Shabbat Message: From Lamentation to Consolation

Posted on July 31, 2020 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

I recall the moment when remembering my dear father felt only joyful and not also painful. It was a long time coming, and I’m not quite there yet with my beloved mother, who died a little more than a year ago.¬†Grief is potent. Like gravity, it has a persistent pull and weight. It saps energy and dulls the senses. But, as night gives way to the break of dawn, by some miracle the darkness gives way and light emergences – at first gradually and then suddenly. The heaviness of the heart eases by an unexpected grace.

Consolation comes in many forms. Like when a smile evokes a smile that seemed so unlikely. A beautiful sunset that brings an unencumbered feeling of uplift. A tender touch, a caring word. A sudden lightness of being.

This mystery of healing that rises from the depths of despair is expressed in the opening words of the holy Zohar, the great source of Jewish mystical teaching. Reflecting on the destruction of the Holy Temple, the Zohar quotes a verse from Lamentations that we read just yesterday on Tishah B’Av. “To what can I liken you? To what can I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? For your ruin, your brokenness, is as vast as the sea, who will heal you?”

“…who will heal you?”

Consolation, says the Zohar, comes from the very source of life, the womb of all being, the divine attribute called binah that is also called “Who.” Unknowable, mysterious, ineffable. It can only be expressed in the form of a question, “Who?” A question that can become an affirmation. When you think your brokenness is too great to bear, “Who,” the Source of all being, will heal you, says the Zohar. As the Psalmist said, “…weeping may endure in the night, but joy returns in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Joy does return – wondrously, mysteriously, miraculously – as a gift of God woven into the fabric of being.

The modern Jewish poet, teacher and tzaddik Danny Siegel expressed this lyrically:

Eternal God, You are a consolation to Your creatures,

for in moments of forgetting we but call to mind Your care,

and we are comforted.

When we hope no more,

a pattern in the snow reminds us of Your lovingkindness.

Your dawns give us confidence,

and sleep is a friend.

Our sorrows dissipate

in the presence of an infant’s smile.

And old men’s words revive our will-to-wish.

Your hints are everywhere,

Your signals in the most remote of places.

You are here, and we fail words to say,

“Mah Tov!”

How good our breath, our rushing energies,

our silences of love.

On this Shabbat of Consolation, Shabbat nachamu, when we read God’s loving words nachamu, nachamu ami, “take comfort, take comfort, O my people…” may we all find strength and solace, hope and healing in the knowledge that God, the great, loving, wondrous, mysterious source of being, is with us to comfort us, from the vast canopy of the stars, to the depths of the ocean, to the recesses of our hearts and souls. For “weeping may endure in the night, but joy will return in the morning.”

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Arnie Gluck