May 26, 2024
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Shabbos Nachamu and Tu B’Av: What’s the Celebration?

The year was 1946. Rabbi Isaac HaLevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, came to visit Chicago. A huge entourage greeted the Chief Rabbi at Midway airport and escorted him to a large shul, where an overflow crowd of men, women and children were waiting. Rabbi Herzog started with a 45-minute shiur in Yiddish. When he finished, he announced, “I would like to address the children and will now speak in English.” He gathered all the boys and said, “A few months ago, I had a meeting with Pope Pius in Italy. I had the names of 10,000 children who were entrusted into the care of Christian families, orphanages and monasteries before and during the war. I told the Pope, ‘We entrusted our children to you and your people, and we thank you for saving their lives. The war is over now. The danger is gone. I request that you return all these children back to us.’ The Pope looked at me and said flat out, ‘No. I will not return any child, not even one! Once a child has been baptized, he is ours and I cannot give him back.’ I begged and pleaded, but to no avail.”

At that point, Rabbi Herzog put his head down on the lectern and broke down crying for a long time. Finally, he raised his head, his eyes red and tears streaming down his cheeks. He cried out, “I cannot do anything to bring back those 10,000 children, but Hashem spared you from being lost. YOU, my children, are the future of klal Yisrael. Hashem has designated you to help rebuild the Jewish people. You need to ask yourselves, ‘What can I do to help the future of klal Yisrael?’”

When he finished speaking, every child present lined up in a single file to shake his hand and ask for a bracha. He grasped each child’s hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Remember these words: What will you do for klal Yisrael? Don’t ever forget them.”

Rabbi Berel Wein was one of the boys in attendance and was 11 years old at that time. Rabbi Wein said that throughout his life, he had many challenges and at times he felt like discontinuing giving his shiurim and writing his seforim. But whenever he thought about it, the words of Rabbi Herzog echoed through his head: “What are you doing for the future of the Jewish people?”

The above story can shed light on a very puzzling practice. This Shabbos is called Shabbos Nachamu, from the haftarah that opens with the words “Nachamu Nachamu Ami, please console My nation.” This Shabbos has a certain level of excitement and festivity. Many places have a Motzei Shabbos kumzitz or concert for Shabbos Nachamu. But why is there celebration on Shabbos Nachamu? What consolation can be offered if we are still in the same predicament as we were on Tisha B’Av—lacking a Beis Hamikdash?

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein explains that our greatest source of comfort comes from Tisha B’Av itself! Throughout the millennia, millions of Jews were tortured, beaten and killed. This happened during the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash, the Inquisition, countless pogroms and the Holocaust. Millions died, but those of us who are standing here today have been spared. As Rabbi Herzog said, we were left alive for a reason. Hashem wants us to rebuild the Jewish nation. Tisha B’Av reminds us of this charge and of our ultimate destiny.

This year, the Friday before Shabbos Nachamu is Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Av, which the Mishna tells us is one of the greatest holidays in the Jewish calendar. What happy holiday can there be a mere six days after Tisha B’Av??

The Gemara explains that of the generation that left Mitzrayim, those who were between ages of 20-60 were sentenced to perish in the desert and not enter Eretz Yisrael. Each year on Tisha B’Av 15,000 people in the desert dug their own graves and died.The last year, however, no one died. They slept in their graves until the 15th of Av—and nothing happened! The decree was over! That day became a HUGE Yom Tov! But what’s the cause of celebration for death stopping—there was no one left to die!? Tosfos quotes Rabbeinu Tam who explains that there were 15,000 people remaining from that generation who were supposed to die that year; however, Hashem spared their lives. Therefore it is a Yom Tov.

I believe this explains the Yom Tov of Tu B’Av in the same vein as Shabbos Nachamu. Hashem saved and spared a segment of the nation. As we celebrate Tu B’Av on Friday and are consoled with the words of the Shabbos haftarah, let’s remember to ask ourselves the question of Rabbi Herzog: “What am I doing for the future of the Jewish people?”


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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