May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Among my many wishes in life, is that the message of Shabbat Nachamu leaves a more profound impression on our people than it has recently. Rather than instilling in us the need to remain resolute and sanguine, Shabbat Nachamu has become synonymous with a need to compensate for the somber mood that was created prior to Tisha B’Av, thereby setting the tone for the observance of the fast. At best, Shabbat Nachamu is welcomed with a sense of relief, where castigation has been replaced with celebration. If Tisha B’Av has been able to accentuate destruction and despair, then Shabbat Nachumu must be able to accentuate restoration and resolve. As Jews we are not only obligated to always remember the former, but we are also obligated never to forget the latter. What follows are five Yiddish words that are very much Jewish in nature, in that they prepare us for brighter days ahead.

Trayst (consolation). Trayst, trayst mein folk (comfort, comfort my people) exhorts the Prophet Isaiah in the words of the haftarah of Shabbat Nachamu. At some point in our history, our Eastern European ancestors abandoned their attitude of optimism, where they would reassure others as well as themselves that ess vett zyne goot (it will be good). Instead of looking to a promising future, they threw up their hands in despair. Their despondency was verbalized with the well-known oy vay. Shabbat Nachamu ought to be the antidote to oy vay. Shabbat Nachamu is all about trayst, and trayst is to a heartache what an analgesic is to a headache.

Dehrmootikoong (encouragement). Those acquainted with Yiddish holiday songs, will readily recall that both moot (courage) and mootikyte (encouragement) are ascribed to Judah the Maccabee, who was extremely adept at defying the odds. Yet, defying the odds does not necessarily mean going up against a larger, better equipped army. Defying the odds, also means responding to catastrophe in ways few, if any other people, could. If rebuilding a holy Temple was not within our reach, then rebuilding our people through scholarship and prayer was. Thanks to dehrmootikoong, our people not only gave new meaning to resilience, but redefined determination as well.

Tzootroy (trust). No one could dare blame survivors of the national catastrophes that befell our people for no longer being able to have tzootroy in those who have displayed acts of inhumanity. Over the centuries, there have been three groups of survivors among our people. There have been those who survived with tzootroy in HaShem. There have been those who survived with tzootroy in themselves. Those who have refused to generalize and give up on mankind. In doing so, they have been able to retain their tzootroy in humanity.

Gloibn (belief). From childhood on, there are two affronts we suffer. The first is when others don’t believe us. The other is when others don’t believe in us. The former impugns our past; the latter impugns our future. Folk wisdom tells us that it is necessary to believe in oneself if others are to believe in you. However true this might be, perhaps the corollary is also true. Once others believe in you, it is easier to believe in oneself. Above all, it would do us well to realize that gloibn koomt foon oiben (belief comes from above). Hashem believes in us. We dare not let Hashem down.

Hoffenoong (hope). Few realize that the word “Hatikvah,” the title of Israel’s national anthem is translated as hoffenoong. In sixth grade, I studied a Yiddish novel that has left a lasting impact on me. The novel is a fiction on fact account of the Khmelnitsky pogroms of 1648-1649, the largest slaughter of our people, prior to the Holocaust. The final chapter relates how an adult son was the only one of the family able to survive the onslaught. As he made his way back to Zlotchov, the town he grew up in, he entered a shop in the Polish city of Lublin. In that shop, he noticed that all the shelves were bare. “What can you offer me?”, he asked the shopkeeper. Looking him straight in the eye, the shopkeeper answered, “Hoffenoong.

For Tisha B’Av to have true meaning, it must impact upon us in a way that we are left with trayst, dehrmootikoong, tzootroy, gloibn and above all hoffenoong.


Rabbi Shawn Zell has recently returned to New Jersey, after serving at a pulpit in Dallas. He possesses certification in teaching Yiddish. Rabbi Zell is the author of three books.

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