As we brace ourselves for an impossibly anxiety-ridden Shabbat, I am inspired by recalling the origin of the popular wartime greeting Chazak venitchazak, Let us be strong and let us be strengthened together, with which many have the practice to conclude and, as we will do this week, begin reading the Torah.
In Shmuel Bet, Yoav finds himself compelled to divide his army to fend off a two-pronged attack from the Amonites and the mercenary Arameans. He therefore approaches his brother Avishai to lead an additional set of troops on the second front.
Yoav asks his Avishai to make the following mutual pledge: if Yoav's army nears defeat, Avishai will rush to his defense; and if that of Avishai nearly falls, Yoav will do the same for his brother.
Yoav then urges, "Chazak venitchazak." It is not enough, he reminded Avishai, to strengthen ourselves individually. The brothers are quite literally dependent on one another to secure their survival. That's why this is the only place in Tanach where we find not only the phrase chazak or chazak ve'ematz, but chazak venitchazak - let us strengthen ourselves and let us be strengthened together.
Right now, we fight multiple enemies on many fronts: of course Hamas, but also the looming, hovering threat of Iran, the potential for a full-fledged second front to open from Lebanon, a misinformation war, an international "day of rage," self-righteous calls from long-since discredited "humanitarian" organizations, and more. The anxiety of the apparently imminent ground war to feels crippling for so many of us.
But as we prepare to read the Torah again, as our brothers and sisters prepare to enter Azza and as the predictable international condemnations begin to rain down on cue, we can draw strength from the knowledge that more strongly than at any point in recent memory, we know and feel that AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WE CAN RELY ON ONE ANOTHER.
Completing and beginning a new cycle of the Torah is not only a statement about our commitment to Torah, but to recommit ourselves to our Torah and our values as a community. And, as we now know all too well from personal experience, the same is true during this war. Both in Israel and around the world, the level of support for the well-being of our chayalim and one another feels greater than at any point I can recall in my lifetime.
Immediately after Yoav receives Avishai's pledge of support, the pesukim tell us that they emerged safely and successfully in not only defending the Jewish people but also in generating sufficient deterrence that Amon and Aram were dissuaded from attacking again. The bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, along with divine assistance, successfully enabled them to not only defend their fellow Jews but also to secure the safety of the Davidic dynasty from these nations for decades, even generations to come.
Through our rediscovery of our mutual bonds, may we too merit victory - and greater long-term security in this generation and even the next.
Let us continue to draw strength not only from our own internal emotional reserviors but from one another as well.
Chazak - VeNitchazak.