The Torah reading of this week always coincides with the Shabbat that falls after the fast of the ninth day of Av. Because of the nature of the prophetic reading, it is seen as the Shabbat of comfort and consolation, which are difficult commodities to acquire. Tragedies are not easily erased from one’s mind and affect one’s permanent personality and view of life. Comfort and consolation rarely come from outside sources, that are almost completely dependent upon the personality and psychological makeup of the one who has suffered the tragedy.
The Torah is always realistic about human nature and never provides simplistic or instantaneously magical solutions to personal problems and difficulties. Rather, consolation is to be viewed as a process of maturity and development. Tragedies are never really forgotten but they can be sublimated by future events and experiences of life that follow.
The narrative of this week’s reading has Moshe attempting to convince Heaven, so to speak, to reverse its decree and to allow him to enter and live in the land of Israel. His request is denied. The Torah never records for us whether Moshe is truly ever consoled over this event and his fate. Nevertheless, for the balance of this book of Dvarim, Moshe continues to fulfill his mission as the leader of the Jewish people and the greatest of all prophets. Even when one is not completely comforted, one must continue with a positive mission in life and not use the disappointments and tragedies that eventually beset all of us as an excuse for depression.
The Jewish people unfortunately have a long list of complaints, grievances and tragedies that litter our historical narrative. Though we have many great achievements to balance the ledger sheet of history, the ninth day of Av reminded us that we have never been completely comforted and consoled. Even in our day, the great accomplishment of the creation and success of the state of Israel and the miraculous in gathering of Jews from all over the world to populate our country, gives us hope and stamina to face the future and its challenges. But in no way, does it come to provide comfort and consolation for the destruction of European Jewry in the past century.
It is obvious that tragedy, resilience and accomplishment exist side-by-side within us individually and as a nation. Our great prophets assure us that we will be healed from our wounds and restored to greatness. But, just as one who undergoes surgery and is restored to full health, nevertheless he bears the scars of that surgery for the rest of his life. So too, comfort and consolation of the Jewish people is not meant to remove the scars of what has happened to us over our long and many times painful history. The task is to move on, and this attitude and behavior eventually brings about healing as part of the process of consolation.
Rabbi Berel Wein