Finding Comfort by Rabbi Benny Berlin

I learned a beautiful idea from Rabbi Harstein that I would like to share.

The Rambam (Hilchot Tefilah 13:2) and the Shulchan Aruch (428:4) comment that the Rabbis arranged the yearly cycle of Torah readings in a way that allows Parashat Va’etchanan to be read on the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik explained that this was for the same reason that we read from this week’s parasha on Tisha B’Av itself. The Torah tells us in Parashat Va’etchanan that the Jewish nation, while in exile, will ultimately return to Hashem, and this constitutes a message of comfort for the nation. Our mourning on Tisha B’Av, said Rav Soloveitchik, must be guided by the principle that the ultimate nechama is an assurance that the Jewish people will continue to exist as the nation carrying the message of Hashem’s continuing presence in the world.

Without this element of nechama, we would not be allowed to engage in the extreme form of mourning that we followed this Tisha B’Av. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Nachamu, not only because of the haftarah that we read (which begins with the word ‘nachamu’) but also, in general, because we need to be comforted over the destruction of the Temples and all of the other tragedies that have befallen us over the centuries.

This message of comfort is directly related in different episodes in our parasha. For example, the parasha begins with a description of Moshe’s ceaseless prayers to be permitted to enter the land of Israel. Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook remarked that Moshe embodied the trait of having a desire for Eretz Yisroel, as expressed by his 515 tefilot (the numerical equivalent of the words ‘vaetchanan‘ and tefilah) to be able to enter the land. Each of the Avot embodied a particular trait: Avraham embodied chesed and Ya’akov embodied emet. It is Moshe who taught us the trait of desiring the land of Israel. How fortunate is a nation who is able to be comforted with witnessing the miracles of the rebuilding of the land before our eyes and the allowance of all Jews to return to it with relative ease!

Rav Aharon Soloveitchik taught that the mistake of the spies was that they emphasized the logic of the mind rather than the logic of the heart in their assessment of the land. They looked at it from a purely intellectual point of view, and, from that perspective, it seemed to them that the nation would not be able to conquer the land. However, we are taught that the land of Israel is referred to as an ‘Eretz chemda,’ a desirable land, and, therefore, it is the logic of the heart that must override the thoughts of the mind. The Sefer HaCharedim writes that part of the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel is to have
a desire to be there. By reading Parashat Va’etchanan on Shabbat Nachamu we recommit ourselves to developing a love and desire for the land by reading of Moshe’s great desire to enter it, in contrast to our ancestors in the wilderness who rejected the land.

It is precisely on this Shabbat, days after Tisha B’Av, that we must focus our attention on our desire for the holy land of Israel.