This week we will be reading from parashat Va’etchanan. In it we find Moses restating the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 as well as what has become the one statement of faith, if you will, the Shema in chapter 6. The Shema by the way is not so much a dogma as it is an acknowledgment of the foundational principle of monotheism. It does not tell us much about what God is except that there is one God.
However, that is not what I wanted to focus on this week because this week also happens to be Shabbat Nachamu, which contains the recitation of the first of seven Shabbatot of consolation. It is called Nachamu because in the words of Isaiah we find, “nachamu, nachamu, comfort My people, comfort them” (Isaiah 40:1).
The reading of this passage also marks a literary transition describing our relationship with God. Throughout most of the Torah and the siddur, our relationship with God is described as between a ruler and God’s subjects. According to this understanding, as Jews observed Tisha B’Av last week, our ancestors were punished with exile because of their failure to keep the covenant. Hence God is ruler, God is judge, and God is arbiter.
As we transition to the haftarot of consolation, we find a different relationship with God being described. In these haftarot we transition from Elohim and B’nai Yisrael to that of a bride and groom. The idea being that a bride and groom not only rejoice in one another, but that they also find comfort in each other because of their sense of intimacy.
It is an important transition that we make from the sorrows of Tisha B’Av to the joys and tensions of preparing for Elul, Selichot, and the Yamim Noraiim, the High Holy Days. Having a spiritual partner to be able to find comfort, compassion, and consolation in, is essential to completing the journey of self-discovery and self-repair.
May we, in this time leading up to the cheshbon hanefesh the examination of our souls, find comfort in one another, in our community of like-minded seekers, and in our one God.
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff