Dear Readers,

This Shabbat is Shabbat Nachamu, called by the first words of the day’s haftarah, prophetic reading, Nachamu, nachamu ami,“ Comfort, comfort My people … ,” consoling the Jewish people for our suffering during exile. This is the first of seven haftarahs of consolation, leading up to the Jewish New Year.

Here are five of my favorite passages from this reassuring prophecy.

1. “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your G‑d.

Art by Rivka Korf Studio
Art by Rivka Korf Studio

Isaiah foretells a salvation that is so great; it will finally end all the tears of exile.

One explanation for the double, “comfort, comfort” is that we are assured that not only will we be comforted at the time of redemption, but we will also see the value in all that we have endured and how it has made us into greater spiritual beings.

2. Speak consolingly to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her period of exile has been completed, that her iniquity has been forgiven, for she has received double for all her sins from the hand of G‑d.

This cannot possibly mean that the Jewish people received more punishment than they deserved, for G‑d is just. However, G‑d’s consolation will be so enormous it will be as if we had suffered twice as much than we actually did. (Targum)

3. Every valley will be raised, and every mountain and hill will be lowered; the crooked will become straight and the heights will become valley. The glory of G‑d will be revealed ...

On a literal level, this means that a clear and straight path will be formed for the Jewish people as G‑d leads us back from exile.

The Talmud (Nedarim 55a) explains that those people who consider themselves high and mighty will be lowered, and those who act humbly will be raised. Our persecutors who were high like mountains will see their downfall, while we who have been exiled will finally be raised. (Abarbanel)

On a personal level, this can mean that we will realize that those who act haughty and powerful are not so in G‑d’s eyes, but rather those who walk humbly, trying their best to do His will, are truly worthy.

4. He is like a shepherd who grazes his flock, who gathers the lambs in his arms, who carries them in his bosom, who guides the nursing ewes.

Like a shepherd tends to the special needs of each animal, G‑d affectionately cares for each of us, giving us not more than we can handle, finding us when we stray and gently leading us back.

5. Raise your eyes on high and see Who created these! He brings forth their legions by number, He calls to each of them by name; by the abundance of His power and by vigor of His strength, not one is missing.

When we look up, we see G‑d’s breathtaking heavenly bodies. Yet, despite our universe’s immense vastness, G‑d “calls each by name,” assigning a specific purpose to every created being. (Radak)

If G‑d fondly watches every inanimate body, how much more is His love for each of us, His children, ensuring that we will accomplish our purpose, and that none of us will ever “go missing.”

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW