July 28, 2023 / 10 Av 5783

Forty-one years ago this week, I was privileged to be in Israel celebrating my bar mitzvah. As coincidence would have it, I am again in Israel at a time that feels anything but a time of solace. And why should it be, you might rightly ask? Because this week’s Shabbat is called Shabbat Nachamu (Shabbat of Consolation) because it is the Shabbat immediately following the holiday of Tisha B’Av, the holiday ascribed to the falls of both ancient Temples in Jerusalem as well as other painful days throughout Jewish history.

I rarely draw our attention to the text of the Haftarah reading, more so because of the inconsistency of the verses ascribed to each weekly Torah portion, and yet, given the sanctity of this week’s Haftarah reading, and the reading’s timeliness to the partisanship taking place in Israel, I believe we need to draw our attention to the Haftarah’s opening words of Isaiah 40:1 more than ever; נַֽחֲמ֥וּ נַֽחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹֽקֵיכֶֽם (“Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your Gd”).

These opening words of this week’s Vaetchanan Torah portion’s Haftarah reading have stuck with me for over four decades. Why are the words directed toward the people? Isaiah recites these words on behalf of Gd, telling the people that they must comfort one another, and if telling them once is not enough, Gd repeats the command to doubly emphasize its importance.

Not until today, being here in Israel, feeling the pain of sibling rivalry, and living the heartache of discord and disagreement, did I fully understand the verse I read forty-one years ago this Shabbat.

To state the obvious that we cannot truly comfort ourselves or achieve real comfort from the people with whom we are surrounded, that we are social beings who need comfort from one another is not enough. To communicate this message Gd would have only used one “Comfort” in these opening words. Rather, Gd repeated the words נַֽחֲמ֥וּ נַֽחֲמ֖וּ to let us know that true comfort doesn’t simply come from the people who are closest to us. To be comforted by this circle of family and friends is expected. Instead, to achieve true comfort we must seek comfort from our brethren with whom we disagree. It is this second comfort that will initiate the healing process and bring about true and meaningful solace.

To be in Israel today is both a blessing and a curse. I love my homeland, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I relish every memory of my childhood, and I savor every new relationship built and experience lived. I love that when I come to Israel today I not only visit my family and friends but also my new “family” in our Partnership 2Gether (P2G) region in the Western Galilee.

But I am equally pained to see and feel our divisions. Just as there is no greater joy for a parent than seeing their children express their love and admiration for one another, there is no greater pain than a parent seeing their children fighting. This is not why we were created. This is not why we were Divinely provided this land.

Each of us has an opinion, which is healthy, but we must get past our stubborn vanity and recognize that mutual respect and sometimes consolation, like this week’s namesake parashah, is an answer. The Ten Commandments are reiterated in this week’s Torah portion (Deuteronomy 5:6-18), as is our foundational prayer, the Shema (6:4). What more powerful message of how to live together do we need than to be comforted by this collection of texts. May we all reach out beyond our immediate circles this week and find someone to comfort, they need it as much as we do because we are…



Shabbat Shalom,