May 30, 2024
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May 30, 2024
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Rebbe Moshe Yechiel Epstein, zt”l, was a masmid and brilliant Torah scholar who authored the 20 volume encyclopedic work on Jewish thought, “Sefer Aish Dos,” as well as the Torah commentary, “Be’er Moshe.” Reb Moshe Yechiel relocated from Poland to New York in the mid-1920s, while his relatives who remained in Europe were all murdered in the Holocaust. He lived on the Lower East Side and then the Bronx for some time before moving to Eretz Yisrael. There, as the sole surviving remnant of his grandfather’s Chasidic dynasty, Reb Moshe Yechiel was asked to take up the mantle of leadership, and became known as the Ozherov Rebbe.

The long-time menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, Rav Asher Sabo, once shared a memory from his youth. As a child of Holocaust survivors, little Asher became accustomed to his parents’ nightmares; often, in the middle of the night, they would cry out in pain, reliving the horrors they had experienced during the Shoah. He remembers being three years old, waking up frightened and shaken. His father would rush to him, gather him in his arms, and lovingly carry him to the window.

The Sabos lived in New York City, in the same housing development as Rebbe Moshe Yechiel. In the darkness, a light shone from the apartment just across the way, where the Rebbe sat learning Torah and writing seforim throughout the night. Asher’s father would point toward the dining room window of the Rebbe, where they could see him deeply immersed in his avodah, and rocking back and forth. “Kuk vi der Rebbe learnt — Look how the Rebbe is learning!” his father would tell him, warmly. In the loving embrace of his father, Asher was comforted and stabilized by focusing on the serene, holy form of the tzaddik immersed in the eternal words of Torah … 


“Shabbos Nachamu,” is named after this week’s haftarah from the prophecies of Yeshayahu. In it, Hashem instructs the Navi to deliver a message of consolation and comfort and herald a new era of hope and tikkun: forgiveness for Am Yisrael, the beginning of restoration for the holy city and the approach of a future Redemption.

”קוֹל אֹמֵר קְרָא וְאָמַר מָה אֶקְרָא כָּל־הַבָּשָׂר חָצִיר וְכָל־חַסְדוֹ כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה:“

A voice says, “Proclaim!” and it says, “What shall I proclaim?”

“All flesh is grass, and all its kindness is like the blossom of the field”

”יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ כִּי רוּחַ ה׳ נָשְׁבָה בּוֹ אָכֵן חָצִיר הָעָם:“

“The grass shall dry out, the blossom shall wilt, for a wind from Hashem has blown upon it; behold the people are grass .”

”יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ וּדְבַר אֱלֹהֵינוּ יָקוּם לְעוֹלָם:“

“The grass shall dry out, the blossom shall wilt, but the word of Hashem shall last forever.”

(Yeshaya, 40:6-8)

The question of the prophet Yeshayahu, “What shall I proclaim,” demands that we take pause and consider the purpose of our lives — what is essential to us. “What does my lifestyle, my choices, my mode of existence proclaim about me? Do my choices reflect an awareness that “the grass shall dry out, the blossom shall wilt,” that everything in this world is temporal and fleeting? Am I living with eternal values?

Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt”l, the rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, shares an insight. Following the tragedy of Churban Bayis and the transient experience of exile, the Navi is reminding us that everything physical in this world has an expiration date; there is no structure, building or institution that will stand the test of time. It is only “דְבַר אֱלֹקינוּ —the word of Hashem,” the eternal Torah haKedosha, that has any lasting power. The more we strive to attach and immerse ourselves in learning and living with Torah, the more this truth of this prophecy is “proclaimed” and amplified in the world.

On Shabbos Nachamu, we are invited to join the prophet’s proclamation and ask of ourselves and our fellow Jews, “מָה אֶקְרָא —What shall I proclaim?” “What does my life stand for — fleeting appearances or eternal realities?” In the face of the spiritual chaos, confusion and horrors of our generation, and the unstable, shifting sands of today’s cultural and political scenes, our timeless moral standards could seem to be washed away. Yet Hashem’s promise and guarantee that we will be sheltered and redeemed finds expression in our eternal bond with Torah. 

May we awaken from the nightmare of galus, and be healed from our collective trauma, in our Heavenly Father’s comforting embrace. May we focus on the soothing, stabilizing promise of our holy Torah: a bright future awaits us! Nachamu nachamu ami …

“לוּלֵי תוֹרָֽתְךָ שַׁעֲשֻׁעָי אָז אָבַדְתִּי בְעָנְיִי”

“Were not Your Torah my occupation, then I would have perished in my affliction.”

(Tehillim, 119:92)

Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY,  founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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