The Shabbat following Tisha B’Av, that summer date commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, is known as “Shabbat Nachamu.” The name is taken from the opening word of the week’s haftarah: Nachamu, nachamu ami—“comfort, comfort My people.” It is with this sentence that we begin the series of seven haftarot known in halachic literature as shiva d’nechemta, “the seven [haftarot] of consolation.” From the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av until the last Shabbat of the year, we read the deeply moving words of comfort to the Jewish people uttered by the prophet Isaiah.
Not a week goes by that we, as Jews, are not painfully reminded that anti-Semitism is alive, well and growing in our country: the desecration of an Israeli flag with its hate-filled message left at the doorstep of our congregation just after Yom Kippur; the plot–thankfully foiled–to bomb a synagogue in Pueblo, CO. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) reports that 2019 is on track to record another high year for anti-Semitic incidents. In the first six months of 2019, there were 780 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 785 incidents reported during the same period in 2018.
In response to the hateful, white-supremacist message directed at our congregation, we are thoughtfully enhancing our security protocols. We have this in common with virtually every Jewish institution in our nation. What was once unthinkable is now in the forefront of our thoughts. But the vile act directed at our community and, by extension, all minority groups on Cape Cod occasioned a nechemta–acts of consolation.
Words of comfort and support, in the form of cards, letters and phone-calls, poured in from every corner of our community and beyond. We have gathered many of those messages and placed them in a binder on the stand outside of Goode Chapel. One message in particular stands out, a drawing of a very large eye bearing the caption “This is God’s eye watching over you.” The drawing was accompanied by this message:
Hello. My name is Rick. I live in Mashpee. I wanted to tell you that I am very sorry about the terrible things that happened at your synagogue. I will also speak up if I hear or see anything like meanness or hate.
Rick (9 years old )
In a few weeks time, in the dark of winter, we will light the first of the Chanukah candles. With each successive night the glow of the chanukiah will increase, a perfect metaphor for the need to kindle the light of understanding, tolerance and solidarity in the face of the threatening darkness of ignorance, bias and hatred.
As I light those candles I will think of 9-year-old Rick and the nechemta his words brought to me at a dark moment.