The upswing of hope—Shabbat Nachamu and Tu b’Av

This Shabbat is also called Shabbat Nachamu— Shabbat of consolation. Last week Tuesday we commemorated the 9th of Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew Month Av, which is considered the most sad day in Jewish history. It is something like the black Friday for us Jews, and most tragic events in our history have been associated with this day, most prominent the destructions of both ancient temples in Jerusalem.

The Shabbatot surrounding the Ninth of Av carry a clear message relating to the day. The prophetic readings for the three weeks preceding the holiday–the first two from Jeremiah and the third from Isaiah– are full of warnings in preparation for this mournful time. Following Tisha b’Av, there are seven prophetic readings of consolation–all from Isaiah–providing comfort after this sombre occasion and preparing the individual emotionally and spiritually for the upcoming High Holy Days. Shabbat Nahamu, which provides words of consolation, embrace Tisha b’Av from opposite sides, cushioning the blow of the day of destruction, allowing the mourners to go into it, knowing there is salvation and emerge from it, reassured that redemption will come.

The upswing of hope that begun on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av continues only some days later on Tu b’Av, the 15th day of Av (this year this coming Monday, 07. August). Whereas Tisha b’Av is the day when [tradition says] God declared that the Jews would wander 40 years in the desert (until the generation that knew slavery died out), Tu b’Av is the day when, 40 years later, the remaining Israelites of the desert generation were told they would be able to enter the Promised Land. God was able to forgive the Jewish people on this day, even for the sin of having built and worshiped a Golden Calf.

In the Talmud (Ta’anit 4:8) we read that Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel said “there never were in Israel greater days of joy than the 15th of Av and the Day of Atonement.” On these days the daughters of Jerusalem used to walk out in white garments that they borrowed in order not to put to shame anyone who had none. The daughters of Jerusalem danced in the vineyards exclaiming, “Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty but set them on good family. Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain. But a woman that fears God, she will be praised.

Rabbi Simeon’s linking of Tu b’Av and Yom Kippur is at first disturbing. Why does the Jewish year end with a celebration of love? The answer says a lot about Judaism’s unique perspective on relationships, a perspective that could enhance courtship today. Tu b’Av, like Yom Kippur , is about introspection and new beginnings concerning our relationships and personal values.  Tu B’Av tells us to look beneath the surface when looking for (or at) a life partner, just as Yom Kippur forces us to look deep into ourselves before God grants us life anew. Like Yom Kippur, Tu B’Av is a time for reflection and introspection.

Tu B’Av is a great day for weddings, commitment ceremonies, renewal of vows, or proposing, for spending time with your partner. It is a day for enhancing current relationships and defining anew what your partnership is about.

Wishing you a Shabbat of comfort and a week of love and happiness

Rabbi Adrian M Schell  (Source: My Jewish Learning)

Torah Reading for Shabbat Va’et’chanan (Nachamu)

 Deuteronomy  3:23-7:11 – Reading Dtn 6:1-9 – Plaut p.1201; Hertz p.769
Haftarah Isaiah 40:1-26 – (Plaut 1222; Hertz p.776)

In our Torah portion:

* Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Land of Israel with the people, but God once more refuses his request.
* Moses orders the Children of Israel to pay attention and follow the laws given by God in order to be worthy of the land they are about to receive.

* Specific areas of the land are set aside to serve as cities of refuge.

* The covenant at Sinai and the Ten Commandments are recalled. Once again, the people are exhorted to heed God’s commandments.
* Moses speaks the words of the Sh’ma, the credo of Judaism, and commands Israel to show their love for Adonai and keep God’s laws and ordinances.

* Moses warns the people not to commit idolatry by worshiping the gods of the nations they will conquer in Israel.


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