As we end the reading of each book of the Torah – Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bemidbar, and Devarim or Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – it is customary to say, “Hazak, Hazak, Venithazzek,” which some say means “be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened.”
As the Torah reader concludes the final words of the book, s/he closes the scroll. Then the congregation pronounces “Hazak, Hazak, Venithazzek.” The Torah reader doesn’t say anything, nor does the person with the aliyah (the oleh (m.) or olah (f.)), until after the congregation says it, at which point the Torah reader repeats the statement. Then the scroll is opened again and the olah/oleh kisses it, closes it, and says the final aliyah blessing.
In 2 Samuel 10:12, Joab says, “חֲזַ֤ק וְנִתְחַזַּק֙…” which is often translated as “Let us
be strong and resolute.” [Sefaria.org.] This seems to be the source for the language.
Some translate “Hazak, Hazak, Venithazzek,” as “let us be strong, let us be strong,
let us strengthen one another.” Some also translate it as “strong, strong, may we
be strengthened again,” or “…we strengthen ourselves.” The word hazak is in the
imperitive mood, but also of unclear origins, thus the varying translations.
“Venithazek” is a reflexive verb (fooled me, too, I thought it was another stative
verb!), which gives the idea of us imparting the strength to us.
Of course, saying this at the end of each book probably derived from the rabbis
encouraging us to look forward to being strong enough to continue on in our
reading. (Can’t help wondering whether it is related to “huzzah,” but have found no evidence.)
Students in Mr. Carl Baumgart’s Visual Communications class at Taylor Allderdice High School, including prominently our members Ari Gilboa and Omri Raz, designed the t-shirt logo pictured here as this year’s charitable design for the class; the saying appears prominently, as does the word “kehilah,” “community.” Initially meant to be an internal project, it grew to national level. The design is popular. The students sold over 1,200 shirts and raised over $4,000 for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh Fund for Victims of Terror.
חֲזַק חֲזַק וְנִתְחַזֵּק