What is Shabbos Nachamu?
Dear Jew in the City-
What is Shabbos Nachamu? I know it’s the Shabbos after Tisha b’Av but what’s the point of it? Are you supposed to do anything on it? Thanks!
For the three Shabboses leading up to Tisha b’Av, we read haftaros of admonition – two from Jeremiah and one from Isaiah – in order to prepare us for the increasing intensity of mourning that occurs throughout the Three Weeks, the Nine Days and Tisha b’Av itself. For the seven Shabboses that go from Tisha b’Av until Rosh Hashana, we read haftaros of consolation, all from the book of Isaiah. The first of these seven weeks is Shabbos Nachamu.
The day gets its name from the opening words of the haftarah, from Isaiah chapter 40, “Nachamu, nachamu ami.” These words are often translated as “be comforted, My people” but, grammatically, such is not really the case. Rashi tells us that God is speaking to the prophets and telling them, “Comfort My people.”
Practically speaking, reading the haftarah is the only way that most of us will commemorate the occasion of Shabbos Nachamu but, traditionally, there might be more to it. Rishonim like the Ritva (13th century, Spain) and the Maharil (14th century Germany) consider the day worthy of elevation beyond the status of a regular Shabbos, with additional food and delicacies approaching the elaborate status of a yom tov.
It should be noted that Shabbos Nachamu is always the week we read parsha Vaeschanan, which is the second time we read the Aseres HaDibros (the first being in parshas Yisro. “Aseres HaDibros” is popularly translated as “Ten Commandments” but there are actually more than ten commandments in those ten statements). The Biur Halacha (428:4) explains that parshas Devarim is always read on the Shabbos preceding Tisha b’Av so that we have Moshe’s rebuke in the parsha and Isaiah’s rebuke in the haftarah. Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa said that Vaeschanan always follows Tisha b’Av because it contains the Aseres HaDibros, which is a microcosm of the entire Torah. Because Torah study is limited on Tisha b’Av, we follow it with this concentrated infusion of Torah.
Of the three Shabboses leading up to Tisha b’Av and the seven following it, only two have special names: the Shabbos before Tisha b’Av, which is called Shabbos Chazon (based on the haftarah from Isaiah chapter 1, “Chazon Yeshayahu,” “the vision of Isaiah”) and Shabbos Nachamu. These are intended to transition us into and out of the most solemn time on our calendar. We go into Tisha b’Av knowing that there is hope and we come out of it with a promise of salvation. Shabbos Nachamu sets the stage for our transition from the mourning of Tisha b’Av to the spiritual heights of Elul, Rosh Hashana and beyond.
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
JITC Educational Correspondent
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