‘Comfort, O Comfort My People’

As my wife and I enter into isolation to protect ourselves, our family, friends, and community, and as I feel the anxiety that I know I share with so many, I’ve sought words of comfort in the face of this pandemic.

Martin Buber, quoting Rabbi Pinchas said: “When a person is singing and cannot lift his/her voice and another comes along and sings with him/her, another who can lift that person’s voice, then the first will be able to lift his/her voice too. That is the secret of the bond between spirit and spirit.” (Tales of the Hasidim)

How do we lift each other’s spirit as we isolate ourselves from one another? That’s a fundamental humanitarian question in these days.

Thankfully, we have the internet, social media, telephones, Facetime, streaming of religious services, and the media as a whole to connect us to our families, friends, fellow Jews, and to the world beyond our front doors.

The biblical prophet Isaiah said, “Nachamu, nachamu ami – Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her…” (40:1)

In times of trouble, Isaiah’s words have always inspired and comforted me. Interpreting “Jerusalem” as a Place of peace, comfort, compassion, empathy, and justice, we can extend the meaning of Yerushalayim shel ma-alah (The Heavenly Jerusalem) to include our world community confronting together this frightening pandemic.

“May the One Who dwells in this Place comfort you” is a message inscribed on Kings Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. In our own “places,” may we know good health and feel comfort as we connect with each other in new ways in these days.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi John L. Rosove is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles. He is a national co-Chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street and immediate past National Chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). He serves as a member of the newly created Union for Reform Judaism's Israel and Reform Zionism Committee (IRZC). John was the 2002 Recipient of the World Union for Progressive Judaism International Humanitarian Award and has received special commendation from the State of Israel Bonds. In 2013 he was honored by J Street at its Fifth Anniversary Celebration in Los Angeles. John is the author of “Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove” (Nashville: Jewish Lights Publishing, a division of Turner Publishing Company, 2017) available at Amazon.com. His new book "Why Israel [and its Future] Matters - Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove" will be published in November, 2019 (New Jersey: Ben Yehuda Press) and will be available at Amazon.com. John has written a series of 8 Jewish Life Cycle Guides that are posted on the Temple Israel of Hollywood web-site (http://www.tioh.org). The Guide “Preparing for Jewish Burial and Mourning” also appears on the web-site of Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles. (http://hillsidememorial.org/jewish-lifecycle-guide/). John writes a regular blog that appears at the Times of Israel at ​https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/john-l-rosove/. His Facebook site is www.facebook.com/RabbiJohnLRosove John is married to Barbara. They are the parents of two sons - Daniel (age 34) and David (age 29). Daniel is married to Marina Javor Rosove. John and Barbara have one granddaughter.
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