It’s been a rough week following the news in Israel. Actually, every week feels like a rough week following the news in Israel. It’s easy to feel dejected and hopeless. How can this situation possibly resolve itself? When will the terror attacks, the political volatility and the Jew vs. Jew protests end? I was feeling kinda yuck.
Then I saw a video on social media. An Israeli man was standing in front of a mall asking people which side of the judicial reform debate they were on. Whatever they said, he said the opposite. Then he said, “Bechol mikreh efshar liten li chibbuk? Either way, would you give me a hug?” Over and over again, strangers hugged with the relief of reconciliation.
Suddenly, my mind was altered. My mind was shifted. There is hope. There is a reason for optimism. We are, after all, brothers and sisters. Maybe it will really all be okay.
There are many Shabbats on the Jewish calendar that have a special name. This week is one of them. It’s called “Shabbat Nachamu” — the Shabbat of Consolation.
What is consolation? The word “nechama” means to have a shift in mindset. The word is used throughout the Torah to describe a changing of mindset.
God “changes His mind” about creating humans when they became so corrupted that they needed a Flood to wash them away and start again. The word is used again to describe God “changing His mind” about punishing the Jewish people for the Sin of the Golden Calf. Instead, He decides to forgive them. Isaac, feeling comforted after the loss of his mother when he brings his new wife home. The same word is used.
There’s that word, expressing that no matter what your mindset is right now, it can change. And that alone is reason for hope.
We just finished commemorating a sad period in the Jewish calendar, marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem thousands of years ago. Three weeks of semi mourning with no live music or weddings or haircuts. The final nine days of that were even more serious with more restrictions. No meat. No wine. No luxurious showers, baths, or swimming — just basic hygiene. And finally Thursday was Tisha b’av, a day of sitting shiva for the Temple.
But the Shabbat following that is always called the Shabbat of Consolation. Because no matter how sad you are, your mind can be altered. No matter how discouraging things seem, there is hope. No matter how bad things get, this too shall pass.
In Judaism we always end on a note of hope. We always believe, deep in our hearts, that it will get better. We believe in prayer. We believe in the future. We believe that God has a better plan for us.
And so this Shabbat we celebrate. Meat, wine, music, fun. Dance and swim and eat and sing! Bring it all back! Bring back the good times. Bring back peace. Bring back holiness.
Bring back our Temple. Amen, speedily, in our days. I’ll drink to that 🍷!