One phrase is repeated three times over the course of our parsha. The first time it is mentioned to the entire Israelite nation, the second and third to Joshua. That phrase is חזק ואמץ, be strong and emboldened! The first time it is mentioned, our ancestors are told not to fear the other nations because G-d marches alongside them. They are never alone-G-d is always by their side to help in all their endeavors. After the Israelites’ fears are assuaged, Moses tells Joshua the same words, חזק ואמץ, to not fear that he’ll be able to do his job as the leader of the people. He tells it to him twice, in verses 7 and 23. However, the context is completely different. In verse 7, Joshua is told that the Land of Israel was sworn by G-d to their ancestors and that he will be the one to lead them into it. In verse 23, Joshua is told in addition to this that G-d will be with him. Why did G-d need to repeat that? Isn’t it obvious that G-d will be there?
Sometimes hearing by itself is not enough-we need to be reassured that what we heard is correct. After all, our greatest leader, Moses, needed to be reassured not once, not twice, not even three times but four that he was meant to lead our ancestors out of Egypt. How much more so does Joshua require reassurance that he will be successful as the next leader after our greatest prophet ever! Furthermore, in verse 7 Moses called to Joshua, telling him to be strong and emboldened. In verse 23 he commanded him to do so. He wants it solidified in Joshua’s head to have faith in his abilities to lead the Israelite people to the Promised Land and conquer it from their enemies.
It can be very easy to be afraid when going into a marriage. One transitions from being on his/her own to being a partner. Regardless of how well a couple knows each other, something changes the moment when they walk under the wedding canopy. There are always worries upon entering a marriage, as there are with any significant life transition. The key is, as in the words of Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav, to do one’s best לא לפחד כלל, not to have any fear, to recognize that you’re in the right place for you at this particular time.
The same lesson is applied to this Sabbath of Repentance, Shabbat Shuvah. We are supposed to be in fear of our fate at this time, whether we will be in the book of life or book of death. We are supposed to meticulously examine our actions to see what we can do better, how we can improve. At the same time, we should not have any fear, for G-d is with us, guiding us along our path. We just need the wisdom to know that things will work out in the end, that we need patience, understanding and calmness.
As we continue forward towards Yom Kippur, let each of us be strong and emboldened, doing our best to prepare for a wonderful coming year. Let us also wish our best to Ethan and Haleigh for the celebration of their aufruf and their upcoming marriage. May this year 5777 be one of blessing and joy for each of us.