Ethan Bronner on the Obama Victory


(sent on 7 November 2008)


Believe it or not, my cable modem connection had been down since early on 5 November Wednesday, so I had been cyber-constrained in expressing my joyful response to the results of our presidential election, even despite the shameful—and problematically related— passage of Proposition 8 in California.  But this beautiful little piece by Ethan Bronner from the first page of Wednesday’s New York Times is just something I have to share, even belatedly.  It says so much of what so many of us feel:


The New York Times


The Promise

For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed


Published: November 5, 2008

GAZA — From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth — call it America — where such a thing happens.

(For the complete article: )

I don’t know why—it is not the sort of thing that I have felt comfortable even thinking about for a very long time—but I am moved to say “Hazak hazak v’nithazek”:  Be strong, be strong. And let us strengthen one another” (or, sometimes translated idiomatically as, “Be strong and of good courage”) [Joshua 1:6]  It is God’s charge to Joshua, and it is what Jews say at the end of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, as they return to Genesis for the beginning of the reading of the next cycle.  There is something that has ended, and there is a hopeful new beginning.  Let us hope we have the strength and courage to realize its possibilities.

Some corrections (added on 16 November):


1.      The source of this phrase is Rabbinic; it is not actually found in the Bible in this form

2.      Nevertheless, the repetition of the word “hazak” most assuredly is a an allusion to the first chapter of Joshua, in which it is repeated twice—at the beginning of  verse 6, “hazah v’ematz” (חזק ואמץ), and again at the beginning of verse 7, “rak hazah v’ematz  (רק חזק ואמץ); it is actually reprised a third time in the middle of verse 9

3.      The translation “be strong and of good courage” (or, simply, “be strong and courageous”) is of “hazah v’ematz” (חזק ואמץ)—and it is not, as I had suggested, an idiomatic rendering of “hazak v’nithazek” (חזק ונתחזק); and the “rak hazah v’ematz m’od” (מאד רק חזק ואמץ) of verse 7 is translated “only be strong and of very good courage”

4.      The only time the phrase “hazak v’nithazek” (חזק ונתחזק) occurs in the Bible (and, actually, the only occurrence at all of the verbal form “nithazek” [hitpael first person plural imperfect of חזק—the hitpael usually being the reflexive form of that sort of verb, or a form that implies “making ourselves strong,” in this case) is in II Samuel 10:12

5.      The translation I quoted, “Be strong, be strong. And let us strengthen one another,” is of  “hazak v’nithazek” (חזק ונתחזק)

6.      The phrase is said by some congregations at the completion of each of the five books of the Torah, by some only after the completion of all five…and in some after the completion of any book


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