‘Shabbat Nachamu’ – Comfort and Redemption
Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her””
‘Parsha Va’etchanan’ is read on ‘Shabbat Nachamu’, the ‘Shabbat’ immediately after ‘Tisha B’Av’ which is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.
‘Shabbat Nachamu’ means “Sabbath of comforting or consolation”, and it takes its name from ‘Haftorah Va’etchanan’ and Isaiah 40:1-26, that speaks of “comforting” the Jewish people for their suffering: “Nachamu, nachamu ami” - “Comfort, comfort My people”.
‘Shabbat Nachamu’ is the first of seven ‘haftorot’ starting with the Shabbat after ‘Tisha B’Av’ and leading up to ‘Rosh Hashanah’, the Jewish New Year.
These readings are meant to console us after the destruction of the two Temples and reassure us that the Temple will be built again.
However, ‘Nachamu; means more than “comfort” or “console”, and its different meanings shed light on what comfort really means as well as G-d’s Divine love for His creation.
Genesis 6:6 declares: “Vayinacheim Adonai ki asa et ha’adam ba’aretz va’yitatzeiv el libo” (“And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”)
G-d “was sorry” (“yinacheim”) that he had created humans after they started to corrupt the world. ‘Yinacheim’ here appears to mean “regret”.
In Exodus 13:17 we read: “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.””
The word used for “change their minds” is ‘nechama’ which translated correctly means “think a thought” (in this case, about leaving Egypt).
So, how is the word ‘nechama’ from which comes the words ‘nachamu’, ‘nicheim’ and ‘yinacheim’ explained in Judaic Biblical teaching?
Biblical commentary explains it as follows: The root of ‘nechamah’ occurs when mankind “has a different thought”, and this is the common thread linking regret and comfort – thinking differently about a situation”.
In Isaiah 55:8-9, G-d declares: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.””
This shows that the way G-d thinks is much higher than how mankind thinks.
The Hebrew wording used in this passage of scripture shows that Almighty G-d always thinks from a heart of love.
Because of His Divine love for mankind, the way G-d thinks is that ‘nachamu’ (comfort) begins when we can reframe the immediate pain of a loss or disappointment in a larger, more encompassing picture or story.
In the case of Almighty G-d, G-d’s grieving heart for His chosen stiff-necked people is so great that ‘yinacheim’ (regret) becomes ‘nachamu’ (comfort and console). And it’s from this mind-set that G-d declares: “Nachamu, nachamu ami” - “Comfort, comfort My people”.
Not despise them, be angry with them and deride and ridicule them even with their shortcomings, but “nachamu otam” (comfort them).
However ‘nachamu’ has one more meaning: ‘Nachamu’ means: Comfort, console and support.
When G-d commands the Gentiles to: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her”” in Isaiah 40:1-2, His command is actually: “Comfort, comfort, console and support My people and Jerusalem”.
So when the church supports the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza over the Jewish citizens of Israel, they are, in fact, breaking G-d’s command in Isaiah 40:1.
And when the church and the nations look to dividing Jerusalem and giving East Jerusalem to the Arabs as a capital of a Palestinian state, they are, in fact, breaking G-d’s command in Isaiah 40:2.
And I believe Almighty G-d who is “Eish Ochlah” (Consuming Fire) will rise up in His fury against these people.
The way the Jewish calendar is set up, ‘Parsha Va’etchanan’ is always on Shabbat ‘Nachamu’ when we read the first ‘haftorah’ of consoling: “Nachamu nachamu ami”.
It is also the Shabbat right before, after or on 15 ‘Av’ known as ‘Tu B’Av’, 5 days after the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, ‘Tisha B’Av’.
The holiday of 15 Av represents the opposite of ‘Tisha B’Av’.
On ‘Tisha B’Av’, we went into exile because of our sins; ‘Tu B’Av’ on the other hand, is a time of forgiveness of sin which is why the ‘Mishnah’ mentions it together with ‘Yom Kippur’, the day of forgiveness.
In Orthodox Judaism we believe that the 15 ‘Av’ represents what was accomplished through our descent into exile: The coming of the ‘Mashiach’ and everlasting life.
We believe the greater the descent, the greater is the ascent that follows.
We believe that our efforts in this dark and bitter exile will accomplish:
• The building of the Third Temple.
• The coming of the ‘Mashiach’ (Messiah).
• Everlasting life.
In truth however, the efforts of us Jews in this dark and bitter exile will actually accomplish:
• The building of the Third Temple.
• The return of the Jewish ‘Mashiach’, Yeshua.
• Everlasting life through Yeshua – Romans 11:26-27: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’’”
And here, ‘Rav’ Shaul (known as Paul the Apostle) quotes Isaiah 59:20-21: “The Deliverer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the Lord. “As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”
‘Va’etchanan’ means “And I prayed”, and Moses prayed that he should lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel.
The reason that he wanted to lead them into the land was because everything that Moses did was everlasting. He knew by G-d’s word that the day would come when:
• The Temple there would be built which would be everlasting.
• Almighty G-d would bring His people back from exile and no more exile would follow.
• The Messiah would come and bring salvation to G-d’s chosen people – Deuteronomy 18:15-18: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”
And Yeshua says in John 12:49-50: “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
In this way, we see how ‘Vaetchanan’, ‘Nachamu’ and 15 ‘Av’ are connected, as they are about the coming of ‘Mashiach’ and everlasting life.
Now is the time for Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, to return and lead Jewish people to the greatest and everlasting ascent – the forgiveness of sin, salvation, and everlasting life in heaven.
Even so, come Yeshua!