Tisha B’av is over and the time for comfort has arrived. Since the next fast day is far away, a whopping 46 days (yes, I counted), there’s plenty of time to focus on food, fun and swimming. There’s just one problem; Is that what Isaiah the prophet meant when he wrote “comfort”? Please do yourself a favor and take a minute to answer that question. Put down the T-bone steak you couldn’t eat for nine days and lower the music you missed so badly and focus on what Isaiah meant when he wrote; “Comfort, comfort My people”.
Actually, this is a very easy homework assignment since the answer is in the very next verse. First let me tell you what it does not say. Sorry to ruin your Shabbat Nachamu – and all the fun afterwards – but it does not say a word about hotels, amusement parks, baseball games or all-you-can-eat barbeques. I have no problem with people enjoying those things (especially the all-you-can-eat-barbeque, as long as you invite ME!!) just don’t fool yourself into believing you are doing anything at all connected to what the great prophet had in mind.
Unlike what many people think, these famous words “comfort, comfort MY people” were not said by Isaiah… they were said by Hashem Himself! The complete verse is: “Comfort, comfort My people – says your G-d”. Do you realize what those last 3 words mean? Hashem Himself is telling us that after all the tragedies, after all the sickness, death and destruction – which, due to our sins, we brought upon ourselves – He is still our G-d! He is not the G-d of anyone else… just us! Of all the people in the world – estimated today at 7.1 billion – He chose only the Jewish people – all 13 million of us (0.18%) to be His people, His nation and to live in His land! Do you realize what an honor that is? Words can simply never describe that. Hashem chose YOU over the rest of the world! Simply incredible.
Ok, Hashem tells us to be comforted... but how do we do it? How does a broken nation get up from the dust and out of the ovens of Auschwitz? How can we be comforted when our greatest possession has been destroyed and is now occupied by blood thirsty people? The answer is first and foremost in those three words; “Says YOUR G-d”. Although the pain and bitter memories still exist, Hashem is, was and always will be OUR G-d and will never forget us. We simply need to take comfort in that. We are not alone facing Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS. Hashem is our G-d and – as long as we do what He expects of us – He will always guide our hand and help us defeat our enemies.
But there’s more. Keep reading chapter 40 of Isaiah and you will find other statements made by Hashem Himself, as well as others said by the prophet, on how to be comforted; “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem and tell her that her period of exile has been completed…make a straight path in the desert… ascend upon a high mountain… raise your voice with strength… fear not… Hashem will come with a strong arm… all the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are reckoned like the dust… all the nations are like nothing before Him…”
These words are all from the Haftorah of Shabbat Nachamu and each one of them teaches us exactly how to be comforted. Let’s examine a few of them. “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem and tell her that her period of exile has been completed” – what a powerful verse!! Do you realize what this means? We are being told – again, by Hashem Himself, that the exile for Jerusalem is over! The simple meaning of this is very clear: If “exile” means being “kicked out” then when the exile is over it means it’s time to “come back”!! THAT is how the Jewish nation comforts itself… by returning home… to Jerusalem!! How else do we tell Jerusalem “that her period of exile has been completed”? By sending an email? By making Jerusalem a friend on Facebook?
Dearest friends, you need to read the words and absorb the message. Hashem is talking to you directly. For thousands of years we did not understand the words of that verse but now we do. The time to cry is over while the time to build has begun. Just look at Jerusalem today and the words of Hashem will simply smack you in the face. “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem”… “her period of exile has been completed”… wow! This has happened in our day! Amazing!
But what about our enemies? What about the 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel from Hezbollah? What about Hamas? How can we come to Israel with all that danger? The answer to these questions are in the next few verses. “Raise your voice with strength… fear not… Hashem will come with a strong arm… all the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are reckoned like the dust… all the nations are like nothing before Him…” In these verses it is Isaiah telling us that when we recognize the exile of Jerusalem is over - and return home – then we have nothing to fear. The Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians and Germans were much stronger and mightier than a few thugs called Hamas yet Hashem defeated them all. With all their greatness and splendor, where are these mighty empires today? They are like “a drop from a bucket”, says Isaiah the prophet, and are “like nothing before Him”.
These powerful words will be read on the morning of Shabbat Nachamu. They are read because after all the suffering and all the pain – which was a lot more than 3 weeks of not shaving or listening to music – the Jewish nation has returned home! Ask any person who ever stayed a few days in the hospital, what “coming back home” meant. Even though the person is still weak and not totally cured, the fact that they came home is a great motivator… and an even greater comfort.
“Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d”. Let’s listen to these words and act upon them. Hashem is speaking to each and every one of us. The only thing left for us is courage and action. Therefore, allow me to end this article with an exact quote. It is the bracha that Rav Meir Kahane – a holy Kohen - used to give: “May Hashem give you the wisdom to understand what is right, and the courage to act upon it!” Let’s get to work!