Comfort. The word itself does not really exude any form of ease or release. It starts with a hard “c” consonant, and ends with a “t.” The cacophony of it does not really make me ooze relaxation or carefree attitude when I say the word.
I think the first time I saw the word comfort was on a bottle of Tennessee bourbon, labelled Southern Comfort. That in itself is an oximoron. Southern Comfort? Can the deep South ever really feel comfortable? humidity, mosquitoes, cicadas, and heat abound in the south. Ah…but others took comfort in spirits to ease their sorrows. Bourbon could comfort any soul. Or, perhaps the famous drink of bourbon and cola!
This past Shabbat was the first one after Tisha BÁv. It is typically called Shabbat Nachamu (the Sabbath of Comfort). It is called this because we have just finished mourning the tragic fall of the Holy Temple. Immediately following this time period is the time of renewal, regrowth, and comfort. During this week’s Haftorah (portion of Prophets read after the Torah reading), we read נחמו נחמו עמי (Comfort you, Comfort you, oh, my Nation of Israel!). It is Jeremiah’s plea for the Jews of the time of the destruction to pick themselves up and move on towards a greater good. It is a plea to keep moving, and not remain crying in grief forever.
My family had the priviledge of visiting old friends in a small yishuv called Har Bracha (a settlement in the area of Samaria) this past Shabbat. We have started a tradition of visiting each other for Shabbat every Shabbat Nachamu. This Shabbat was particularly special, for we were able to comfort each other with tales from the war, and tales of perseverance.
Honestly, the best comfort for us, was sharing good food together, laughing, and watching our children enjoy each others’ company. It was such a pleasant way to remove ourselves from the mundane talk of war, of cease fires, of returned rocket fire, and hatred. It was a Shabbat of good friends, good times, and peaceful celebration.
As I sat, and chatted with our good friends, I realized that THIS is what being part of this wonderfully diverse Jewish Nation is all about…it is about being part of a greater family. It is being cherished and loved by friends, neighbors, and loved ones. It is taking comfort in the fact that we still are enjoying the freedom to celebrate the end of a busy and tiring week with good conversation, laughter, and love.
When I was a kid growing up, the local Rabbi of our synagogue would step up to the podium to give a Shabbat sermon, and he would always begin his sermon with the word “Friends.” As a child, I remember thinking this was odd. “I am not the rabbi’s friend, I am a congregant” I thought. It took me many years to realize how profound my Rabbi was. He was trying to make his congregants realize that if we are not all friends, there is no commonality between us, and we will not really amount to much at all. Only if we are all truly friends can we collectively work towards a better good.
If this war has done anything for the Israeli psyche, it has enabled us all to realize the precious reality that we are ALL part of one greater family. We are all working towards a greater good for this country. We each play an integral part in this wheel that is turning. We may not know where this wheel is turning, but we do know that we are in this together. We are taking comfort in knowing that good friends make the ride so much easier to bear. And, a little bit of comfort food, or drink, is definitely in order!