We have entered into a fascinating time of the year.
With Tisha B’av having fallen out so early, it leaves us with six weeks until school starts. Which gives us weeks of carefree summer fun without the specter of Tisha B’av and the three weeks to ruin our plans. Normally these weeks are swallowed up by the frenzy of back to school activity, everyone returning from summer plans, buying back to school supplies, and spending a little bit of time preparing for the Yamim Noraim before they hit. But this year, we won’t even be able to warm our desk chairs before we will be dipping our apples in honey.
So during the next six weeks, how do we prepare, in the middle of our summer vacation?
The time period between Tisha B’av and Rosh Hashana are known as the Sheva D’nechemta: The seven weeks of consolation. They are aptly named to correspond the seven haftarot which follow Tisha B’av, and reflect on reconciliation between Israel and Hashem, and the future redemption of the Jewish people. They bring us, with legs still asleep from sitting on the floor all day on Tisha B’av, reeling from the tragedies of Jewish History to standing before our Our King and Loving Father during Rosh Hashana. But how do they do that?
The Midrash (Yalkut shimoni Yeshaya 443) discusses that the Haftarot are conversations between Hashem, the Neviim and Israel. In the first week (Vaetchanan), Hashem sends his prophets to console
Israel. In the second week (Ekev), Israel responds that they are forlorn, lonely and unconsoled. During the third (Reeh), the prophets return this message to Hashem. The fourth (Shoftim), is when Hashem says “I myself will comfort them.” In the fifth (Ki Tezteh), and sixth (Ki Tavoh) Shabbatot, we hear Hashem’s message of consolation until, in the seventh (Nitzavim), Israel accepts the consolation. Parshat Nitzvaim is usually the Shabbat which leads us into Rosh Hashana.
One of the messages of this Midrash is that there is a chasm between the terrible silence and distance of Tisha B’av and closeness of Rosh Hashana. This chasm cannot be bridged all at once. These weeks are a process of getting to know Hashem’s love for us, our potential, and our plans for the future together, so that once again we can feel able to draw close.
During these weeks of Sheva D’nechemta, of consolation, take the time to read the Haftarot, get to know the messages of reconciliation, our national and personal hopes for the future. Begin to ask yourself, where are places where I need to console those around me, who need a kind word? Or try to find reconciliation with things that we’ve done in the past. Ask yourself, what are we doing to build our future now? What are my plans, directions and dreams? What are our communities?
We should live to see the day, when we hear Hashem himself, not the baal maftir, say “Anochi, Menachemchem, I am He who consoles you.”