Jewish Soul Journey

CHAZAK V’AMATZ – ON STRENGTH, COURAGE & TESHUVAH

                                                                                                                                                                                  
Of the normal fears that people
have, one of the most insidious is the fear of failure. ‘What if I don’t
succeed? What if I will be perceived by others and my myself as a failure?” How
do we ask ourselves these questions. They come up in major life decisions all
the time – for example:” Which profession should I enter? Where should I live? To
which school should I send my children?” We usually ask these questions in
trepidation wondering if our choices will lead to success or failure. 



 The Torah clearly
addresses, for us throughout the ages, the prescription for overcoming fear and
doubt when Moshe Rabbinu reassures his disciple Yehoshua saying: (Parshas
Vayeilech 31: 7-8) “Chazak v’ematz,” – “Be strong and courageous! Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains: “Remain
firm in taking the knowledge of your tasks from the Torah and be strong in
overcoming all obstacles in carrying them out. Firm in principles and strong in
carrying them out are the first demands made on a leader.” This means we need
to put our full trust (strength) in Hashem’s Torah acknowledging that everything
that transpires emanates from His will. Only then can we successfully overcome
all obstacles.

   This Torah section then continues with the
words: “…, for you shall come with this people to the Land that Hashem swore to
give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. Hashem – it is He that goes
before you; He will be with you; He will not release you nor will He forsake
you; do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.”  An obvious question arises when pondering these
pasukim. How, after such assured statement of security that Hashem will cause
them to inherit the Land, go before them, be with them and not forsake them, is
there any room for possible fear or dismay?

 Perhaps the
Torah here is teaching us all a deep psychological   insight about human nature that even
substantive intellectual knowledge will not automatically eliminate fear and
anxiety. Therefore, the Torah directs us to be strong in following its
teachings and courageous in fulfilling it, in that case Hashem promises us that
He will be with us; He will not let go of us, nor will He forsake us. This foundational
paradigm should serve as a pillar of idealism to all of us that in any task that
we are assigned in life, we will be able to approach it fearlessly and
courageously putting all our trust in Hashem.



            Let us now continue to highlight some unusual
words or phrases in-order to bring us to a higher awareness of how these
pasukim can also apply to us in our lives.

                   The first question
is why the Torah begins with the word     
 Vayikra – And Moseh summoned
Yehoshua, rather than simply saying Moseh said to Yehoshua before the eyes of
all Israel
¼? To this we will bring a comment from the Ramban on the first word of
Parshas Vayikra. ‘After the Mishkan had been completed as the dwelling for the
(Shechinah) Divine radiance, Moseh Rabbanu was fearful to enter it due to the
its holiness; therefore Hashem called out to Moseh to reassure him that the
Mishkan had been made to benefit them through their entering and doing the
proper (avoda) service’. So perhaps we can say that the choice of the word Vayikra
here too was to reassure Yehoshua that his active role in leading the nation
was desired by Hashem. 

              Let us now ask what
is the difference in meaning between the words 
Chazak V’Amatz – be strong and courageous? Strength is a great
virtue but when it stands alone it can be kept at a level of confinement only
being used as a protective attribute. Courageous on the other hand is a
proactive (meda) attribute but doesn’t necessarily contain within itself the
quality of strength; therefore Moshe blessed to Yehoshua to be able to unite
both these qualities so as to be successful in his duties as leader of the
Jewish nation.



           The Torah’s declares that not only
will we be successful if we follow the Torah, but ‘Hashem will cause us to
inherit it; it is He that goes before us; He will be with us; He will not
release us or forsake us’. We can see this as a reassurance to all of us, that
if we listen and adhere correctly to the will of Hashem, he will lead and guide
us through our challenges in life.

          There is also another
profound thought woven in these words of the Torah. If Hashem leads us and
assures us that we will conquer all our enemies, then what are we actually
doing? To this the Torah tells us to be strong – in following the Torah
and courageous – in overcoming our inner personal fears, anxieties and
doubts. That is to say that the strength and courage that the Torah is
referring to is in cultivating the proper (emuna) faith and (betokanan) belief
in Hashem. This means realizing, that on our own the nations of the world and
natural cause and effect would swallow us up, but by being attached to Hashem
through the Torah, He will fight our battles, making us successful.



          At the end of the
Parsha (in pusack 23): Hashem commands Yehoshua ben Nun through Moshe saying:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the children of Israel to the
land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you.” In the Sifri on Sefer
Yehoshua 7:10 it is Yehoshua leadership that will cause them to inherit the
land, which seems to mean that only if Yehoshua will go before them will they
will succeed. The obvious question is why should the success of conquering and
inheriting the land be so dependant on Yehoshua? If he failed to fulfill his
duties, Hashem could simply replace him with another and yet the commentators
imply that he is irreplaceable.

            This question we will
answer with an extremely powerful lesson in ones personal obligation in life.
In the mention of Yehoshua’s specific unique role in conquering and inheriting
the land in Parsha Va’eschanen chpt. 3 pasukim 25 – 28, Parsha Vayeilech chpt.
31 pasukim 7 – 8  and in Sefer Yehoshua
chpt. 7 pasuk 10 the commentators say that Yehoshua’s personal initiative was
absolutely necessary and that if he relied on others to do the job, he would
not have Divine assistance.                              This declaration of personal
obligation is something that we all can gain tremendous value from. Each one of
us has been brought into this world to fulfill a unique purpose therefore it
behooves us to



 approach that uniqueness as if
the success or failure of it is dependant on our efforts, with of course the
help of Hashem.

         Perhaps another explanation of why
specifically Yehoshua was designated to lead the Nation into the Land and then
conquer it can be seen in his name. Yehoshua is a contraction of two words
meaning: Hashem will save us. This is let us know that the battle for
holiness can only be successful through our recognizing and accepting our
dependence on G-d’s help. This means we have to make our best effort but
simultaneously realize that all our power and success comes from Hashem, then
He will guide and protect us in all our ways.

            May we all imbue our
lives with the true strength of faith and courage of belief only in the Torah,
thereby serving Hashem with all our hearts, with all our souls and all our
possessions.

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