Rosh Hodesh Av Torah Essay
Sharona Margolin Halickman
The Contrasting Month of Av
The upcoming month has two names. It begins as the month of Av, a time of sadness and destruction until Tisha B’Av and then it becomes Menachem Av, the comforted month of Av.
Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av, is the Shabbat of comfort and is named after the Haftarah reading from Yishayahu which begins with the words “Nachamu nachamu ami”, “Comfort comfort my people”.
Shabbat Nachamu is the first of the seven weeks of consolation after the three weeks where we commemorate the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.
The root of the Hebrew word for comfort “Nachem”, nun-chet-mem can refer to comforting the nation after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash as well as to comforting an individual after the death of a loved one.
When we visit a person who is sitting shiva, we say that we are going to be “Menachem Avel”, comforting the bereaved just as “Menachem Av”, the comforted month of Av.
When we leave a house of mourning, we console the mourner by saying “HaMakom yinachem etchem betoch shaar avlei Tzion V’Yerushalayim”, “May God console you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”. We actually link the mourner with the larger Jewish community as well as the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.
Too often we are faced with a communal state of mourning. Recently we dealt with the Covid 19 pandemic, the Meron tragedy, deaths due to rockets launched from Gaza and lynches on innocent civilians during Shomrei HaChomot as well as the Surfside collapse in Florida.
There are many similarities in the way that we mourn for a loved one and in the way that we mourn for the Beit HaMikdash.
On Tisha B’Av we are restricted in all of the same ways that a person sitting shiva is restricted including sitting on a low stool, not wearing leather shoes and not greeting people.
The seven weeks of comfort following Tisha B’Av are similar to the shiva period, the seven days of comfort.
There is a limit to how much suffering we must endure.
Let’s hope and pray that the prophecies of comfort will be fulfilled speedily in our day and that peace and tranquillity will return to the Land of Israel and to the entire world.