This Shabbat is referred to as “Shabbat Nachamu” based on the opening words of the Haftarah we read, “Nachamu nachamu ami” (Isaiah 40:1), words of comfort for the Jewish nation. A recurring theme in the Haftarot we read through the next six weeks that follow until Rosh Hashana, all featuring consolation.
The apparent difficulty is that just a couple of days ago, we sat on the floor mourning the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and now we are comforted. What changed? We still don’t have the Bet HaMikdash. Is it not somewhat disingenuous to speak of consolation, year in and year out, when the reason for our mourning — the exile and ongoing suffering of the Jewish people — is still very much present? In what sense are we consoled?
One of the beautiful explanations suggested lies in the Torah reading that precedes the Haftarah of Nachamu. One of the most significant passages in this week’s Parsha is the Aseret Hadibrot – the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Torah, which sets the stage for our ability to accept consolation. True, the Bet Hamikdash is in ruins. True, we are still in exile with the anti-Semitism that plagues us and all the tribulations and travails of life we face. But we still have the Torah. The ideals for which our nation throughout generations has given its lifeblood. As long as the Torah is with us, we can accept consolation.
Often, we face adversity and tragedy in life, and comfort does not seem readily available. We ask ourselves, how shall we be consoled if the source of sadness has not been addressed? Shabbat Nachamu reminds us that if the Torah and its ideals walk with us, we can allow ourselves to be consoled. When one lives with that realization and belief, he lives a life of meaning and fulfillment, even with the challenges life thrusts upon him.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay