Parshas Va'eschanan 5757


Shabbos Nachamu

Shabbos Nachamu is the first of the 7 Shabbosim in which we read a Haftorah (prophetic portion) of consolation. These 7 weeks bring us to Rosh Hashanah.

This Shabbos is called Nachamu after the first words in the Haftorah; Nachamu Nachamu Ami. (be consoled my people)

I heard the following idea from my Rebbe, the Kopitcznitzer Rebbe Shlita, last night after Tisha B'Av, as we sat around the table followingKiddush Levana. (the blessing of the new moon)

The Talmud in Tractate Makkos (24b), records an episode involving the sages, Rebbi Akiva, Rabban Gamliel, Rebbi Elazar Ben Azaryah and Rebbi Yehoshua. They were once walking together in Jerusalem. They came to the place of the razed ruins of the Temple on the Temple Mount and they saw foxes darting in and out of the place where the Holy of Holies once stood. The sages began to weep, but Rebbi Akiva began to laugh.

They asked him, "Akiva, why are you laughing?" He answered them in kind. "Why are you all crying?"

They answered, "Is it not stated in the Torah, (Num. 1:51) 'And the unannointed that shall enter (the Holy of Holies) surely will die.'. And now foxes roam freely in this holy place. Is that not a cause for tears?!"

Rebbi Akiva replied , "That is why I am laughing! The prophet Isaiah (8:2) says, 'call reliable witnesses, Uriah the Cohen and Zecharyah ben Yevrachiah, to testify for me.' What are those two doing in the same verse? Uriah was from the time of the 1st Temple and Zecharyah from the time of the 2nd Temple!" "It is only coming to teach us" continued Rebbi Akiva, "that we can reckon the prophecy of Zecharyah with that of Uriah. Uriah warned, (Micah 3:12) 'Therefore because of you Zion will become a plowed field. . .'. Zecharyah prophesied, (Zech. 8:4) 'There yet will be elderly men and elderly women again sitting in the streets of Jerusalem. . . .'"

Rebbi Akiva concluded, "I was afraid that we would never see the prophecy of hope of Zechariah. Now that the prophecy of Uriah has indeed occurred, we can be certain that the prophecy of Zecharyah is soon to be fulfilled!"

"Thank you, Akiva", exclaimed the other sages, "Thank you, for you have comforted us."

The son of the Rizhiner Rebbe, R' Dovid Moshe of Chortkov, once related to his Chassidim a famous story. Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France, liked to feel the pulse of the people. He was in the habit of putting on regular clothes and going out into the streets to see and hear how the people lived, and what they thought and talked about.

One day he decide to have a look at his Jews. He went one evening to the Jewish quarter in Paris and began to look around. He found the streets deserted, the houses dark and shuttered, an eerie silence prevailed. Where were the Jews?! In the distance he spied an elderly man shuffling through the streets with a lantern. He followed after him and came to the Synagogue.

Napoleon looked in and saw that the Synagogue was dimly lit with just a few candles, and he heard the din of weeping and lamenting. The entire congregation was sitting on the floor. He asked the elderly man for an explanation. He was told about the destruction of the Holy Temple. "What", thundered Napoleon, "I didn't hear about this, in which province did it happen?! Why wasn't I told about this?"

So the man explained to him about Tisha B'av and the history of the Jewish people. He explained how the Jew have suffered exile after exile, and that the loss of the Temple is still a central memory in the Jewish consciousness. Napoleon was awestruck. He exclaimed, "I maintain, that a people that still mourns after 1600 years for its Holy Temple, will surely one day soon see it rebuilt!"

The Chortkover Rebbe explained, that from this story we can understand the episode of Rebbi Akiva and the sages. The point of deepest mourning is the root of the redemption. Like a revolving wheel, when one spoke comes in contact with the ground, it then immediately begins its ascent. The mourning of the Jewish people is beginning of the Redemption.

The Kopitcznitzer Rebbe then used a novel interpretation of a Dvar Torah from Reb Pinchas of Korets to explain this idea.

Why does the Psalm 145, "Ashrei", whose verses are in the order of the Aleph Beis, skip the letter "Nun"?

The Talmud explains that "Nun" represents the fall and defeat of Israel, being the first letter in the verse, "Fallen (naflah) not to rise again is the Maiden Israel. . . ." (Amos 5:2)

Then in "Ashrei", the Psalmist immediately brings the following verse which begins with the letter "Samach" the first letter of the word "Somaich". (He supports the fallen) The message is that without Hashem to support us, we would surely fall.

The Book of Lamentations ends with the letter "Mem", sitting on the floor on Tisha B'Av is like falling; "Nun", the Kinos, (elegies) which come after the reading of Lamentations begin with the letter "Samech" (Shavas Suru), skipping the "Nun"!

The Rebbe added that actually since the "Samech " always comes after the "Nun", that just by sitting (falling) on the floor, the support must for sure be in the offing. The very act of sitting on the floor and mourning. . . that is the beginning of the of our Renewal and Redemption; the true joy.


A Guten Shabbos


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