June 19, 2024
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Highlighting: “Mesilah L’Elokeinu, The Path Forward” *

The double “Nachamu, Nachamu” is significant. Most of the midrashim, for example, Midrash Tanchuma, comments on “Nachamu, Nachamu” that the word nachamu is said twice because all the calamities and all the sins of the Jewish people are double.

Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and call to her, for she has become full; for her iniquity has been appeased, for she has taken from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. (Yishayahu 40:2)

How do we understand “double for all her sins”?

The midrash tries to explain this feeling that Yerushalayim has received a double punishment for her sins. We sinned doubly and therefore Hashem had to punish us double.

This approach does not seem to be so comforting. Imagine I say to someone, “Comfort, comfort.” and that person asks me, “Why are you saying this twice?” And I respond, “Well, because you sinned double, Hashem collected from you double, so therefore I’m saying a double nechama, a double consolation.”

Rashi frames this particular “Nachamu, Nachamu” of the midrash in a way that seems to talk specifically about current times. One way to understand how this double “Nachamu, Nachamu” specifically addresses our situation is the similarity to the threat of a second wave of the coronavirus.

The sense of “it’s not over” is still with us, so our objective—our eyes—are already on “Nachamu, Nachamu”…

Consolation is the job of leaders and of rabbanim, of poskim (decisors of halacha), ba’alei hashkafa (spiritual masters), teachers and parents. According to Rashi, it is their job, their primary obligation at this time, to give nechama.

Another part of the process of nechama is the crucial step of learning from situations presented to us and making changes accordingly. So it is a challenge now, in America and throughout the world, not knowing what the future portends.

If there is no response—if we haven’t changed, if we casually flaunt what has happened and say, “OK, COVID is over”—then we didn’t learn anything lasting from this custom-made message from God and from this invisible enemy that brought the entire world to its knees. But “Nachamu, Nachamu, Be comforted, be consoled!” If we’re able to access that promised consolation—that double nechama —then, we will be, with God’s help, able to prevent a greater catastrophe.

Rav Yoseph ben Shimon Kara, the Mahari Kara (1065-1135), provides incredible guidance. The comfort occurs when you realize and notice that the verb tense of what Hashem is saying to us, be it in Torah, in mitzvot, or in Navi… is in the present tense. The present tense conveys the message that I can take whatever I’m learning now and apply it immediately. If we respond immediately to what we are learning we can prevent and change what might otherwise be destined to happen.

The application of this concept in our time is that we can respond to what is happening to us—now—by determining how to immediately apply what we are currently learning to our situation.

We don’t have to wait. We respond now! This is a nechama.

The Mahari Kara continues, “What is the best nechama?” and answers, “to give people a halicha—a way—to show them that Halacha is providing them with a Mesilah l’Elokeinu, a pathway to reconnect with Hashem in a better, more beautiful way.”

Hashem gave us a mesilah, a path. We know that we can move forward. Any feedback we get is an opportunity to respond now, present tense. This means that we take what is happening or speaking to us now and know that it is a real message meant for us. That is the Mesilah l’Elokeinu, the path to our Father in Heaven, the Supernal Almighty.

It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, but that you plant a seed; it grows, then you move on to the next step. You respond to each event that comes your way—to any positive feedback you receive—and that conveys that something you’re doing matters!

You pursue more and might ask, “Am I permitted to get signs from Hashem?” In a word, yes! You’re allowed to get feedback from the Ribono Shel Olam that your holy work makes a difference. You are able to carve a path for yourself, and if you see one opening, you grab it with the awareness that it’s a pathway to Hashem, a Mesilah L’Elokeinu.

Looking for signs from Hashem, though, is a risky approach. There will then be so many questions of doubt about yourself. You might wonder if you’re worthy or deserving. You might question your true level of bitachon (faith). But because these are extraordinary times, it is incumbent on us to take this approach, to accept the guidance given to us from the Mahari Kara.

We need to regard the present tense to guide what is happening to us now.

Are you able to learn Torah? Are you able to learn Navi? Are you able to learn Gemara? More importantly, are you able to learn Halacha, Jewish law and apply it, present tense? If you are able to learn the lesson of the present tense, then nechama is coming your way!

*“Mesilah L’Elokeinu: The Path Forward” will be available at your local Jewish bookstore.


Rabbi Weinberg received semicha from HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman ztk”l, founder and rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel Yeshiva and was nurtured by his father, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l, also rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel. His approach to learning was further developed by his uncle, HaRav Noach Weinberg zt”l, founder and rosh yeshiva of Aish HaTorah.

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