The timing of Shabbat Nakhamu is consistent in the Jewish calendar, coming as it does after Tisha B’Av and taking us from a place of utter despair to one of comfort and hope. This year, its timing within the secular calendar is equally propitious. Let’s face it. Things, well, to put it bluntly, suck right now. Nobody appears to be happy. In England, youth are rioting. In the US, the stock market is going crazy, our economy is in awful shape, and politicians have gone absolutely mad. There’s still war in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Libya. Syria’s government continues to crackdown. The horn of Africa is experiencing a food crisis.
What scares me is that I’m afraid we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. Consider the words of hafatarah reading for Shabbat Nakhamu (Isaiah 40:1-26.) We have not yet seen the depths of despair and destruction as those being consoled by Isaiah’s words.
We are, I’m afraid, quite guilty of many of the behaviors and sins for which Isaiah (and most of the prophets) take the people to task. Our systems and practices have become corrupted. We do not dispense justice equally to rich and poor alike.
I am not trying to rationalize or defend the actions of the young British rioters. But I understand their angst. An article I read the other day tried to pass off the riots as the product of lazy, self-indulgent, spoiled British youth with a sense of entitlement and easy to anger and act on that anger. I can’t dismiss the analysis completely – there is likely some truth in it. I am somewhat surprised it hasn’t started happening here in US. I fear that, when the truly serious cuts to government spending come to pass, without any attempt to raise taxes on the wealthy, our own youth (and adults, and seniors) may be similarly angered and driven to riotous behavior. To turn a phrase around, lo y’hi ratzon.
I make no bones about my politics. I’m a liberal to the core. I truly believe the Judaism of my understanding compels my political outlook, though I fully recognize that others derive totally different understandings and political views from the same sources I use.
Things are not right in this world. The rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, and the poor are growing poorer. Pollution? Global warming? Nuclear energy? Nuclear weapons? Terrorism? The democratic spring in the middle east and north Africa? All of these are starting to take a back seat to the worldwide economic spasms. Conveniently so, I might surmise. What better way to take our mind off of things which will cost companies millions to fix and make right that to have worldwide economic panic? (I’m no big fan of conspiracy theories, but there are times that “follow the money” can lead to some very suspicious thoughts.)
G”d is not likely to provide a solution, but it is said that religious faith can provide some comfort. I’m trying real hard to have that faith, and harkening to Isaiah’s words. It’s not easy, and my faith and trust is tenuous at best. When faith and trust are all you’ve got however, it seems foolish to throw it away. Maybe if we all grabbed at a little piece of faith, maybe if we all allowed ourselves to be comforted by the G”d (or non-deity) of our understanding, we can find our way through the darkness.
At times like this we truly need comfort. Would that the whole world , all of us together, united as one, despite our differences, could cry out to G”d “Comfort us, comfort us, all our people. That’s what I’ll be praying for this Shabbat.
Finally, it has been somewhat of a tradition for me to share my musing for parashat Va’etkhanan, “The Promise” at this time each year. So here’s a link to it: http://www.durlester.com/musings/vaetkhanan5767.htm
Shabbat Shalom and May You Find Comfort,
©2011 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha: