Believing In Ourselves
This week is Parshat Va’etchanan, but the Shabbat is actually known as “Shabbat Nachamu,” which means the “Sabbath of Comfort.” It is because we had previously three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, the exile, and all the subsequent tragedies due to that exile, culminating in the most intense mourning on the fast of Tisha B’av, which occurred this year on Sunday.
During the three weeks preceding the 9th of Av there are special sections of the Prophets read in synagogue, known as the “Shlosha D’poranusa” – the three of punishment. These three haftaras of punishment, of rebuke, and of predictions of exile, destruction and diaspora. However, they are followed by the “Shiva d’nechamta” – the seven haftaras of comfort – “nechamta”- to be comforted. The first of those seven haftaras is from Yeshaya (Isaiah) and it starts with the very beautiful words, “Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomar Elokeichem,” Be comforted my people be comforted, God said.
Then it continues, “Dabru al lev Yerushalayim…” speak to the heart of Jerusalem, “v’kiru aleihu” and call to her.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach asked an interesting question: Here it says, “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her.” Now, normally the word “call”, “Vayikra,” comes before speech, “dabeir”. For instance, “Vayikra Hashem el Moshe, Vaydabeir eilav…” meaning, “G-d called Moses and spoke to him.” The word “calling” usually indicates someone is distant, and is going to come close. Speaking indicates they’re already close.
Very strangely, here the order is reversed. It first says “speak to Jerusalem,” meaning Jerusalem is close and then it says “and call to her” as if she started off close and then backed away, moved away. So Shlomo Carlebach’s answer is very beautiful and very typical of him. His answer is this that one of the problems of our exile, one of the problems of the Jewish people, is we don’t believe in ourselves enough. We don’t believe we have the ability to repent. We don’t believe we have the ability to merit the redemption. We don’t believe we have the ability to be close to God. We don’t believe in ourselves. He says that belief in God we have, but belief in ourselves we don’t have!
So when God comes to the Jewish people and he says “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem” and he says, “You are comforted. It is the time of the redemption.” What do the Jews do? They back away! “No! It can’t be us. We’re not worthy of it. We haven’t merited it.”
And so then God has to “call” to Jerusalem from far, because Jerusalem has backed away and now Hashem calls to Jerusalem and says, “Don’t worry, nachamu, nachamu ami. Indeed you have the merit. You have the ability you are able to be comforted.”
And that’s the basic idea. I think it’s a beautiful concept and it explains also the double expression, nachamu, nachamu. The double expression means, “comfort ye, comfort ye,” but God is saying, “comfort ye” in the sense that I have forgiven you and I have brought you back to the land of Israel and I have redeemed you, and the second “comfort ye” is to be comforted within yourself, and to believe in yourself, and to believe that you have the power of redemption within yourself.
So enjoy the Shabbat and may we all merit, “nachamu, nachamu ami.” To have the double comfort of being forgiven and redeemed by G-d, and also forgiving ourselves and believing in ourselves.
And through that we will merit the final redemption, and G-d will speak to the very heart of Jerusalem.