Our sages tell us that being together during a time of challenge is a comfort for the community. The Jewish Press has always united loyal readers from the four corners of the world and has served as a source of inspiration and encouragement. During these challenging times, especially, its reliability and influence are even more meaningful and significant.
At the conclusion of each of the five books of the Torah, the entire congregation rises and calls out, “Chazak chazak v’nischazek – Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.” Why do we say these words instead of “Mazel tov,” “Mabrouk,” or “Congratulations”?
The commentaries explain that when a person finishes a book in the Torah, he finds himself in a challenging predicament. Why? Because the Evil Inclination presents itself and tries to stem his spiritual progress. He may convince a person to rest on his laurels after he has learned so much. Or he may convince him to think, “Why do I have to immediately move on to the next book of the Torah?” For that reason we state, “Be strong, be strong…” – to encourage one another to continue forward.
A mountain climber once dreamed of climbing an extremely high mountain and, after much planning and training, set off. However, he underestimated the amount of effort and energy he needed for the trek. When a violent snowstorm hit, the icy winds and sub-zero temperature were too much for the climber, and frostbite began to set in. As he struggled to continue, the mountain climber feared that he would succumb to the elements and be buried in the snow.
Just as he was about to give up, he felt something underfoot. Even though he was exhausted, he bent down, brushed away the snow, and was astounded to find a body. Upon close examination, he detected a faint heartbeat. He immediately began to rub the climber’s limbs to stimulate his circulation.
After a few minutes, he saw signs of life beginning to return to the frozen mountain climber. And a strange thing occurred. Not only had he revived the fallen climber, he had revived himself as well due to the body warmth that he created.
“Be strong be strong,” we say to others because by doing so “we ourselves will be strengthened.”
Today we have an opportunity to offer strength and encouragement to others who are down and out, and while doing so we will invigorate and hearten ourselves. I would like to share with you a recent conversation that moved me to tears.
Soon after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, high-traffic stores quickly emptied. People who frequent ice cream stores, pizza shops, and the like are mostly staying away. This has affected those businesses as well as many ancillary jobs. A very sincere, honest, and humble individual who makes a meager living distributing flyers in such stores and shuls and yeshivos was told by his employer that posting these flyers had become pointless since nobody was reading them. The man was now without any livelihood at all.
I was deeply pained when I listened to him recounting these details over the phone and my only thought was: How would this family subsist for the foreseeable future?
Yesterday, I received a call from this man’s wife, who wanted to ask me two shailos. First, she told me she had been keeping some double-wrapped Pesach food in the freezer, among the chametz, from two years ago. Could she use it for Pesach? Second, she wanted to know what foods could be used on Pesach that did not specifically need Pesach rabbinical supervision.
The husband then took the phone to clarify that they maintained the highest level of kashrus, but were there items whose price would not be affected by the special Pesach hashgacha?
As they spoke, I could hear children in the background, and I was deeply troubled by the deeper ramifications of these questions. How could this family possibly make a Pesach seder? Obviously, even the basic staples of wine and matzah would be difficult for them to afford.
I immediately told the woman not to worry – that I would make sure that she would be able to make a beautiful seder with food and wine that would meet all the requirements. She didn’t respond. The husband once again took the phone and said, “My wife is overwhelmed by your words.”
As I do every year before Pesach, I call on all of our loyal readers and friends of The Jewish Press to help me before yom tov in my undertaking to collect money on behalf of the destitute people in our community. Feel the pain of our brethren and take part in this great mitzvah. Let us give chizuk to families, individuals, and children in need so that they can celebrate Pesach with dignity.
I personally administer and distribute the monies from the special Yom Tov Fund I have established directly into the hands of those who are most in need.
In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, good health, nachas, happiness, and prosperity. When you donate, you may note the names of anyone in particular who is in need of shalom bayis, shidduchim, refuah, parnassah, etc., and I will say special prayers on their behalf.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210.