Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shabbat Nachamu

Shabbat Nachamu / שבת נחמו

Fri, 03 August 2012 at sundown (16th of Av, 5772)

Shabbat Nachamu ("Sabbath of comfort/ing) takes its name from the haftarah from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 40:1-26 that speaks of "comforting" the Jewish people for their suffering. It the first of seven haftarahs of consolation leading up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. 
You the Man; No, You the Man

Insights for Shabbos Nachamu: the Shabbos of Consolation

This Week’s RRR (Relevant Religious Reference): “… Love your Neighbor like yourself… ” – Genesis, 25:30
This Week’s SSC
(Suitable Secular Citation): “ You the man!” “No, you the Man!” “How can I be the Man when you the Man?” – a dialogue of mutual admiration, found in various forms in various places, such as the movie “Do the Right Thing”


A beautiful thing happened to me around this time in 2007, and I’m thankful not only that it occurred but that I noticed it! It was actually a “You the Woman” mutual caring exchange (exactly where do I fit into that, you may justifiably wonder), in which two women were selflessly looking out for each other without realizing that the other was doing so. The quick background: quite a few of our Chevra participants had decided to go to Israel for extended learning opportunities. Two of the women who went, named Alina & Rachel, journeyed there together in the early summer for about 5 weeks. On July 24th, which coincided with Tisha B’Av, Alina called me and left a message about Rachel that went something like this: “Rachel just left Israel, but she didn’t really didn’t want to; she was crying; and I just thought you and Jess (my Wife) could call to comfort her, make sure she has a place for Shabbat, and help her feel better about having to leave Israel…”. I was so impressed by what a loving, heartfelt message it was.


Two days later, when Rachel was back in America, she sent me an email which essentially said the following: “Hopefully you or Jess can be in touch with Alina soon, who is still in Israel and is feeling a little lonely. I missed her call yesterday and I'm unable to reach her today; perhaps you or Jess will find some time today just to touch base with her. She has such a big heart and I don't want her feeling sad, lonely, or bored. I heard that Alina has Shabbos plans for this week, but…” When I first saw Rachel’s email in my preview pane, I was expecting her to let us know that she really wanted to speak with us about her own experiences, how she wishes she could still be in Israel, etc., all of which would be quite understandable. While her email did briefly mention those items, Rachel’s main focus was on the well-being of her friend Alina! In fact, both of them were looking out in such a beautiful way for the other: making sure we would call the other, making sure the other would be taken care of for Shabbos, and more. I was so touched when I realized what had just happened.

“Among the great achievements of (King) Solomon, first place must be assigned to the superb Temple built by him. He was long in doubt as to where he was to build it. A heavenly voice directed him to go to Mount Zion at night, to a field owned by two brothers jointly. One of the brothers was a bachelor and poor, the other was blessed both with wealth and a large family of children. It was harvesting time. Under cover of night, the poor brother kept adding to the other's heap of grain, for, although he was poor, he thought his brother needed more on account of his large family. The rich brother, in the same clandestine way, added to the poor brother's store, thinking that though he had a family to support, the other was without means. This field, Solomon concluded, which had called forth so remarkable a manifestation of brotherly love, was the best site for the Temple, and he bought it.”
When I realized the similarities between these two uplifting stories, another connection occurred to me: Alina had called me from Israel and set into motion this chain of kindness ON TISHA B’AV, the anniversary of the day on which the Temple was destroyed. And according to our sages, what is the metaphysical cause that allowed the Temple to become vulnerable enough to fall? The sin of “baseless hatred” among Jews! In fact, our sages tell us that we are fated to remain in spiritual Exile from the Temple until we collectively rectify the flaw of “baseless hatred” with sufficient acts of loving-kindness.
Thus, it was a tremendous tiding that our chain of kindness performed by our heroines was initiated on Tisha B’Av, the day of the Temple’s destruction: if the original Temple may have been built specifically in a place where brotherly love prevailed, then the acts of mutual caring demonstrated by these wonderful women can certainly be a stepping stone towards our long-awaited redemption – may it come swiftly in our days!
A Message was Captured in Jerusalem One Shabbat Morning
By Larry Domnitch

The Haftorah (prophetic portion) read on Shabbat Nachamu, the 'Shabbat of Comfort' which follows Tisha B'Av, expresses the message of conciliation expressed by the prophet Isaiah to a nation that would endure a prolonged exile. In the Old City of Jerusalem in 1920, a particular event on Shabbat Nachamu captured the essence of its theme.

