Nachamu, Nachamu Comfort, Oh Comfort. How do we find comfort after tragedy?
Last weekend we commemorated Tisha B’av, the Ninth of Av. Over the course of our long history we have suffered many calamities and disasters. In their wisdom the rabbis coordinated one day to focus on all these tragedies rather than peppering the calendar with days of mourning. Everything from the negative report from the scouts in Biblical times, to the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem in ancient times, to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in Medieval times are included in this one day commemoration. We treat it as an intense day of mourning. We deny ourselves the daily pleasures of life like eating and drinking. We sit on the floor and chant from the book of Lamentations.
Then, just a week later on the Shabbat immediately after Tisha B’av, we have Shabbat Nachumu, the Shabbat of comfort. We begin a series of seven weeks of Haftarot taken from the Book of Isaiah that are meant to console us and bring us comfort. This week’s Haftarah in particular opens with the words Nachamu, Nachamu, “Comfort, oh Comfort my people.“ Ironically, this is not Isaiah calling out to God to comfort the people, nor is it the people calling out to God to bring them consolation. Rather it is God telling Isaiah – it is your job to comfort My people. Go comfort, oh comfort My people.
While we were preparing for Tisha B’av last week, our nation suffered through three mass shootings in the span of a less than seven days. Our community in Las Vegas was also shook by the revelation of an anti-Semite who was making plans to attack what he thought was a Jewish institution. The discomfort and agitation is real and palpable.
How do we find comfort in these situations? We can find and answer in the lesson of this week’s Haftarah. Thoughts and prayers to God are not the answer. We cannot wait for God to console us. We need to be there for each other. We find comfort in these situations be being the ones to bring comfort to those affected by the events. We can send notes and cards to the victims and their families. We can donate to funds set up to support the victims. But we also need to begin act to find a solution to this crisis. We need to force our government leadership to take action. This too is what is meant by Nachamu, Nachamu.
May the words of Isaiah inspire us to action.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT.