In need of consolation

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

This coming Shabbat - which coincides with the 15th of Av - is called Shabbat Nachamu (Shabbat of Consolation). Every year, we read about consolation on the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av in the haftarah, which begins: "Nachamu, nachamu ami." [Be consoled, be consoled, my people] (Isaiah 40:1). This week's Torah portion of Va'etchanan has a most consoling aspect as well.

This is the farewell speech of Moshe Rabbeinu to the people, and to us as well. He does not continue with us to the Land of Israel, but he teaches us about the privilege of living in it, "a land flowing with milk and honey" 

(Deuteronomy 6:3).

Moshe repeats the Ten Commandments and reminds us that no matter how much the world is shaken up, there is still a human conscience and fundamental values: honor your father and mother, do not steal, do not commit adultery, keep Shabbat, do not worship idols. Countless times throughout the generations, other nations and ideologies will try to erode these basic principles, but on Shabbat we will read them again.

Other seminal verses appear. Chief among them is the Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4). This verse has been repeated billions of times throughout the millennia, but this is the first time it appears in our nation's history.

Amidst the coronavirus, politics, and the oppressive heat, we will take advantage of our annual invitation to open the last will and testament of Moshe Rabbeinu and to find consolation and comfort there.

Shabbat shalom.

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