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לימוד תורה

Parshat Vaetchanan-Nachamu – Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

Parshat Vaetchanan usually falls on "Shabbat Nachamu" which follows Tisha B'Av. It is named after the Haftarah which begins with the word Nachamu: "Be consoled, be consoled My nation says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and tell her that her sentence has been fulfilled and her sin has been atoned for, since she has been punished doubly by G-d's hand for all of her sins." (Isaiah 40:1) This is one of the seven "Shabbatot of Consolation", each one with a Haftarah with a special message of consolation.
The fact that Shabbat Nachamu directly follows Tisha B'Av is connected to the deep meaning of consolation after the destruction, both on the personal level and the national level. It is this, the national level, which we will focus on. This level of consolation has very broad significance, and it is one of the cornerstones of the nation's strategic strength.
The Sages (Eicha Rabbah 1:57) pointed out the doubling of the consolation in the Haftarah: "Be consoled, be consoled My nation" and the double punishment meted out by G-d's hand for all her sins. "They sinned doubly, as it is written 'Jerusalem sinned a sin'; they were punished doubly, as it is written 'since she has been punished doubly by G-d's hand for all of her sins' (Isaiah 40:1) and will be consoled doubly, as it is written 'Be consoled, be consoled My nation says your G-d.'
Many explanations have been given about the correlation between the doubling of the consoling and the doubling of the sins and the resultant destructions. Specifically, let us examine the meaning of "doubling" not in the quantitative sense but as two sides of the same coin.
This "coin" of double consolation has a number of facets: on one hand consolation on the spiritual destruction of holiness, and on the other hand consolation on the physical destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Heavenly consolation on one hand, and human consolation and amendment on the other. Consolation on the level of consciousness, and on the other hand consolation that results from reparative action. Consolation on personal destruction as well as on national destruction, on the destruction of the nation and the exile, and on the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
The last two are mentioned separately in other places. "…because G-d consoled His nation and redeemed Jerusalem." (Isaiah 52:9) This is the consoling of the nation, as the Malbim elaborates: "because G-d consoled His nation – this is the ingathering of the exiles." And the rebuilding of the ruins of Jerusalem, which is the consolation of the Temple and Jerusalem: "Since G-d consoled Zion, (He) consoled all of her ruins and (He) made her desert like Eden and her prairie like the garden of G-d." (Isaiah 51:3)
Also in the prayer of condolence "Nachem" which the sages added on Tisha B'Av, there is a double condolence on the destruction of the nation and the destruction of Jerusalem: "G-d, console the mourners of Zion and the mourners of Jerusalem, and the grieving, ruined, desecrated and desolate city."
However, "Nachem" is only said in the afternoon prayer of Tisvha B'Av, because that is when (our enemies) set fire to the Temple, and therefore we pray then for the consolation. (Ram"a, HaRokeach)
Why do we pray for consolation exactly at the hour of the height of the catastrophe? Also, why exactly at that time are the expressions of mourning relaxed – we sit on chairs (instead of on the floor) and put on Tallit and Tefillin? (Shulchan Aruch) Apparently the answer to this, like the explanation regarding the connection between Shabbat Nachamu and Tisha B'Av, is rooted in the essence of the "consolation."
Genuine "consolation" from a traumatic tragedy, from destruction and loss, is not achieved by forgetting and ignoring what happened, or by drifting off to "another world". It is the conscious mental ability to look at what happened from a different angle, from a point of view that allows us to discern, amid the rubble and dust of the destruction, the first sprouts of the future rebuilding that will arise from it.
Consolation is the spiritual ability to turn the trauma, pain and despair from destruction to hope, to life energies, and into a renewed momentum of creativity.
A person's private life brings him moments of joy and success, along with moments of failure and sadness and sometimes even traumatic tragedies. The life of a nation is the same: there are successes and there are also failures and traumas. The test of the individual and the nation is whether they are able to be consoled: whether they are able to pick up the pieces, get up on their feet and recover; or will the trauma irreparably break them apart.
Where a nation is concerned, its ability to be consoled and to recover from traumatic events is one of the strategic factors of its strength and survival. Over history, many nations fell apart because of severe crises that they couldn't recover from. The capability to "be consoled" from national-crisis situations, to employ national strengths and spiritual resources and to strengthen the nation's resilience is an existential strategic national goal which must be developed. Am Israel withstood this test successfully throughout history, including in our generation.
The destruction of Tisha B'Av – the destruction of the nation and the exile, the destruction of the Temple - the national building and Jerusalem, challenged the continued national existence of Am Israel. The strength of the double consolation, from Heaven and through human effort, saved the nation from despair and disintegration. It's not insignificant that the anthem "Hatikvah" - The Hope – was chosen by the eternal nation which doesn't fear the long road! This double consolation created the foundation for the realization of the vision of the prophets, the rebirth of the nation, the ingathering of the exiles and the building of Jerusalem and Eretz Israel. And it will serve as the impetus for the developmental process of the national consciousness which will culminate with the building of the Beit Mikdash, soon and in our time, Amen.

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