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Comfort And Consolation

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We’ve all seen the ads in the papers.

Shabbos Nachamu is one of the biggest getaway weekends of the entire “frum” summer. There has long been a long-standing American tradition for people to go up to the mountains for Shabbos Nachamu.

This phenomenon makes the haftorah of parshas VaEschanan, probably the most famous haftorah of the entire year (though Shabbos Shuva comes in at a close second) with its well-known opening verse from Yeshayah (chapter 40), where Hashem instructs the Navi to “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami,” go and console, console, my nation.

So, Nachamu is one haftorah with which we are all familiar. We know that when Tisha B’Av and the entire Three Weeks mourning period is over we are to take a breather, relax a little, and get comfort.

But are we familiar with the details of the messages which the Navi wishes to convey about what true comfort, true nechama, is?

Yeshaya describes the ultimate power of Hashem and how future events will be happier for the Jewish people. This is our comfort.

Here’s a small sampling of the theme of the perek:

“Behold, the Lord, Hashem will come as a Mighty One, and His arm will rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His reparation before Him.” (40:10)

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see, who has created these? He that brings out their hosts by number, He calls them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and for that He is strong in power, not one fails [to be called by Him – Rashi] (40:26)

But true consolation for tragedy can never come in this world.

Rav Tzadok HaKohen (Tzidkas HaTzadik, os 170) explains that true consolation only occurs when the problem and suffering one experiences is shown to have never really been a tragedy. Rav Tzadok writes that this is what Dovid HaMelech means when he says in Tehillim, “Min hameitzar karasi Kah, anoni b’merchav kah.” I call out to Hashem from pain, but he answers me by widening my experiences and my view. I see that my problem was not a problem after all.

A friend of mine who lost his father at a young age to a debilitating disease once told me something unbelievable, a testament to my friend’s bitachon in Hashem. He said, “What kept me going during shiva and what keeps me going now? I keep telling myself that now my father, in Shamayim, knows why the illness happened, and what’s more, he’s happy it happened.”

When will we, in this world, experience a true nechama for all the tragedies that have taken place during Klal Yisrael’s history? When we will see, as Rav Tzadok explained, that all of our problems were never really problems at all? The Tzelach tells us when, based on Pesachim 50a.

The Gemara there says that in this world upon hearing good news, besuros tovos, we say the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv, whereas upon hearing bad news, we say the bracha of Dayan ha’emes. L’asid lavoh, in future times, says the Gemara, whether hearing good news or tragic news, we will only say one bracha: that of hatov v’hameitiv. Asks the Tzelach, in future times, when Moshiach comes, there won’t be any tragedies. What then does the Gemara mean that we will make hatov v’hameitiv on the tragic events?

The Tzelach (a commentary on Shas written by the Noda B’Yehuda) explains that the tragic events the Gemara is referring to are not ones which will take place during the days of Moshiach. Rather, we are discussing the tragedies that have occurred throughout world history. When Moshiach comes, we are going to be shown that all of the events that we saw as tragic were really all for the good. It will become clear to us that all of the besuros ra’os were actually besuros tovos. This will be the true nechama.

Presently, we make a bracha of Dayan ha’emes upon tragedies. At least, we have faith and we know there is a bracha, some blessing, some ultimate goodness involved. But in the future, it will become apparent. We will see the unity between Hashem’s din and rachamim, justice and mercy.

This is why we conclude the HaMakom tefila/bracha to mourners with b’soch she’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim. When will Hashem offer all mourners the true consolation and show them that all was for the best? When Moshiach comes, when all of Klal Yisrael is comforted with the return of the Beis HaMikdash—this is when all things and events will be understood, b’soch she’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim.

Just a few days ago, we were all sitting on the floor, hour after hour, reciting kinah after kinah, lamenting the longstanding pain and suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. The mitzvah of Tisha B’Av is to cry – and whether we achieved actual crying or not, our hearts and souls were certainly weeping internally.

Tisha B’Av does not last forever, nor should it. Yes, mourn and bemoan we must, but that is not the ultimate goal. Mourning accomplishes much, reminding us what we are missing, what we need to improve upon in order to grow spiritually. But there is a tomorrow and a future where our aspiration is to see an end to all suffering and grief and to understand why it all had to happen.

The Shabbos after Tisha B’Av is always Parshas Va’Eschanan, which means we read the description of Maamad Har Sinai and the Aseres HaDibros. The tremendous import of this reflects the hope and optimism we uphold even after experiencing horrible destruction and exile. Hashem Yisbarach is telling us that we remain His holy nation who accepted the Torah at Sinai; He will never forsake us entirely.

The simplest reason we refer to the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av as Shabbos Nachamu is due to the haftorah’s first word being Nachamu. But the deeper understanding is this: Nachamu, Nachamu Ami – take comfort in the fact that you are still My nation, yomar Elokeichein, and I am still Your Elokim (Yeshaya 40:1). Take comfort in the fact that I still want you to keep Shabbos. You are still Mine. Shabbos Nachamu. The entity and mitzvah of Shabbos is nachamu.

Our only true comfort and consolation is that we remain His and that one day soon all the suffering will end as the world will become a place for the peace, honor and joy of Hashem.

Questions? Comments? Just want to say that you like this column? Please let us know. To schedule a speaking engagement with Rabbi Boruch Leff or to receive two books for the price of one, Shabbos in My Soul and More Shabbos in My Soul (Feldheim), or to purchase the book ‘Are You Growing?’ (Feldheim) at 40% off, contact the author at sbleff@gmail.com.

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