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B”H

NACHAMU - CONNECTING THROUGH ACTION
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs

 

---

  Shalom and Bracha!

  This Shabbat is the first Shabbat after Tisha B’av, when we commemorated the destruction of the first and second Temples. It is known as Shabbat Nachamu, because the Haftara begins “Nachamu Nachamu Ami” (Doubly comfort my people) and continues with the promise of the redemption through Moshiach. The double measure of comfort is because the Jewish people have been “doubly punished for all of their sins” (as the Haftara continues later) with the destruction of the first and second Temples. This Shabbat we read the portion of Vaetchanan, which also alludes to a double measure of comfort and to Moshiach, as will explain shortly be explained.

  The comforting after the destruction is connected to Teshuvah, returning to Hashem and mending our ways. In Tanya, there is a beautiful explanation of the bond that we attain through Teshuvah. This explanation gives a deeper insight into the meaning of double comforting. When a cord is broken, and thereafter tied back together, the place of the repair is much thicker than the original cord. Similarly, when we return to Hashem after doing wrong, our bond is doubly strong. (Furthermore, by tying a new knot, the distance between the two ends of the cord is shortened. When we return to Hashem, we become closer than before.) The double comforting represents a deeper bond than before.

  In this week’s portion, we read the Shma Yisrael, the affirmation of Hashem’s unity and the primary prayer of Judaism. We also read the giving of the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of Hashem’s revelation. Why do we read these pillars of faith at this time? When we do wrong, and are punished, we question if we can reestablish our relationship. By including these pillars of faith in the portion we read immediately after Tisha B’av, Hashem assures us that our bond is strong and that it is in our hands to reaffirm our connection.

The Shma teaches a further lesson. In order to rebuild our bond, our emotions must breed action. We accept Hashem as our King, not only in our hearts but by reading the Shma at night and upon rising. We bring Hashem into our hearts and minds, and we affirm our love through putting on Tefillin each day. We seek Hashem to be a part of our home and business, and we affix a Mezuzah on each door. We seek that Hashem watch over and guide our children, and we give our children a full Torah education. We not only seek the bond, we build it.

  Both of these pillars have a special connection to Moshiach, and thus to the comforting for the destruction and the hope for the redemption. The first of the Ten Commandments is “I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt.” The Semak, a famous Halachic authority, explains that the words “Who took you out of Egypt” include not only the belief in Hashem but that He will redeem us from every exile. Rashi explains that the words “Hear Oh Israel, Hashem is our G-d Hashem is one” mean that Hashem, who‘s unity is now recognized only by the Jewish people, and therefor is called “our G-d”, is destined to be known as the One G-d by the entire world when Moshiach comes.

    The Haftara continues that we mustn’t fear to announce the imminence of Moshiach’s coming. “Climb a high mountain, tiding bearer of Jerusalem and call in a mighty voice.” May we celebrate Moshiach’s arrival this Shabbat!

  Shabbat Shalom,

 Rabbi Biggs

B"H

Tu B’av-Hashem Feels Our Pain When We Feel Others

  Shalom and Bracha!

  Monday, August 11th, is Tu B’av, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Menchem Av. The Mishnah in Ta’anit states “There were no Holidays for the Jewish people as great as the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur.” On the fifteenth of Av, the maidens of Israel would go out into the fields and dance and the men would seek their brides. All of the girls would wear borrowed white clothing in order not to embarrass the poor who lacked beautiful clothing of their own.

  The Ari Hakadosh (A very renowned Kabbalist) explained that the reason for the greatness of Tu B’av is that it falls on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, and the fifteenth of the month is the night of the full moon. The moon represents the Jewish people, and the rise of the moon represents the rise of the Jewish people. This explanation warrants further explanation; Pesach and Sukkot also fall on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month when there is a full moon. However, this full moon represents the strength of the Jewish people to arise and overpower the destruction that occurred on the ninth of Av, and as such represents the power to overcome all negativity. Further, the full moon is only a few short days after the destruction.

  The healing of the tragedy of the ninth of Av is also implied in the Talmud’s explanation of the Holiday. The first reason given for the Holiday is that the Jew stopped dying in the desert. It was decreed on the ninth of Av that the Jewish people should wander in the desert for forty years and that that generation should die in the desert. They ceased to die on the fifteenth of Av. The city of Betar was destroyed on the ninth of Av. The Romans refused to allow the dead to be buried. Hashem made a miracle and the bodies didn’t decompose. Years later, they were allowed to be buried on the fifteenth of Av. The second Temple was destroyed on the ninth of Av because of disunity. Through deep Torah insight, two divisive rulings were annulled on the fifteenth of Av.

  This is also why the celebration of the Holiday was through betrothal and sensitivity. The union of a man and his wife parallels the bond between G-d and the Jewish people. The exile is a form of separation and the redemption is a reuniting. Therefore, on the fifteenth of Av, we celebrate with preparations for new betrothals. Since the coming of Moshiach is dependent upon fixing the sin of divisiveness, we celebrate through extra consideration. The Talmud explains that even the King’s daughter would wear borrowed clothing. Imagine for a moment how uncomfortable it would be for a princess to seek her prince in borrowed clothing! Nevertheless she did so, in order to spare a poor maiden shame. This teaches us the measure of sensitivity we must have for others.

  The Talmud continues that from the fifteenth of Av the nights get longer and it is imperative to increase in Torah study. The Talmud continues that this brings longer life.

  May we merit that this fifteenth of Av will fully transform all of the tragedies of the ninth of Av and we will see the rebuilding of the Temple and hear the new depths in Torah that Moshiach will reveal.

  Chag Sameach,

 Rabbi Biggs


Dedicated to Chaim Ber Ben Shmuel Saffer of blessed memory

May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life with Hashem and may Hashem bless his family in every manner


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