing a letter of gratitude my people, I wrote that it takes a whole village of volunteers to make all of this happen…. But then I found myself hitting the backspace button. Because “volunteer” is not quite the right word for what our people do at church... In other words, it’s what you do at a place that is important to you–but not at a place that belongs to you... I’m not sure the word “volunteer” does justice to the depths contained in the work people actually do in their churches..."
This resonates deeply for me. Synagogue leadership is not about volunteering, it is about service. I am extremely grateful to each and every person who has given of their time and skill, and for the service of the outgoing board members. I offer you each the same blessing that we use to mark completion in our Torah cycle:
Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek! Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened! May you each draw courage and strength from your sacred service. And in the spirit of Pastor Wathan, may we all remember that we don’t just belong to Kol Tzedek, it belongs to us!
Rabbi Ari Lev