Joanne Palmer
Joanne Palmer

Finding comfort — Nachamu, fireflies, and goats

It is of course the opposite of coincidental that Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort, comes after the raw pain (and soul-stirring beauty) of Tisha b’Av.

And we all really can use some comfort.

It makes me think about the cover story this week, about camp, and the deep friendships that are formed there. We often did — and now that covid’s ending, still often do — have Shabbat dinner with our dauugher Miriam’s friend Rachel’s parents. They’re among our closest friends, and we met them because Miriam and Rachel were at camp together.

It’s unlikely that we managed to be with them all, including Miriam and Rachel, every Shabbat Nachamu for years, but I don’t have to dig deep at all to surface the memory, the gorgeously sweet sound, of Miriam and Rachel singing “Nachamu Nachamu, ami,” in my imagination all in candlelight and polished wood (and yes, lots of crumbs. Many many crumbs.).

We all desperately need comfort now. The delta variant is scary, our politics are scary, the world is unpredictable and it really is scary.

But there is comfort.

This is the time of year when the fireflies show up. I’m often out at twilight; I walk through the park and see glowing, flickering lights. They’re spectacularly beautiful. And the funny thing is that the fireflies themselves are not beautiful at all. They’re these fairly big, very clumsy-looking bugs with an incongruously and improbably lovely lights stuck on them. They look like they’ve sat on some random princess’s tiara.

There’s comfort in the fireflies’ beauty, and in their deep oddness.

And then there are the goats. Two years ago, a flock of goats in Riverside Park chomped its way through underbrush and poison ivy and all sorts of weeds. Last year, of course, covid kept them away. This year, they’ve come back. Last week, there was a ceremonious Running of the Goats as they entered the park. I missed it.

Now, there are five goats in the park. My dogs and I walk by their very large, very wooded, extremely hilly enclosure twice a day, and I peer hopefully through the fence. I’ve not seen any yet this year, although I do think I can smell them.

So I think that there’s maybe some comfort there too. These goats can placidly chomp and climb and just be goats in private. No one will bother them. When they’re ready for company, they can amble over the fence, and stare at us with those weird goat eyes. Until then, we will just continue to look for them.

There’s real comfort in knowing that on some level the world just goes on, whether or not we’re bothered by it.

We wish comfort to all our readers.

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)
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