The way our calendar is set up, Parshat Vaetchanan is always on Shabbat Nachamu, when we read the first haftarah of consoling: Nachamu nachamu ami (“Console, console My nation).”1 It is also the Shabbat right before, after or on 15 Av, of which the Mishnah says, “There weren’t holidays for Israel, like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”2 These two days are ranked as the greatest holidays we have.

What is the connection between Vaetchanan, Nachamu and 15 Av? Why is 15 Av so great—greater than the biblical holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot?

The Kabbalistic work, Pri Eitz Chaim,3 says that it is because at that time the moon is full. But aren’t Passover and Sukkot also on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full? So what makes 15 Av greater than Passover and Sukkot?

It is explained4 that because 15 Av comes in contrast to Tisha B’Av and “The Three Weeks”—the saddest time on the Jewish calendar, when our Temples were destroyed and we were thrown into exile—it is the greatest holiday.

You may ask: Doesn’t Passover also come in contrast to the exile in Egypt? What makes 15 Av greater?

The exile in Egypt was before we received the Torah, and we became a “Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”5 When we went into exile after the destruction of the Temple, it was the exile of a holy and noble people, which is more painful exile than the Egyptian exile.

The holiday of 15 Av represents the opposite of Tisha B’Av. On Tisha B’Av, we went into exile because of our sins. As we read in the Yom Tov Mussaf prayer, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” 15 Av, on the other hand, is a time of forgiveness of sin, which is why the Mishnah mentions it together with Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness. 15 Av represents what is accomplished through our descent into exile: the coming of Moshiach and everlasting life. The greater the descent, the greater is the ascent that follows. Our efforts in this dark and bitter exile accomplish the coming of Moshiach, which is everlasting, and the building of the Third Temple, which will be everlasting.

The Mishnah continues to say that on Yom Kippur and on 15 Av, the daughters of Jerusalem (or Israel)6 would go out to the vineyards and dance.7 What moved them to dance specifically on those two days? The daughters of Israel sensed G‑d’s joy from forgiving us, and that filled them with joy, so they danced.

Vaetchanan8 means “And I prayed.” Moses prayed that he should lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel. The reason that he wanted to lead them into the land was because everything that Moses did was everlasting. He knew that if he would lead the people into Israel and build the Temple there, it would be everlasting, and no exile would follow. In other words, Moshiach would come.

The double expression of Nachamu nachamu, which gives Shabbat Nachamu its name, refers to the consolation that will be ours when Moshiach comes. The repetition doesn’t mean just two comforts. Rather, it means multiplicity, everlasting—that we will be consoled forever.

In this way, we see how Vaetchanan, Nachamu and 15 Av are connected; they are about the coming of Moshiach and an everlasting change for the better.9

Now that we have descended to the lowest possible place in the exile and accomplished our mission, it is time for Moshiach to lead us to the greatest and everlasting ascent. May it happen soon. The time has come.