By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, September 28, 2010

The other day I saw a poster in English on a wall in a religious area of Jerusalem, offering counselling and advice on how to achieve a year full of "geshmack [tasty] Torah learning". It was signed "The Chizuk Committee".

Chizuk means emotional or spiritual support or encouragement. You might say, "I really need some chizuk with unpacking the last 50 cardboard boxes that are still sitting in the living room after our move." The word comes from chazak, meaning strength and is related to chadak, thick or solid . In Israel today, many talk about being mitchazek - gradually strengthening in faith and religious observance. The term is most common in Sephardi communities, where people were never wholly secular or alienated from religiosity, but are building on an existing basis.

At the end of the Torah, Moses counsels Joshua, "Chazak ve'ematz", "Be strong and courageous" (Deuteronomy 31:23). And when we finish the Torah and begin again on Simchat Torah, we say "Chazak Chazak v'nitchazek", "Be strong and let us strengthen ourselves."

Last updated: 11:15am, September 28 2010