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Parshat - Vaetchanan Shabbat Nahamu

Parshat - Vaetchanan Shabbat Nahamu

Friday, 4 August, 2017 - 12:11 pm

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This week is known as “Shabbat Nachamu,” the Shabbat of comfort, or literally “may you be comforted.” This is based on the Haftorah, the reading from the Prophets (Isaiah 40) that we read after the Torah reading, which begins with the prophesy that Hashem says: “Nachamu Nachamu Ami,” be comforted, be comforted my people. We have just marked Tisha B’av, the day that both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, and we are being comforted, that there is bigger and better to come. There are a few types of comfort. If someone has lost something irretrievable and the loss will never be replaced, the only way for that person to be comforted is to accept the loss and move on. If there will be an opportunity to fill the void and replace the loss, then the comfort comes when the loss is replaced.

Then there is the recognition that the loss itself will lead to bigger and better things. That is a greater comfort, but still, wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to suffer the loss? However, if the next phase could not have been achieved without the loss, then the loss itself becomes part of the comfort. An example may be if someone lives in an old house. They love the house and are attached to its rooms and furnishings, but the house is not in good repair. If they just fix things here and there, the house will eventually fall apart. So instead they tear the whole house down and build a whole new house. At the time there are pangs of loss, but they are happy in the knowledge that the destruction is actually part of the new construction, which could not happen unless the old house is torn down.

The first and second Temples were built by humans, in a world as yet unrefined and permeated with darkness, and therefore they could not be permanent. The third Temple, our Sages taught, is built by Hashem, and is therefore eternal. When the third Temple is built, the entire world will be illuminated with Divine light, and there will be no more strife or evil. The only way that could be achieved is by our work during the exile, when Jews scattered around the world follow the Torah and bring light to every corner of the world. As difficult as the exile has been, it is our faith in the redemption and our absolute knowledge that each step brings us closer to that great revelation that has kept us going.

I am well aware of some people’s reaction to what I am saying. I often get strange looks from people when I talk like this. Come on, Rabbi, they are thinking (or occasionally saying). What kind of fairy tales do you believe in? You seem to be a rational guy and what kind of nonsense is that. Well, if you have studied the history of the Six Day War fifty years ago, you know that the world completely changed overnight. From the predictions of the impending annihilation of the Jews of Israel, we saw one of the greatest victories in history. That was in recent history. Our history is full of great miracles that happened suddenly when all hope seemed lost. Think back to the Stock market crashes, when millionaires, confident that they would live in comfort for the rest of their lives, became paupers overnight.

We have no idea what will happen tomorrow morning or even tonight. One thing we do know. Hashem keeps His promises, and that salvation can and does indeed happen quite suddenly, and often in ways that we would never anticipate. The redemption of the world is a prophecy that is at the core of Jewish belief. When a person faces difficulty, the way to overcome is to look to a new future, and do what he or she can to create that future. Every good deed that we do brings that future closer. So we are comforted by the fact that exile and hatred is not inevitable, that there is a bright future ahead, and that every day and every moment we have the option to help create that future by doing a practical mitzvah. Let’s all try to do one more today. If you want some suggestions, see here .

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