Parshas Va'eschanan

A Message from Rabbi Tzvi Muller

I am delighted to have joined the Birmingham Bloomfield Chai Center as its rabbi!  I look forward to working with the incredible people at the Chai Center to engage our wonderful community with the wisdom, beauty and relevance of Torah in our daily lives. I am grateful to the distinguished rabbinic and lay leaders who have lovingly tended to the congregation over the past thirty years. I hope to be worthy to continue to build upon their great work. I am eager to get to know everyone! Please say hello. I can be contacted at jvalues@gmail.com

This Shabbos has a special name: Shabbos “Nachamu.” It is one of very few Shabbosos each year that enjoy a distinct designation. The name of this Shabbos is derived from its notable Haftorah reading which begins with the word “Nachamu,” meaning: “Be comforted.” In this Haftorah (Isaiah 40:1-26), God offers words of comfort and consolation to His people.

It is for this reason that this Haftorah is always read the Shabbos following Tish’ah B’Av. After sadly commemorating on Tish’ah B’Av the many national tragedies we have experienced as a nation throughout our history, we are invited to accept comfort. Indeed, early Jewish sources suggest eating food on Shabbos “Nachamu” that is even more festive than the food one ordinarily eats on other Shabbosos!

However, it is important that amidst seeking comfort in the Haftorah, we not overlook this week’s Torah reading portion of “Va’eschanan.” In this week’s Parsha, Moshe exhorts the Jewish people to pass on the legacy of receiving the Torah to future generations. This is an assignment that remains incumbent upon each succeeding generation. In every generation we must ask ourselves, “What have we passed on to our children and community?” But before we can ask ourselves that question, we first must ensure that we ourselves have received and embraced that which we are meant to impart. This means not just having studied the Torah, but also participating in a community that continuously strives to make the Torah’s teachings relevant to our everyday life. This is the true legacy of Sinai – a community embracing Jewish values to make a positive difference in the world we inhabit. It is up to us to keep this legacy alive.

It is in the knowledge that we are doing all we could to bequeath our cherished heritage to those who will follow us that we will find comfort. This points to a powerful link between Parshas Va’eschanan and Shabbos “Nachamu.” When we can look with confidence toward the continuity of our Jewish mission, we will truly be comforted; we will be uplifted by the word, “Nachamu.”  

I find a source of comfort in the words of former Marxist philosopher Nicolay Berdyayev which, in closing, I would like to share with you. Referring to the Jewish people, he wrote: “Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by a special predetermination, transcending the processes of adaptation expounded by the materialistic interpretation of history. The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history: all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny.”

Gut Shabbos and Shabbat “Nachamu” Shalom!

Rabbi Tzvi Muller