Shabbat Nachamu Now!
Shabbat Nachamu Now!
Rabbi Bonnie Koppell
Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort. It’s an actual date ON the Jewish calendar. It occurs every summer, in the 7 weeks of comfort and consolation following Tisha B’Av. This year those 7 weeks begin on July 23, which is the OFFICIAL Shabbat Nachamu.
This year I have a proposal. I’m suggesting that we need to amend this tradition, at least this year. I think that we need to move Shabbat Nachamu up to RIGHT NOW! Tonight. THIS Shabbas! For those who have chosen to join us here in the sanctuary, let me ask- are you feeling comforted? Is it not incredibly comforting to be together with our beloved community? To pray together with each other? Let’s just take a moment to look at all of these holy souls who are here with us! Just to feel the love and the warmth, the spark that is ignited by every one of your presence.
In Hebrew, a temple is called “Beit Knesset,” the place of gathering. How we have missed this gathering! How we took for granted the opportunity to welcome Shabbat with each other. I’m pretty sure that it will be a LONG, LONG time before we can be casual about praying together- if ever! We have longed for the comfort of this connection for 15 months! And now we are here! Baruch HaShem- thank God!
It’s fascinating that, while there are 3 weeks of rebuke, 3 weeks of warning that Jerusalem is about to be destroyed PRIOR to Tisha B’Av, there are 7 weeks of comfort and consolation which follow. I’m intrigued by the fact that there are twice as many weeks devoted to comfort as there were to rebuke, and I think that speaks profoundly of the human condition. It is so easy to get wrapped up in judgment- judgment of ourselves, judgment of each other. It is so hard to assert kindness and gentleness, and yet that is what we crave the most. I pray that one of our COVID takeaways is to be much more appreciative of the blessings we enjoy in everyday life, one of which is, for sure, the blessing of a loving and supportive community! Where do we find comfort, and where are we still longing for comfort?
Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed, according to the rabbis, because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred. It came about because of our inability to appreciate the gift of community. We mourned the loss of connection to our spiritual home, the place that exemplified the comfort that comes from connection to God, to holiness, and, most importantly, to each other.
When the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was lost, Rabbi Yochanan comforted the people with these words, “Do not grieve on this account, for we have another atonement for our sins; it is chesed, loving acts of kindness.” Chesed, how we treat each other, is first and foremost in defining who we are. The Temple was destroyed because of gratuitous hatred. Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, suggested that it will be rebuilt when we offer each other ahavat chinam- generous love.
Take comfort. Yes, we suffer. Yes, our bodies and minds break down now and then. Yes, we age and it gets harder to move and to remember things that once seemed so important. Yes, we don’t live up to our own highest ideals, and, yes, we are disappointed when others fail us as well.
By understanding that life itself is a great gift, we can cultivate gratitude. We can recognize the Source of all Being as our God. We can find strength in our camaraderie and the sharing of our challenges and pains along the journey of our lives. We can come to understand that the very fact that we are a holy congregation unites us to one another and to the eternal source of all being. We have a caring, loving community- and THAT is an amazing comfort.