Our community is so fortunate to have Chazaq right here planning and scheduling so many uplifting events for everyone. On Tuesday evening, December 31, Chazaq hosted a beautiful night of inspiration at Beth Gavriel. Community members flocked there to drink in words of Torah at a time when the secular society around us was busy drinking and partying for the secular New Year.

 Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser commented on how special it is to have Queens celebrating with Torah on this night. He began by noting how Eisav had his head buried at M’aras HaMachpeilah, but his body was buried at Har Sei’ir. Why? He shared that Rav Aharon Kotler taught that the head of Eisav was great. It had tremendous potential. He could have been one of the Avos. Sadly, his body ended up in Sei’ir because he used it for things that were prohibited. Rav Aharon Kotler taught that the head of Eisav was great; it had spirituality but his body ended up at Har Sei’ir because he did so many forbidden actions with his body. There is a lesson here that everyone in this world can make a choice. “Tonight, look how many people made a choice to come here to learn Torah.” He taught that everything in life has a choice. How do you spend your time? Where do you go? What are you involved in? How do you pray? How do you give tz’dakah? How do you greet your friends? How do you forgive them?

 He encouraged everyone to stand up for what you believe and don’t worry about the naysayers. The Kotzker Rebbe taught that when it was time to accept the Torah, klal Yisrael stood opposite the mountain. Why does it say that they stood opposite the mountain, looking at the Torah? He answered that to accept the Torah you have to turn your back on the rest of the world. “You can’t worry about those who have bad things to say about B’nei Yisrael or Eretz Yisrael.” In this day and age you need to have chutzpah. The Gemara states that, in the days of Mashiach, chutzpah will go out. Chutzpah can be in a positive way. You stand up and say go ahead and laugh; it just makes my mitzvah greater.

 Rabbi Goldwasser went on to teach that no matter what a person did, he can do t’shuvah. He shared examples from the Tanach of people who did t’shuvah, as well as some current-day examples of people he helped who did t’shuvah.

 He imparted, “Each and every day of our lives, we have the power to choose and to change things. Everyone here has to power to change himself and the world.”

 He continued: “We have the power to impact Israel’s safety and to impact our own life and make it better.” Hashem sends us messages. Sometimes the message is clear. Hashem sends things so we can direct our lives to become better.”

 He concluded with a beautiful brachah to the audience for good news, hatzlachah in all we do, y’shuos, simchos, and that all Jewish children should learn about Torah and know Hashem and Torah.

 Rabbi Yaaqov Menashe, the Senior Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity Trusts and Synagogues, spoke about how there are so many parshiyos about the story of Yosef, and this is because this story teaches us that Hashem controls the world. “We see this by joining the dots from one occurrence to another until we see the final picture.” He taught that a lot of bad things happen in the world, and we have to know that when bad things happen, eventually there will be something very good. Hashem will make it end in an amazing way. Of course, we can’t just sit back and wait. We have to put in our effort.

 He then detailed how the dreams were interpreted by Yosef. Yosef was the only one who could connect the dreams of Pharaoh. He had this Divine gift or ability to sew things together, so to speak. He could see connections. We have to learn from Yosef to open our eyes and see the connections in our lives and to realize that everything is for the good. From this story, we also learn how we have to hold onto our ways. Yosef was a slave and later a prisoner, but he always kept the ways of his father. “We have to do the same thing and realize the importance of our religion and what we have to do.” Throughout Jewish history, he taught, we see that when we stood up for what is right, then we saw G-d’s miracles. We have to stand up for what we believe, and that is what’s going to save us.”

 Rabbi Daniel Mechanic, well-known speaker, spoke about the contrast between how the secular world celebrates the New Year with becoming drunk and partying, and how Jews celebrate Rosh HaShanah with t’shuvah and introspection. He went on to discuss Jewish values and how they are so uplifting and so much above the values of secular society.

 By Susie Garber