D’var Torah: Comfort in Troubled Times
נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃
“Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your God”
The Shabbat after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort. After the terrible tragedies that befell Israel, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that God is offering comfort and our great ordeal is over. In many ways, since March, this whole year has felt like one long Tisha B’Av for the world, with everyone experiencing the pandemic’s terrible loss of life and our inability to be with and comfort one another.
I think we all yearn for God to tell us to take comfort that this ordeal is soon coming to an end. But of course we don’t know when the pandemic will end. So, if that is the comfort we need, I don’t think we are going to receive it. Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the Temple. Isaiah’s proclamation following the Temple destruction tells us that God will not mete out additional punishment for our sins and God’s presence will be returned to us. While I reject the notion that human behavior caused either the Temple’s destruction or the pandemic, I believe that the lesson is that God is still with us, and comforts us, even in our most difficult times.
So, what can we take comfort in? I think Tisha B’Av reminds us that we can come back from calamity. God’s presence can once more shine upon us. I believe God is drawn into our world when we act caringly towards each other. Even in these difficult times we see people doing extraordinary things to help one another. We should take comfort that we can overcome our troubles if we stick together. That is the behavior God demands of us.
I am sad that I am not at camp for Tisha B’Av and the subsequent Shabbat Nachamu. Each summer on the Friday night after Tisha B’Av, an edah (unit) sings the song “Nachamu.” There is a sadness and a hope. Often Tisha B’Av falls later in the summer and signals that our camp season is waning. I hope that this Shabbat Nachamu heralds the beginning of the return to normalcy and we can once again embark on the ten months that prepare us for the summer’s two. Shabbat Shalom.