Rabbis Without Borders
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This coming Shabbat we will complete our annual reading of the Book of Leviticus. Prayer communities will rise as the last words of the book are read, declaring: Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek! Let’s be strong, and strengthen one another! It interests me that as we complete our immersion in a book of the Torah, ostensibly a vehicle for connecting with the Divine, it is our tradition to turn toward one another, affirming our potency, and offering our vigor as interpersonal support.
As Leviticus draws to a close, God says: V’natati mishkani b’tochechem – I will establish My home in your midst. We could say that God affirms that God will live between us, in the flow that links us, that spirituality resides in the vigor of our relationships to one another.
In commenting on this verse, the 18th -century Hasidic master Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz visualized the cosmic power of human friendship. He taught that every person has a supernal glow, and that when two people meet, their lights combine into a new light that has never shone before. From this luminosity, an angel is born.
In other words, in combining our energies as friends and as beloveds, we generate angels, increase the heavenly chorus, and we generate heavenly light, increasing the spiritual power that sustains us all.
Pinchas of Koretz pushed farther, to encourage sustained relationships. He extrapolated that angels born of our combined auras have a life span of a single year, and if we do not maintain connection with our friend, the light and the angel dies… But by way of encouragement, he added that even as it dies, a glimmer of the light remains, so that all can be resuscitated if we do meet again and renew our human bonds. Indeed, it is traditional to offer this blessing upon seeing a friend after a long separation: Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, mechaye hameitim – Blessed are You Adonai, Sovereign of the Universe, who raises the dead.
At a time when we cannot count on those in power to, necessarily, invite others to lean in for support, our declaration, let’s be strong and strengthen one another, is a poignant affirmation that we understand the importance of cooperation, and that we understand how far-reaching gestures of friendship can be. Let’s remember that the power of Heaven resides in the flow between us, and that our joy in one another is the light of our world.