Who Made Up “Chazak Chazak VeNischazaik?”

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

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The fact is that no one really knows how the minhag of reciting “Chazak, Chazak v’Nischazaik” upon completing the last parsha in each of Chamisha Chumshei Torah really started.  Nor do people really known where and when it started (but there are some indications).  Toward the end of this article, the author would like to present a theory.

There are many things that we do know about this minhag.

We know that the Aruch haShulchan (OC 139:15) and the Chasam Sofer both held to say instead, “Chazak, Chazak, Chazak.”  We know that there was a minhag to say, “Chazak, Chazak, Chazak” because Chazak in gematria is 115 and saying that three times is 345 – which is the Gematria of “Moshe.”

The Chsam Sofer’s minhag is mentioned in the writings of his student (5638) Rabbi Chizkiya Feivel Plaut in his Likutei Chaver ben Chaim).  So we know that in 1806-ish – the minhag of reciting “Chazak, Chazak v’Nischazaik” – already existed – at least in Hungary.

This idea of chazak 3 times is actually first mentioned by Rav Chaim Vital in his Shaar hapsukim on Yehoshua 1:6 – where he notes that Hashem told Yehoshua “Chazak” three times.

We know that the custom in Worms was to recite Chazak twice at the conclusion of every Sefer – once by the Chazan and once by the congregation (5747 edition page 278).  This was also the custom in Frankfurt (cited in “Noheg k’Tzon Yosef by Rav Yoseph Kashman on parshas Vayechi).

We also know that some Poskim hold that the person who got the last Aliyah should not say “Chazak, Chazak, veNischazaik” when the rest of the Tzibbur is saying it because they hold it is a hefsek.  We also know that the Lubavitcher Rebbe disagreed with this psak and held that is part of the bracha – no different than saying “pass the salt” after reciting hamotzi – according to the Gemorah.

THIS AUTHOR’S SUGGESTION

I would like to suggest the following idea.  Somewhere, in some shul in Hungary in the late 1700’s, there may have been too much talking in shul and or krias haTorah.  The Rav felt that it was a lack of derech eretz and spoke about the Gemorah in Brachos (32b).  There the Gemorah states that four things require Chizuk – strengthening.  The last of the four is DERECH ERETZ.  The Gemorah quotes the pasuk in Shmuel Bais (10:12), “Chazak veNischazak ba’ad ameinu – let us be strong and we will be strengthened for our nation.”

That particular shul already had the minhag of reciting Chazak three times at the completion of each sefer.  But after the Rav may have quoted that Gemorah in Brachos (32b), the kehillah then combined their minhag and changed it to Chazak chazak venischazaik (with a bit of a tweak on the last vowel) because of the Rav’s citation of the Gemorah in Brachos to strengthen derech eretz.  This minhag spread rapidly.

When it first began, the Chasam Sofer felt it was wrong.  The Aruch haShulchan felt the same way.  But Hashem runs the world and the minhag developed in order to strengthen Derech Eretz.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

 


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Conservative Carl
Conservative Carl
5 months ago

It’s chanted in every cl***room in every Jewish elementary school.