Consolation

August 25, 2019

Parasha Eikev 5779

 

Very late one night this week, after returning from the hospital, I was whining to Eva. We came back from vacation on Tuesday evening, my Grandma went into the hospital on Monday, but we didn’t know the gravity of the situation until Tuesday night. I returned to work on Thursday and it was crazy busy, first with preparations for a major system outage and program update happening next week. And second with preparations for a technical and strategic business audit by outside consultants that is critically important to our company future happening the week after. I was bemoaning the fact that with no time during the day to write at work and really no time at night as I drove to Royal Oak every evening to spend a few hours with Grandma and to comfort my mother, I had no idea when I was going to be able to write a sermon for today.

 

Eva responded in her most generous way that I shouldn’t worry. I’d find the time. And if not, she would get up and sing and dance during the sermon time instead. Well, as it turned out she’s with Grandma at Beaumont Hospital, so you’re stuck with me unless she suddenly comes through those doors…

 

Alas! You have me. Well luckily, I recently watched one of Rosemary’s old dance recital videos, so…

 

Okay, seriously. I did manage to put some thoughts together for you about this season of Consolation.

 

Last Shabbos, the first one after Tisha B’Av, we read the haftarah of “Nachamu, Nachamu” from Isaiah. Each consecutive Shabbos, until Rosh Hashanah, we’ll read another selection from Isaiah, in which the prophet continues to comfort the Jewish People, following the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem and the exile of our people from our land. Each selection elaborates upon the future restoration of B’nei Yisroel and the renewed glory of Hashem. This string of Haftarot is termed “Shev D’Nechemta” – the Seven of Consolation.

 

Now, it is understandable why we read one haftarah of consolation after Tisha B’Av. The events were horrific and we as a people needed comfort. However, why do we read Haftarot of consolation for seven straight weeks, all the way to the month of Tishrei and Rosh Hashanah?

 

One answer is rooted in the basics of Rosh Hashanah. Unlike any other time, Rosh Hashanah is marked as the day when we proclaim God’s ultimate melkhout – His kingship. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only affirm our belief in God’s kingship; we also reconnect to Him as His loyal subjects.

 

This can be contrasted with Tisha B’Av, when our perception of God’s glory in this world was stifled, as His House (the Beit Ha-Mikdash) was utterly destroyed and we were exiled from His presence.

 

In order to progress from the depths of Tisha B’Av to full realization of God’s manifest kingship on Rosh Hashanah, we read the Seven Haftarot of Consolation, as we reconnect to God’s kingship in this world and attain the greatest appreciation of it in preparation for the ultimate day of the restoration of His Kingdom. It is not simple to go from the Galuta De-Shechinta (the exile of God’s presence) at Tisha B’Av straight to Rosh Hashanah; we need to gradually progress from one to the other. The Haftarot of Consolation enable us to approach Rosh Hashanah and relate to God’s kingship as we should. They remind us of his love and fidelity and the hope of the promise of His Kingdom.

 

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And this brings me to our Scripture readings from today and the very definition of Consolation.

 

What is it?

 

Well as summarized by me from the Oxford English Dictionary.

 

Consolation is the psychological comfort received by a person or people after they’ve suffered a severe, upsetting loss. It is typically provided by commiserating with them in their loss and by highlighting hope for a positive future.

 

Let me repeat that because the pattern is important.

 

Consolation is the psychological comfort received by a person or people after they’ve suffered a severe, upsetting loss. It is typically provided by commiserating with them in their loss and by highlighting hope for a positive future.

 

Consolation is what I heard quite a bit of this week from friends, coworkers, and distant family (though perhaps a bit prematurely). It is what we hear in a shivah house. It is what Isaiah does so well in our 7 Haftarot of Consolation. And it is what Yeshua does in our Besorah.

 

Let me elaborate.

 

The long hoped for Messiah, the teacher, the healer, the miracle worker, the true King of the Jews, who was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches just days before, the man whom many thought was going to lead their rebellion against Pilot and Rome was dead. Yeshua was dead. His Talmidim are in despair, mourning not just for their Rabbi but also for the epic future they thought they were heading towards. --And now, the tomb is empty. Is this some kind of sick and twisted, painful joke? Followers are scattering in fear and confusion.

 

There is no debate. Yeshua’s death was a severe and upsetting loss. But only because the people didn’t truly understand the Scriptures. It’s hard to see the big picture when you are in the middle of it.

 

So, Yeshua (unrecognizably) joins two of the Talmidim on their journey from despair to recognition and hope. He consoles them. He lets them tell of their anxieties and pains. He lets them grieve and mourn, empathetically listening to them pour out their despair and confusion.

 

The resurrected Messiah then lovingly chastises them for not understanding our prophets. He reminds them of the Scriptures so that they would better understand His suffering and His glory. From our original definition, Yeshua first commiserated with them in their loss and then reminded them of the hope, of the Scriptural hope for a positive future, the promised hope in Him and His Kingdom.

 

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Luke wrote this episode following the pattern of Isaiah.  

 

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Set in Babylon after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE, the exiled Judeans are feeling forgotten and abandoned by God. In despair, they lament, “The LORD has forsaken me, My LORD has forgotten me.” This sounds familiar. It can be likened to the talmidim’s expressions of grief and confusion to Yeshua. The rest of the Haftarah is Isaiah reassuring them of God’s love and reminding them of His promises throughout Scriptures and the promised hope we have in Him, positive, hopeful promises for the future redemption.

 

“Can a woman forget her baby?”
“I never could forget you.”

 

“Can spoil be taken from a warrior?”
“All mankind shall know that I the LORD am your Savior.”

 

And Isaiah ends with a picture of hope for the future.

 

“Truly the LORD has comforted Zion,
Comforted all her ruins;


He has made her wilderness like Eden,
Her desert like the Garden of the LORD.


Gladness and joy shall abide there,
Thanksgiving and the sound of music.”

 

God’s kingdom sounds glorious.

 

And we who faithfully read these passages in Isaiah and Luke, can take solace and comfort in our own trials and our own losses. God listens with love and empathy as we pour out our hearts in prayer and desperation. And whether we hear Him directly, or indirectly through the words and hugs of friends and loved ones, or through the words of Scripture; truly there is love and comfort in Hashem and the promise of Messiah and His Kingdom.

 

So, as we finish the month of Av and march through Elul, the Haftarot of Consolation both comfort us and guide us through a period of reawakening and reconnecting to the promise of redemption through Yeshua and the hope and glory of God’s kingship, culminating with Rosh Hashanah.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

 

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