During the First World War, the British government foresaw their victory over Turkish in Palestine forces as imminent and issued the Balfour Declaration supporting Jewish aspirations for a Jewish Homeland. Not long after the declaration was issued, opposition mounted from members of Britain's government and military administration who were against Zionism. However, the British government was under the leadership of the staunch Zionist Lloyd George, who was determined to stand by the Declaration. George appointed a Jew and a Zionist, Sir Herbert Samuel, as the first British high commissioner of Palestine. Samuel's appointment signified the beginning of the British mandate over Palestine.

On July 1, 1920, Samuel disembarked a British battleship at the port of Haifa as the new commissioner or, as his biographer John Bowle put it, "the first Jewish ruler in Palestine since Hyrcanus the second" (whose reign ended 40 B.C.E.) Samuel seemed to be the answer to the Zionists' prayers. A Zionist leader Arthur Ruppin, described in his diary the ceremony held nine days later on the Mount of Olives in honor of Samuel's appointment. "Until now, only pronouncements about a Jewish National Home...had only been words on paper; but now they rose before us embodied in a person of a Jewish High Commissioner...Many of the Jews present had tears in their eyes."

Just a few weeks later, on the morning of Shabbat Nachamu, Samuel set out on foot toward the famous Churva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. Surrounded by an entourage of advisors and guards, he entered the Old City's Jaffa Gate and headed toward the Jewish Quarter. As he entered, spectators gathered on the streets, which were adorned with flowers, to glimpse the man who represented their highest hopes and dreams. As he passed by, the onlookers cheered and expressions of joy resonated. A sense of euphoria quickly came over the crowd.
Samuel entered the Churva Synagogue where there was not an empty seat. He had arrived prepared to chant the Haftorah. Soon, the gabbai (sexton) summoned him to the Torah, calling out the words Ya'amod HaNasi Ha'Elyon (may the High Commissioner arise). As Samuel stood up, the entire congregation also rose to their feet in a show of respect and admiration. Samuel made his way to the bimah (platform from which the Torah if read) and proceeded to recite the blessings over the Torah and then the blessings over the Haftorah. The British High Commissioner began chanting the Haftorah, echoing the words of Isaiah, which expresses the hopes and dreams of the nation. "Comfort, comfort My people, says the L-rd. Speak to her heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated, for she has received for the Hand of G-D double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2) The entire congregation shuttered upon hearing the words that embodied their greatest hopes and dreams. It was a moment of intense emotion. An aid to Samuel described the scene as " a golden moment where the Jews in the Synagogue felt as if the hour of redemption had arrived."

Unfortunately, Samuel did not live up to the people's hopes and expectations. Despite his devotion to Zionism, he was caught between two sides. As Arab riots increased and pressure against the Zionists intensified in British circles, Samuel made concessions to the Arabs and their British sympathizers. Jewish immigration restrictions were imposed and Haj Amin Al Husseini-a vehement anti-Zionist and later a staunch supporter of Nazism-was appointed by Samuel to the position of Mufti (religious interpreter) of Jerusalem. A British policy of appeasement was set into motion. The restoration of the Land to the Jewish people would be a slow arduous process fixed with obstacles.

However, the course of events did not change the impression of that Shabbat morning. That morning was a special moment that would live forever in the memories of those present. It was a moment that belonged not to the messenger, but to the age-old message of hope brought on Shabbat Nachamu. source:

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