“Speak consolingly of Yerushalayim, and proclaim to her that her period [in exile] has been completed, that her iniquity has been forgiven, for she has received double for all her sins” (Haftarah Nachamu).
Malbim explains that there are three possible time frames for the Geulah. One is the ultimate date, previously chosen by Hashem, by which we will certainly be redeemed. This is referred to in the words “that her period [in exile] has been completed.” However, through teshuvah and special zechuyos, it is possible for us to be redeemed well before this date. This is referred to in the words “that her iniquity has been forgiven.”
Another possibility is what our ancestors experienced in Mitzrayim. Originally we were to suffer 400 years of that exile, but the Ribbono shel Olam increased our suffering during that time so that we could be redeemed after only 210 years. “For she has received double for all her sins”: because we suffered so much, the date of our redemption should be moved up.
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On Shabbos Nachamu 5701/1941, amid the horror that was the Warsaw ghetto, Harav Klonymus Kalman Shapira, the Piaseczna Rebbe, Hy”d, zy”a, sat and delivered divrei Torah. He would later write down these divrei Torah in a manuscript that miraculously survived the war and was published under the apt name of Esh Kodesh — “holy fire.”
The Piaseczna Rebbe pointed out that when the Navi speaks about consolation — “Nachamu, nachamu ami” — he continues, “Yomar Elokeichem.” Elokim is the Name of Hashem symbolizing middas hadin, strict judgment.
In the very next passuk, which describes the suffering of Knesses Yisrael, it says, “Ki lakchah miYad Hashem kiflayim b’chol chatosehah — for she has received double for all her sins from the hand of Hashem.” Here the name Hashem is used, the name that symbolizes middas harachamim, the attribute of kindness.
He explains that there are types of suffering for which one can accept consolation and comfort. For example, someone who recovers from a serious illness, even though he was in great danger and suffered terrible pain, can accept consolation when Hashem helps him and he recovers. The same applies to monetary loss.
However, for the loss of lives we cannot be comforted. Only the Ribbono shel Olam can comfort us, for only when the dead are brought back to life at techiyas hameisim will we truly be consoled.
After Iyov suffered the loss of his children, the passuk says: “VaHashem shav es shevus Iyov — Hashem returned Iyov’s captivity” and comforted him with other children. Hashem, the Name denoting rachamim, is used here, since for the strict judgment itself there could be no consolation; the children he had lost did not return, and the rachamim extended to other children.
However, when the Ribbono shel Olam seeks to console Klal Yisrael, He gives us a complete consolation. The middas hadin from which we suffered will be the vehicle of our consolation, for these precious souls that we lost will return with techiyas hameisim.
Furthermore, the suffering we endured was in actuality rachamim. It looked and felt like middas hadin, but really it was kindness cloaked in strict judgment.
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The Midrash relates that when Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed the Nevi’im to comfort Knesses Yisrael, a number of them complied. One was the Navi Amos, who told of the eventual Geulah: “Bayom hahu akim es sukkas Dovid hanofales — on that day I will raise up the fallen sukkah of Dovid” (Amos 9:11). But Knesses Yisrael refused to be comforted.
“Yesterday you told us, ‘Naflah lo sosif kum besulas Yisrael — she has fallen and will no longer rise, besulas Yisrael,’” they said to Amos. “Now you are telling us this nevuah. Which should we believe, the first or the second?”
Hoshea, Yoel, Chavakuk, Tzefanyah, Chaggai and Malachi each attempted to comfort Knesses Yisrael. Each prophesied words of consolation, and to each Yisrael replied by quoting a different nevuah of that same Navi.
“Which nevuah should we believe?” they continued to ask.
The Nevi’im returned to Hashem and told Him that they had been unsuccessful in their mission, for their words of comfort were not accepted.
The Ribbono shel Olam then called for Yeshayah Hanavi. “I, you, and My servant Yeshayah will go and comfort,” said Hashem to the Nevi’im, as the Midrash explains the opening of this week’s Haftarah: “Nachamu, nachamu ami [comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d]; read the word ami as imi — ‘with Me.’” K’vayachol, the Ribbono shel Olam Himself is comforting Klal Yisrael and Yerushalayim.
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Chazal tell us that when Yeshayah said these words to Bnei Yisrael, they asked him, “Rabbeinu Yeshayah, are you saying that you only came to comfort the generation in whose lifetime the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed?”
“I came to comfort all the generations!” Yeshayah answered. “It is not ‘said your G-d,’ but ‘says your G-d.’”
The Ribbono shel Olam is comforting us. He is consoling us personally, assuring us that our suffering will come to an end and we will merit the true consolation: the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and techiyas hameisim.