Saturday, July 20, 2013

Let God Comfort You

Over the past 3 weeks, leading up to Tisha B'Av, we had been reading selections from the Prophets concerning the coming destruction of the Jewish people. For the next seven weeks we are blessed to read comforting messages from the Book of Isaiah. The comforting is always greater than the tragedy. God says to the Jewish people, "Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomar Eh'lo'hey'chem." Be comforted, be comforted My people, will say your God. (Isaiah 40:1). We look forward to that comforting from God. God has given us a gift, forgetfulness. We are relieved from the intense pain we felt. Although we'll always remember the source of the pain, God is there to comfort us. Let us be joyous in the coming days and months. Let's look to the High Holidays with joy because God is there to hold our hands and comfort us.

Shabbat Nachamu
The Shabbat following Tisha B'Av (the ninth of the Av) is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Consolation, referring to the opening words of the haftarah, the weekly reading from the Prophets. It is the first of seven haftarot noted for their theme of consolation.

Having just emerged from the time of deepest mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple, our despair is tempered by God's constant optimistic promise--while our people may be laid low at times by our enemies, we shall be redeemed by God and our Temple will be rebuilt.

The haftarah of Shabbat Nachamu begins with the words: "Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomar Eh'lo'hey'chem." Be comforted, be comforted My people, will say your God. (Isaiah 40:1).

Isaiah lived and prophesied at the time when Israelite kingdoms were threatened by the Assyrians. This was more than 100 years before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple.

Through his prophecy, however, Isaiah was able to see that these great tragedies would be only temporary and that God would not only bring back the Jews from exile, but would also rebuild the Holy Temple. It is commonly understood that the double language of "Nachamu, nachamu" is an allusion to the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples and the redemptions that would follow.

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