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לימוד תורה

Consolation, change and healing

Dedicated in memory of the late Sgt. Yehunatan Einhorn and the late Lt. Col. Avner Goldman

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - the Parasha in our everyday life – Va'etchanan - Shabbat Nahamu - 5781

'Shabbat Nahamu'  -Console- opens the series 'Sheva Denechamta' 'שבע דנחמתא' –*1 the seven Shabbatot of consolation after Tisha BeAv. This Shabbat we read Parashat Va'etchanan and mention Mount Sinai and the 'Ten Commandments'.

Shabbat Nahamu is named after the first line in the Haftarah:

נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹֽיקכם׃

"Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your G-d." (Nachamu, nachamu ami…) (Isaiah 40:1). A prophecy describing the days of redemption, the restoration and healing of the pieces of exile and destruction:

"All these consolations will come in the days of Messiah… "(Radak ibid)

What is the purpose of the Shabbat series - 'Sheva Denechamta'? And what is the meaning of 'console' when it comes to 'my people' - a 'nation' and not an individual?

When it comes to an individual, the 'comfort' is the processing of grief, it is a process of psychological emotional healing, designed to rehabilitate the soul from the crisis, from a severe tragedy. The 'comfort' is the 'light at the end of the tunnel of darkness', it gives a new horizon of change and hope and produces new spiritual energies that allow a new page to be opened, and to continue to move forward. The comforters can contribute their share, but most of the work must be done by the person himself.

But what does 'comfort' mean when talking about a national tragedy? And how is it expressed in Shabbat 'Nahamu?'

At the national level, the 'comfort' is first and foremost about the beginning of a new era in the life of the nation, the 'day after':

דַּבְּר֞וּ עַל־לֵ֤ב יְרוּשָׁלַ֙͏ִם֙ וְקִרְא֣וּ אֵלֶ֔יהָ כִּ֤י מָֽלְאָה֙ צְבָאָ֔הּ כִּ֥י נִרְצָ֖ה עֲוֺנָ֑הּ כִּ֤י לָֽקְחָה֙ מִיַּ֣ד ה' כִּפְלַ֖יִם בְּכׇל־חַטֹּאתֶֽיהָ׃ 

"Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and declare to her That her term of service is over, that her iniquity is expiated; For she has received at the hand of Hashem Double for all her sins". (Ibid 2)

כי נרצה עונה נשלם ענשה "Her iniquity is expiated, the sins have been forgiven" (Radak ibid)

The "Comfort" prophecy and the "Consolation" Shabbat lineup are an announcement of a new national era, of restoration and growth after the tragic and difficult Destruction that the people of Israel went through. Restoration of the physical destruction of national infrastructures and systems that are the basis for the nation's existence; renewal, improvement and restoration of the national consciousness and ethos 'the day after' the tragedy, to realize the national destiny. A very important component of consciousness rehabilitation is a more supervised understanding of what happened, and the lessons learned. This process will affect the national spirit level, and the healing of the scars left over from the period of destruction. The intensity of the process will be measured by the level of national readiness to enlist and be part of the rehabilitation and renewal process. Even if this requires individuals to pay a personal price for it. G-d will contribute His share of consolation, but most of the work of change and healing must be done by the Israeli nation, together, כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד בְּלֵב אֶחָד, 'as one man and with one mind', out of the creation of a common national consensus. It can only succeed if society creates a peaceful, comforting, loving and inclusive atmosphere of healing and change. It cannot be done in sermonizing, within rivalry and agitation, when one strikes at his friend's chest. Or when one sector accuses another of ‘burning the storehouses’, either directly or indirectly. And not even through invested ‘works of art’.

In Parashat Va'etchanan, Moshe Rabbeinu commands us to remember, for generations, the status of Mount Sinai, in all its aspects, the Mitzvot, the Faith and Nationalism:

רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וּפֶן־יָס֙וּרוּ֙ מִלְּבָ֣בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ וְהוֹדַעְתָּ֥ם לְבָנֶ֖יךָ וְלִבְנֵ֥י בָנֶֽיךָ׃ י֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָמַ֜דְתָּ לִפְנֵ֨י ה' אֱלֹקיךָ֮ בְּחֹרֵב֒ בֶּאֱמֹ֨ר ה' אֵלַ֗י הַקְהֶל־לִי֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וְאַשְׁמִעֵ֖ם אֶת־דְּבָרָ֑י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִלְמְד֜וּן לְיִרְאָ֣ה אֹתִ֗י כׇּל־הַיָּמִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֵ֤ם חַיִּים֙ עַל־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וְאֶת־בְּנֵיהֶ֖ם יְלַמֵּדֽוּן׃

"But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children: The day you stood before Hashem your G-d at Horeb, when Hashem said to Me, “Gather the people to Me that I may let them hear My words, in order that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live on earth and may so teach their children." (Devarim 4:9-10)

The condition for receiving the Torah was the congregation of all the people:

ויחן שם ישראל. כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד בְּלֵב אֶחָד, אֲבָל שְׁאָר כָּל הַחֲנִיּוֹת בְּתַרְעוֹמוֹת וּבְמַחֲלֹקֶת:

"And there Israel encamped as one man and with one mind — but all their other encampments were made in a murmuring spirit and in a spirit of dissension" (Rashi Shmot 19:2)

"הקהל לי את העם - מזה יש להתבונן כח הופעת הקדושה באותו יום, עד שלא היה אפשר להתגלות בזה האופן עד שנקהלו כל העם! וכדאיתא (בדברים רבה פ' תבוא) שרבי קודם שנכנס לדרוש חקר אם יש כל הקהל. ופי' הטעם מהיכן הוא למד ממתן תורה, שכך כתיב: 'הקהל לי את העם ואשמיעם את דברי'. למדנו שאין סייעתא דשמיא חלה באופן אחד לעולם בין אם הצבור רב או מעט. אלא הכל לפי העם. ע"כ בעת שהופיע הקב"ה בכבודו בשפע רב אמר הקהל לי וגו'". (העמק דבר דברים כאן).

"Gather the people to me - from this we learn the power of holiness on that day, not until all the people were gathered that it was possible to have it revealed! And this is brought (in Devarim Rabbah Parashat Tavo) that a Rabbi before he enters to sermonize, he inquires if there is an audience. And where did he learn to do this from, Matan Torah, as it is written: 'Gather the people to Me that I may let them hear My words'. We have learned that 'the help of Heaven' does not apply to the world in one way only, whether the congregation is large or small. But everything goes according to the people. Therefore, when G-d Himself appeared in great abundance, the crowd said, 'Gather to me…" (Haamek Davar Devarim ibid).

Let us all gather to hear the Parasha and the Haftarah, because all of us, always and especially now, 'need comfort!'

1- The first of seven Haftarot of consolation, all drawn from the book of Isaiah, that deliver a message of comfort in the seven weeks following Tisha Be Av.

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