by Daneal Weiner
It was last year just before
Parshas Va'eschanan – Shabbos Nachamu
that Rav Moshe Wolfson spoke on the radio in Israel and …. let me think….yes… this is what he said…(only slightly re-edited for print)
After another disapointing Tisha b'Av which departed with out bringing the Mashiach, this coming Shabbos Yishaya Hanavi- Isaiah the Prophet comes with a heartening message from Hashem.
“‘Nachamu nachamu ami,’ yomar Elokaichem”- 'Be consoled, be consoled My people,' says your G-d. Be consoled, your delivery is imminent. Shabbos Nachamu is a happy Shabbos, it's a special Shabbos. It's a landmark on the calendar. The reassuring words of Yishaya Hanavi are a balsam on our aching hearts.
Why do we believe? After 1931 Tisha b'Av's, 1931 disappointments, why do we still believe? Because it’s more than a belief. It's a conviction!
Shabbos Nachamu always falls together with Parshas Va’eschanan. In it we read the Aseres Hadibros- the 10 Commandments and Moshe Rabbeinu recounts the experience of Matan Torah- the giving of the Torah. Moshe tells them it was not with our forefathers, not something which is a tradition which we received from our fathers do we have this covenant of the Aseres Hadibros, and the whole Torah. No, It’s with us, all you people alive today.
You have to understand, my dear listeners, that Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, is something very special which no other nation experienced. There were 600,000 men there together with the women, together with their children. In other words, a few million people stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given.
After 40 years Moshe Rabbeinu recounts the experience of Matan Torah. There were many people there who remembered it when Moshe spoke to them. All those who were already 20 years old by Yetsias Mitrayim- the exodus from Egypt had perished by now. But the women were alive. Their children who were then under 20 years were alive. The verdict had not passed on them. Only newborns of the last 40 years heard from others about Matan Torah, otherwise they experienced it themselves! Most remembered Matan Torah. And, again, this is something special and something singular only to Klal Yisrael. This weeks parsha tells us no other nation will make this claim.(4:32-33)
All the other faiths are based on individual people who were charismatic. Perhaps they were able make a few tricks with magic. Such people came and told others about a revelation that they had. They were individuals. We don't believe individuals. We are a people that millions of us were able to hear Hashem, to see presence of the Shchinah.
If someone were to tell you that George Washington is a myth, that he never existed, you would say hes crazy. He can't be fictional because George Washington left his stamp on 100’s of 1,000's of people. There were 100’s of 1,000's of people in the revolutionary army. There were 100's of 1,000's of people that saw him and felt his impact when he was the first president of the United States. This passed down through the generations. Something that one person comes to tell you you can say that maybe its not true but something that 100’s of 1,000's of people experienced, that can't be false! If one somebody wanted to tell such a story that wasn't true the other people would say, “Really? How come we didn't hear about it already?”
And so the Rambam brings it in chapter 8 of Yisodai Hatorah- Foundations of Torah. "Our own eyes saw," millions of people saw the presence of the Shchinah and "our own ears heard" the voice of Hashem. When the Torah was given Israel didn't only have to depend on Moshe Rabbeinu and believe him. They each were prophets! Every Jew who was at Har Sinai was a prophet! And the Shchinah Hakadosha- the holy presence of G-d spoke to each person directly! It was given to a multitude. There was a consciousness of G-d, not a belief. It's a knowledge. An actual experience. We percieved it with our own senses. When Moshe Rabbeinu recounts the experience of Matan Torah he tells the Jews, “Face to face did Hashem speak to you," personally. There was no intermediary.
Now if you would hear on the radio that tomorrow was going to rain you may believe it. But if you look out of the window and you see that its raining now, your not believing that its raining. You know it. It's a knowledge. We all witnessed and we all heard when Moshe Rabbeinu was appointed to teach us the Torah. When Moshe was told about Matan Torah he was told by Hashem the revelation of Har Sinai is going to be of such a nature that all Israel is going to believe in him too. And on Har Sinai all Israel prophetically heard Moshe Rabbeinu was appointed by Hashem that he should give and teach the Torah to Klal Yisrael. They each saw Hashem's presence and heard it, each and every one.
