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“Mena— how do you pronounce it?”

“Mena— how do you pronounce it?”

It happens so often I’ve gotten used to it. I might be calling the bank, an airline, or any other place where I used my actual name (Menachem). The person on the other side starts reading it, then pauses, afraid of mispronouncing my name. 

“Mena—“

“You can just pronounce it Menatchem,” I laugh.

Some of the more brave ones dare to figure out the pronunciation independently. I was called “Menakem”, “Menahem”, and once in a while, they got it right: “Is this Menachem like Menachem Begin” (dude, you just told me how old you are!)

So why am I writing about this?

Because if you look at the Jewish calendar, you will discover that this week, we are about to enter the Hebrew month of Menachem Av.

‘Menachem’ means to comfort. When we go to comfort the mourners, we fulfill the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim – again, the words Menachem, Nichum, and Nechama all come from the same root: comforting.

And ‘Av’ means a father.

“The comforting father”: what a beautiful name for our month, a name that expresses G-d’s great love for us!

Looking at the calendar again, we see how the month of Av contains the saddest day on the Jewish calendar: the 9th of Av. A day filled with horrific tragedies happened to the Jewish people throughout the generations. 

Such a beautiful name to what seems to be such an ugly month?  

Indeed, more than all other months, this month deserves to have such a name. This name reminds us that even when we feel that G-d distanced Himself from us, He is still our loving father. Yes, that love is hidden, and we cannot understand the reason for it. Still, we can be sure of His unwavering love and commitment to us. 

We pray for the day that this love will no longer be hidden. As we say in the blessing of the month:

May the Holy One, blessed be He, renew it for us and for all His people, the house of Israel, for life and peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation, and let us say, Amen. 

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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