Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Comfort of Transience


Parshat VeEthanan, 5770
Shabbat Nahamu – The Shabbat of Comfort

One of Martin Luther King’s habits was to quote Bible verses without indicating that he was doing so. Without that pause for ascription, those words would flow with the thunder with which they were originally created, adding the strength of the Divine to the strength of his own words.

At the climax of his “I Have A Dream” speech, King says, I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

 The quote is from this week’s haftarah, the first after Tisha b’Av. We call this Shabbat Nahamu – the Shabbat of Comfort, meant to comfort us after the pain of the last weeks. Its first words are, “Be comforted, be comforted my people, says Your God.” (Isaiah, ch.40)

Why, though, is raising up valleys and leveling mountains an expression of comfort? It is,I believe, because of their restatement of a firm truth: all things change; Even mountains and valleys, in their seeming immutability, are not permanent. In the eyes of the earth itself, they are but a passing phase.

When craggy peaks and chasms in our lives seem immutable and insurmountable, I bless us with the wisdom that King Solomon found so profound he inscribed it on his seal: Gam Zu Ya’avor” –  This too shall pass. To that we add an article of our faith: that they will change for the better.

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