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Discomfited by the the Seven Weeks of Consolation

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11.08.2022

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We have transitioned from the three weeks of sorrow in anticipation of Tisha b’Av to the Seven Weeks of Comfort or Consolation (nechama) that follow TBA and lead up to the High Holidays. When we bless the new month, rosh hodesh, we refer to the entire month as menachem av, even though throughout the first three weeks we are in a state of mourning. This transitional period serves as a counterpoint to the three weeks of desolation leading up to the 9th of Av. We even celebrate the joyous holiday of Tu b’Av in this time period. Just as there are three special haftaroth of doom and warning before Tisha b’Av there are special haftarot for each of the following seven weeks. And some of these shabbatot even have special names, named after the haftarah.

This coming Sabbath is called Shabbat Nachamu because of the first words of the haftarah from Deutero-Isaiah, an anonymous prophet who wrote words of comfort during the exile. The Sabbath of Comfort and Consolation supposedly serves as an antidote to the previous mood of desolation.

“Comfort, oh comfort My people (נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י) says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem (דַּבְּר֞וּ עַל־לֵ֤ב יְרוּשָׁלַ֙͏ִם֙), and call to her that her time of service is finished, that her sin is expiated; for she has received from God’s hand double the amount [of punishment] (כִּפְלַ֖יִם) for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).

This is an amazing statement by itself, because it is the opening of what is known as Second Isaiah, and even Rashi notices its different tone from the earlier chapters of the book:

“Console, console My people He returns to his future prophecies; since from here to the end of the Book are words of consolations, this section separated them from the prophecies of retribution. Console, you, My prophets, console My people.”

And the book fittingly ends in what is known by some as Trito-Isaiah, composed after the return from exile when God is likened to a mother who comforts her son: “As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you; You shall find comfort in Jerusalem” כְּאִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִמּ֖וֹ תְּנַחֲמֶ֑נּוּ … וּבִירֽוּשָׁלִַ֖ם תְּנֻחָֽמוּ (Isaiah 66:13) . The last words in these phrase are similar to what is said in the Sephardic tradition on leaving a house of mourning, except that instead of saying you will find comfort in Jerusalem, they said that מן השמים תנוחמו, which presumably refers to God.

NO COMFORT IN LAMENTATIONS We should note that the statement of comfort or consolation contrasts with the first chapter of the scroll of Lamentations (Eicha). Even one who reads in a cursory fashion should notice that the root n.h.m appears in five different verses in chapter one (vv. 2, 9,16, 17, 21). It is all about the lack of comforter; and so Jerusalem is in a state of constant discomfort, in an unresolved state.

Vs. 2 “she has no comforter” (Lam 1: 2) אֵֽין־לָ֥הּ מְנַחֵ֖ם Advertisement

Vs. 9 “there is none to comfort her” אֵ֥ין מְנַחֵ֖ם לָ֑הּ

Vs 16 “the comforter distanced himself from me” כִּֽי־רָחַ֥ק מִמֶּ֛נִּי מְנַחֵ֖ם

Vs 17 a repetition of the phrase “There is none to comfort her” אֵ֤ין מְנַחֵם֙ לָ֔הּ

Vs. 21 “I have none to comfort me” אֵ֤ין מְנַחֵם֙ לִ֔י Advertisement

What does all this mean or signify? First of all, it is very........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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