29 Jul V’Eschanan/Nachamu – The Greatest Source of Consolation
As Parshas Devarim is always read the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av, Parshas V’Eschanan is always read the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av. This Shabbos is also known as “Shabbos Nachamu”, the Sabbath of Consolation or Comfort, after the opening words of the Haftorah, נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי, Console, console My people, says your G-d (Yeshayahu 40:1).
Aside from the words of consolation which we read in the Haftorah, what is the message of consolation embedded within the parsha itself? As the juxtaposition of the weekly parshios with the different mo’adim that fall during a given week are not random, there must be a lesson of nechama – comfort and consolation – in V’Eschanan as well.
It is in this parsha that Moshe Rabbeinu, at the end of his life, recalls and reiterates the Aseres Ha’Dibros (The Ten Statements, or Declarations), which were first given to the nation forty years earlier (in Parshas Yisro of the book of Shemos). The Aseres Ha’Dibros are so fundamental that כָּל שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת וּשְׁלֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִצְווֹת בִּכְלַל עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת הֵן, all of the 613 mitzvos d’Oraisa are included in these ten (Rashi to Shemos 24:12).
I am Hashem your G-d; Do not have gods of others before me; Do not take G-d’s Name in vain; Remember/Guard the Sabbath day to keep it holy; Honor your father and mother; Do not murder; Do not commit adultery; Do not steal (kidnap); Do not bear false witness against your neighbor; Do not covet anything that your friend has (Shemos 20:1-13, Devarim 5:6-17).
Why is V’Eschanan always read after Tisha B’Av; why is it this parsha that is associated with the Nachem of Nachamu?
Perhaps we can answer that it is the Torah itself – the giving of the Torah, the covenant that bound us to the RS”O and He to us, our acceptance of the Torah, and our Torah way of life – that is itself the greatest nechama there is.
Before he introduces the Aseres Ha’Dibros in our parsha, Moshe says to the nation, and to every generation of Jews in all times: ה’ כָּרַת עִמָּנוּ בְּרִית בְּחֹרֵב – Hashem has made a covenant with us at Chorev (another name for Har Sinai); לֹא אֶת–אֲבֹתֵינוּ, כָּרַת ה’ אֶת–הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת: כִּי אִתָּנוּ אֲנַחְנוּ אֵלֶּה פֹה הַיּוֹם כֻּלָּנוּ חַיִּים – not with our fathers alone did G-d enact this covenant, but with us! We who are here today, all of us alive (Devarim 5:2-3).
The binding covenant of Torah, and the life-giving force of Torah, is given to us as a beacon of light as we navigate the turbulent waters of this world. וּבָחַרְתָּ, בַּחַיִּים—לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ – and you shall choose life, so that you may live, you and your children! (Devarim 30:19). Is there a greater nechama than recommitting ourselves to Torah and reminding ourselves that Hashem chose us as His nation?
“A woman once asked Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l if she was permitted to benefit from a government program to which she was not entitled according to the strict letter of the law. R’ Yaakov replied, ‘Absolutely not.’ ‘But plenty of non-Jews do this,’ she countered. ‘That may be true,’ R’ Yaakov replied, ‘But their ancestors did not stand at Har Sinai to receive the Torah. Yours did.’
“The very last words of Moshe Rabbeinu to the Jewish people were: וְאַתָּה עַל–בָּמוֹתֵימוֹ תִדְרֹךְ, You (the Jewish people) will tread upon their (your enemies’) high places (Devarim 33:29). R’ Shimon Schwab zt’l interprets this as symbolizing the very high standards of middos and general behavior expected of a Jew. When a Jew sets moral and ethical standards for himself, he must use the highest standards of society at large as his starting point. Where their striving ends, ours must begin” (Honor Them, Revere Them, Artscroll, p.6).
As we move away from the mourning and churban of Tisha B’Av, to the consolation of Nachamu and V’Eschanan, we take comfort in the wisdom of Torah and the exaltedness of the mitzvos, which we once again read of in our parsha.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches: “We have already noted that during the last century of the existence of the Beis Ha’Mikdash (BHM”K), and even right after the churban, Rome did not institute any religious persecution. On the contrary, the Roman governors in Jerusalem received strict orders not to interfere with the rituals in the BHM”K while it was still standing. And then, suddenly, after Beitar, about sixty to sixty-five years after the churban, Rome’s policy completely changed. Rome suddenly became one of the worst religious persecutors in Jewish history.
“Apparently Rome realized that it had made a mistake. They had thought that once the BHM”K was destroyed, they would have no problems with the Jewish people as a separate entity; they assumed that the Jewish people would be assimilated into the general society that was open to them. All they had to do, thought Rome, was to destroy the BHM”K. They assumed that it would not be necessary to touch Jewish observances.
“But Rome realized later that even though they had destroyed the BHM”K, they had not destroyed the Jewish community. The Jewish community was as loyal to G-d after the churban as it was during the time the BHM”K was standing. Rome realized that the strength of the Jew is not dependent upon the BHM”K; that Torah is the cohesive force that unites the Jews and helps them carry on even under the worst of circumstances. The observance of Jewish law is what unites them. And it was at this point that a wave of persecution in the form of restrictive decrees inundated the Jewish community and the first of the Ten Martyrs were killed…” (The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways, p.253-254).
As we long for nechama – consolation and comfort – in the aftermath of destruction; as the world around us today seems to descend deeper and deeper into chaos and mayhem; as so much of what we see makes no sense, and our only hope is to cling to G-d, come what may – let us recall the Aseres Ha’Dibros. For there is no hope and no comfort, no life and no good, without the gift of Torah, the greatest gift of all.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,