Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:28-29
The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means "go to yourself," is from Genesis 12:1-17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27-41:16.
When we've had a tough day, or we are going through a hard time, we throw our hands up to God and pray, "God, please give me strength!" When we are exhausted from trying so hard and not yet succeeding, or we are weary from fighting an uphill battle, we pray, "God, please give me strength." As the psalmist expressed in Psalm 19:28, "My soul is weary . . . strengthen me according to your word."
When the psalmist wrote " . . . according to your word," he was referring to the words found in this week's Haftorah from the book of Isaiah. But first, a little background.
Isaiah was addressing the children of Israel who were down and distraught. The prophet was speaking words of comfort and prophecy by sharing memories of the past. He brought to their attention a time when God greatly strengthened one particular individual, who with God's help was able to conquer nations and subdue kings (Isaiah 41:2). The Jewish sages explain that this individual was Abraham and the incident referred to was the world's first war.
The verses in Genesis 14 teach us that Abraham had 318 men with him to battle the armies of five kings; however, the sages teach that all Abraham had with him was his servant Eliezer who was equal in strength to that many men. Either way, Abraham was certainly outnumbered and outgunned. Until Abraham arrived on the scene, the five kings, who were fighting against four other kings, were unable to succeed in battle. However, Abraham, along with the little manpower that he had, was able to be triumphant where the kings had failed. Why? Because Abraham was not fighting with human strength alone. As this week's Haftorah reading informs us: "Who has done this and carried it through . . . I, the LORD . . ." (Isaiah 41:4). Abraham had help from above, and he was strengthened by God.
The prophet Isaiah encouraged Israel to be inspired by the story of Abraham at war. Just as God was able to help Abraham achieve a miraculous victory, God would also help His people in the future. God called out to the "descendants of Abraham" (Isaiah 41:8) and told them, "do not fear, for I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10).
That is why the psalmist could ask God to strengthen him according to God's Word: "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." It's a promise to you and to me and to anyone else who calls out sincerely to God.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "When you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." I humbly suggest that when you are at the end of your rope, let go and let God hold on to you. He will not let you fall.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President