The words came to mind because it was broiling outside, and I was thinking about expressions like “the heat of battle.” Chazak ve’ematz. Be strong and have courage. Yehoshua gets a pep talk from Hashem before heading into battle (Yehoshua 1:6).
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will give them into your hand and you will carry them away captive” (Devarim 21:10).
Ksav Sofer: “The verse should have read ‘When you battle your enemies’ — why does it say ‘when you go out to war’? However, the seforim hakedoshim make clear that this pasuk is referring to the war against the yetzer hara. Chazal teach: ‘A person’s yetzer hara renews every day … a person’s yetzer hara gets stronger every day and seeks to destroy him … without the help of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, victory would be impossible’ (Kiddushin 30b).
“A human being cannot fight his yetzer hara alone; he needs siyata d’Shmaya to defeat it. But, he still has an obligation “to go out to war;” that is, to do everything he is capable of, everything in his power. Then he is ensured that HaKadosh Baruch Hu will help him.
“Thus, as the Torah says: ‘When you go out to war’ — if you do what’s required of you, you are promised that ‘Hashem your G-d will give them into your hand.’$$SEPARATEQUOTES$$”
Each of us is a soldier. Chazak ve’ematz can be the pep talk we give ourselves each time — and it’s all the time — we sally forth into the heat of battle against our yetzer hara. Be strong. Have courage.
There’s inner strength and there’s outer strength. That 80-pound physical weakling might be an iron-pumping spiritual super hero. And even if we don’t feel strong, we can resolve to seek strength. Even if we don’t feel courageous, we can resolve to seek courage, which also takes a lot of courage. Sometimes — often — it feels like it’d be a whole lot easier to throw in the towel. Give up. Admit it to anyone and everyone: Look, I tried! And I failed. Oh, well. Guess I’m just not strong enough.
But the yetzer hara is a malach! How can anyone fight an angel, let alone hope to win? Yismach Moshe: “It is not within the power of a human being to defeat an angel, so HaKadosh Baruch Hu helps us … HaKadosh Baruch Hu helps us by giving us a “yetzer” that is sized according to our capacity to overcome it.”
Chazak, ches-zayin-kuf: “hold strongly, strengthen,” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says.
From Tanach: being strong and firm; being courageous; holding, grasping; pressing, prevailing; securing, fastening.
Related verbs include: ches-shin-chaf—darken; ayin-shin-kuf — grab; alef-zayin-kuf — chain (verb); ayin-samech-kuf — occupy; ches-shin-kuf — surround; ayin-zayin-kuf — dig; and alef-shin-ches — enclose.
These verbs read like war plans using whatever means at our disposal, doing whatever it takes to stay strong and strengthen ourselves and defeat our enemy. We’ll stand firm and courageous, hold onto whatever we need to hold onto — Torah, mitzvos — grab our yetzer, put it in the dark (what the eye can’t see, the heart can’t desire), chain it up, take it over, surround it (make a fence around the Torah), dig a pit to trap it, and lock it up.
And ematz, alef-mem-tzaddi? It means “strengthen, secure,” says Rabbi Hirsch.
1) Being strong and firm; 2) being obstinate; 3) strong color; 4) force.
Related verbs include: mem-tzaddi-tzaddi — to suck out; mem-tzaddi-hey — to suck; mem-vov-tzaddi — to squeeze.
These verbs have a theme running through them too: strength, yes, but not just surface strength, but strength we find within, sometimes strength we didn’t know we had until push comes to shove, (and that “strong color” can be the red face resulting from straining with effort) and we have to dredge up strength and courage from our innermost selves, obstinately forcing it out, sucking it out, squeezing it out.
When we give someone (or ourselves) encouragement, it’s not just a pep talk, it’s an infusion of “courage,” which comes from the Latin, cor, heart.
The prefix “en-” means: “put into or on” (engulf, enmesh); “bring into the condition of” (enlighten, embitter); and “intensification” (entangle, enrage).
“ ‘In the heat of battle’ is a phrase that connotes the extremity of the human condition. The battlefield is a canvas on which is sometimes painted the virtues of bravery, sacrifice, and extraordinary leadership — and which is sometimes the scene of disgrace … Part of the perennial fascination with military literature is the question every armchair general asks him or her self — what kind of soldier would I be under pressure?” (In the Heat of Battle: A history of those who rose to the occasion and those who didn't, Donough O’Brien, Osprey Publishing, 2009)