Sabbaths of Consolation

August 14, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, August 14, 2015.

Sabbaths of Consolation

A few weeks ago, July 25, was Tisha B’Av which was a holiday of mourning and fasting for the devastating destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the total destruction of the ancient Temple practices. (For more information, see the Shabbat Shalom message of July 24 here.)

Between Tisha B’Av and Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) there are seven Sabbaths which are referred to in the tradition as “Shiv’ah d’Nechamta” – “The Seven (Sabbaths) of Consolation.” Tisha B’Av and the three weeks preceding it are considered days of mourning and the darkest days for the Jewish religion. Starting immediately afterward, however, are days of repair and rebuilding and hope – culminating in the High Holidays and their message of taking stock and return and hope. Nowhere is this clearer than during services during these Sabbaths of Consolation... and the clarity isn’t through specific prayers, but rather through the Haftarot (the readings from the Prophets which follow the Torah reading) on each of the seven Sabbaths preceding Rosh HaShanah. On each of these Sabbaths, the Prophetic readings are taken from the Book of Isaiah, the work of prophecy that was produced after the period during which the Jews were exiled from Judea by the Babylonians. These readings progress from an announcement that God has forgiven the Children of Israel, to messages of consolation, to messages of visions for the future and restoration.

The first message, on the first of these seven Sabbaths was from Isaiah, chapter 40:

Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,

Saith your God.

Bid Jerusalem take heart...

This Shabbat, the third Sabbath of Consolation, we read from Isaiah, chapter 54:

For thou shalt spread abroad on the right hand and on the left;

And thy seed shall possess the nations,

And make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed.

The message of hope and change must have been a truly powerful one in the days of Isaiah among the people for whom the exile from the land of Israel was a raw and painful memory. It continues to be powerful even now, two thousand years later.

Shabbat Shalom.