Now this Torah is a true Torah. We all received this Torah. It was passed down the generations. We all have the same Chumash, the same books of the Torah. There are many many Jews that lived far away from each other. Where geographical barriers separated one from the other for many, many, many centuries. Still they all had the same Torah, that Torah which was written down after 40 years when many, many people were still alive who witnessed Matan Torah and who heard the appointment of Moshe Rabbeinu. And the others who witnessed all the miracles in the desert, the bread coming down from heaven every day, the water coming from the rock, they all heard from their mothers and fathers what was before. And they heard that others had heard the same thing from their mothers and fathers who witnessed it. When the Torah was written and handed down to them at the end of the 40 years, when Moshe Rabbeuinu wrote 13 Torah scrolls and gave each tribe their own scroll and each one copied from that original, if anything would have been false or that they didn't know about, that they didn't witness themselves or hear from their own parents then they would have said, “How come this is written down? I didn't know it. Why didn't I see it? Why didn't my father tell me?”
Now this Torah, this true Torah, this irrefutable Torah, it guarantees us our ultimate redemption. In the portion we read on Tisha b'Av, which was also from this parsha, Hashem promises us that ultimately we will be redeemed. Moshe says Hashem, our G-d is a merciful G-d. He won't abandon us. He won't let us go. He wont forget the covenant he made with our forefathers. This promise of redemption is reiterated in Parshas Nitsvim and in Vayeilech and in all the books of the Prophets.
The prophecy of galus- exile is in many places in the Prophets. We have it in the Torah in the Shema as well. “V’avaditem mehaira mahaharets hatova”- You will be quickly lost from the good land Hasham gave you. And the prophecy of galus is also in Nitsavim- Hashem will scatter you and disperse you among all nations. And many afflictions, bad ones, will befall you. The galus, the afflictions and tribulations we experience in the galus, we all see that the Torah predicted them. That same Torah predicts that we are going to be redeemed. If you are would be scatter to the extremeties of space Hashem will gather you from there and bring you back! And you are going to have more bounty, more happiness then even the Jews at the time of King Solomon. Much more. Our redemption is a promised one. We believe it…. more than we believe… we know it!
We don't know just when the mashiach will come. We don't know who mashiach is. The final redemption is concealed. Like the Prophet says in the Name of Hashem, “ki yom nakan b'libi ushnas geula ba’ah” - A day of vengeance is in My heart and the year of redemption will come. On b’libi- in My heart our Sages tells us Hashem didn't let it out of His heart. His heart didn't reveal it to His mouth, so to speak. He did not let it become known to us. Hashem alone knows when the final, rock bottom redemption will be.
This Shabbos we have the nachama- consolation of Yishaya Hanavi. After the disappointment of Tisha b'Av we believe… no… we know that we are going to be redeemed and the voice of Yishaya Hanavi, this Shabbos, comes to visit us and his consolation echoes over mountains and valleys and he proclaims, “On a high mountain ascend, the one who announces the redemption of Zion. Raise your voice, announcer of the redemption of Jerusalem, tell the cities of Judah, tell the Jewish people their G-d is arriving!”
We have 7 weeks of comfort, 7 haftorahs which start off this week with Nachamu nachamu ami. And on this Shabbos we make a new covenant with our G-d. We have the Aseres Hadibros. It was once written in Parshas Yisro. Its repeated over again at the end of the 40 years, at the end of Israel's wandering in exile. It's a renewal of the covenant. A new committment to be a true, G-d fearing and obeying Jew.
Be true, dear listeners. Be clean. Be morally clean. Be honest. Keep the Shabbos holy. This will contribute to bringing the redemption even nearer and nearer.
Dear brethren, enjoy Shabbos Nachamu. Rededicate yourselves on Shabbos Nachamu. Become better Jews on Shabbos Nachamu. And may we all be zocheh- merit to see with our own eyes, v'sechezenah aynaynu bshuv'cha l’Tsion, we should see the geula shelaima bimhairah bimhairah b'karov.