A pre-school principal noticed that one of the children was love-starved; he was constantly seeking attention and being very clingy. So she called the mother in for a woman-to-woman talk and told her in the nicest way possible that she felt the child needed more love. The mother listened patiently and said: “I know you’re right. The psychologist told me the same thing. So I instructed our babysitter to hug him more, but I guess she just doesn’t understand.”
This sermon demonstrates how this week’s Haftarah contains a fundamental lesson in reclaiming love that so many of us were deprived of as children – a powerful life-changing lesson, relevant today more than ever.
This week’s Haftarah is the sixth in a series of seven Haftarahs of consolation, a series that began after the worst date in Jewish history – Tisha B’Av. The Prophet Isaiah consoles us and tells us to “rise and shine.”
But how can we do that if we have been victims of childhood abuse? How can we do that if we have experienced a personal holocaust? How can we do that if we feel unloved, forsaken and lost?
Today, Chai Elul, is also the birthday of the two great luminaries, the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe, who came to revive the Jewish spirit from a comatose state. As the actual date of their birthday suggests, they infused new life (chai) and hope in the love of Elul, helping us all to rise and shine – and reclaim any love and beauty that may have gone into hiding and we may have seemingly lost.
Note: Some of this material is very sensitive and explicit, and needs your discretion. The sermon can be given without sections 3 and 9. We included it because of its important relevance to many. But obviously, only you can gauge your audience and determine what should or should not be said.