We are living in uneasy times. Just as we prematurely thought we were out of the woods, the recent Washington budget debacle and the S&P’s unprecedented US credit downgrade, glaringly remind us of the profound uncertainty clouding our futures. With our economy floundering and so many of our institutions tottering, it seems like the pillars and foundations of our existing infrastructures – the ones we so deeply relied on and took for granted until now – are crumbling right beneath us. Is this the first death knell of Capitalism as we know it?
Closer to home, we just finished mourning the imagination- defying murders of nine-year-old Leiby Kletzky and the famed Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, grandson of the Baba Sali, both at the hands of other Jews.
All these shocking events – which open up and expose our deeper personal wounds and insecurities – seem appropriate for this time of year, as we come away from Tisha B’Av (last Tuesday) when we remembered the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and many other terrible things that happened on that day in history.
But just as things seem to hit rock bottom, we thankfully enter a time of consolation and empowerment. This week, the Hebrew calendar moves forward like a spinning wheel, and in its powerful way, teaches us to align our lives to the cycle of growing through uncertainty and healing from our wounds. This Shabbat, following Tisha b’Av, is called Shabbat Nachamu (the “Shabbat of Comfort”), for Isaiah begins: “Be comforted, be comforted, my people…”
This sermon analyzes the words of the Haftorah of Shabbat Nachamu line by line, demonstrating how Isaiah’s timeless words teach us all how to heal our own damaged psyches and each other, how to build courage and strength even in times of insecurity, and above all – how we need not be trapped by who we are and our past attitudes; that despite our challenges and uncertainties we have the power to become what we want to be – excellent and great.