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Mattot-Massei 5781 ~ July 9, 2021

This week’s Torah reading marks the end of our reading of the Book of Numbers. What an amazing feat that we all take for granted.  While we follow the journeys of the Israelite nation in the Book of Numbers, only when we come to the end of the book do we realize the scope of their amazing journey.  It is a tradition that as we complete a book of Torah, we recite the words “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik,” somewhat translated as, may we be strengthened and continue to find strength in our studies of Torah, from one book to the next.

This week another beautiful moment occurred in Israel with the swearing in of Isaac Herzog as the President of Israel. He did so on a 107-year-old Bible given by his great-grandfather, Rabbi Hillman, to his daughter, Sara, when she married Rabbi Isaac Herzog who later became the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.

While the role of the President of Israel is mostly ceremonial, at certain moments it is most important that the President reflect diplomacy in a most respectful manner. In that regard, Mark Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, recently stated that, “Throughout his many years of service in the Knesset, to Israel and in the Jewish Agency, Mr. Herzog has become known for his soft-spoken manner and for eschewing partisan rancor in favor of respectful engagement.”

President Herzog must have learned a great deal on how to treat others from his father who was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and the sixth President of Israel. But there was another moment in his life that provided him with an important life lesson on how to treat others. When his father was the ambassador to the UN, Isaac Herzog was staff at Camp Ramah in Palmer. (Camp Ramah are the overnight camps of the United Synagogues for Conservative Judaism and the Jewish Theological Seminary.)  He shared the following about that time:

I was a waiter at Camp Ramah in New England in the 1970s. That summer I was privileged to tutor a girl in the Tikvah special needs program. That experience taught me so much and contributed a great deal to my leadership skills and my desire to help disadvantaged populations, which plays a large role in my work as a member of Israel’s current administration. (At the time, Herzog was Israel's Minister of Welfare and Social Services.)

We offer our words found at the end of our Torah reading to the President of Israel, as well as to the Prime Minister and new government:

“Chazak, chazak, v’nitzchazeik,” May all of Israel, both in the land and throughout the world, find continuing strength through your efforts on our behalf.

As I prepare to begin a three week vacation, I thank you for a most wonderful year together.  Chazak, chazak, v’nitzchazeik.

Fri, June 24 2022 25 Sivan 5782