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Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazeik!

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Yehuda Dimentman will not bless his baby boy this Shabbat night. He was murdered yesterday by terrorists. The blessing over sons that appears in this week's Torah portion is dedicated to him.

Yaakov Avinu separates from his grandsons, Efraim and Menashe. His words have been repeated by parents to their sons on Shabbat night until today: "May God make you like Efraim and Menashe."

Why have millions of parents been making this blessing throughout the generations, every week? Above all, because Efraim and Menashe were the first brothers not to contend with one another. After all the contentious brothers described in Genesis - Cain and Abel, Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yaakov and Esav, as well as Yosef and his brothers - they were the first brothers to live together with love and in peace, just as we want our children to live.

And there is another reason that this blessing endures. Efraim and Menashe grew up in Egypt, in exile. They succeeded in preserving their values despite the foreign, yet seductive, culture around them. When Yaakov blesses them he is actually saying: The way of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, as described in the book of Genesis, was a success and will endure. Despite all the hardships, there will be a future Jewish generation. Yaakov Avinu knows that his grandchildren, and our children and grandchildren too, will grow up in a confusing world, and blesses them with the fortitude to preserve the Jewish spark throughout all future exiles and stand up against relentless challenges to the culture of Torah.

This is what Yaakov wants his children to contribute to the world - peace and values identified with Judaism.

And in the face of enemies who are still fighting with the descendants of Yaakov, let us repeat the three words that will be said on Shabbat morning in the synagogue when we complete the book of Genesis: Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazeik! Be strong, Be strong, We will be strong!


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