Nachamu Nachamu Ami…

“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.”

Chazal teach us that Yerushalayim sinned double, as it says in Eichah (1:8): “Chait chat’ah Yerushalayim.” For this she received double punishment for her sins. In turn, she will be doubly consoled — nachamu nachamu ami.

What does “sinning doubly” mean? What is a double punishment? What does the concept of a double consolation represent?

One explanation is based on the concept of mitzvah goreres mitzvah and aveirah goreres aveirah. Through fulfilling one mitzvah, one merits to fulfill a second mitzvah; similarly, committing one transgression leads one to commit a second sin.

In effect, the first sin was a “double” sin, for it caused a second sin to take place as well.

Were an individual, however, to stop and reflect on his wrongdoing and do teshuvah after committing the first sin, even if he were to slip up again, the initial sin would no longer be considered a “double sin,” for his teshuvah succeeded in preventing it from leading to another transgression. Rather, like the initial sin, the second one would be a self-contained failure on his part, unassociated with another deed.

When Chazal speak of a “double sin,” they refer to the fact that members of Am Yisrael failed to do teshuvah after committing a sin, and therefore sinned doubly. When they were punished, they were doubly punished. For as they suffered exile and persecution, they were unable to properly perform mitzvos and learn Torah. Along with the physical tribulations, they endured devastating spiritual deprivation — and this was a double punishment.

When we will at last merit the Geulah Sheleimah, we will also merit a double consolation. Chazal tell us that if someone desired to do a mitzvah but was prevented from doing so for reasons beyond his control, he will be credited as though he did it. For at the glorious time of Redemption, free from the yoke of exile and the torment of our oppressors, Klal Yisrael will rededicate themselves fully to Torah and mitzvos. It will then be apparent that the reason our avodas Hashem was lacking during the long years of exile was solely because of the hardships we suffered, and we will receive credit for all the mitzvos we were unable to do during the years of exile.

(Based on a teaching by the Shem MiShmuel.)

* * *

As we approach Shabbos Nachamu, it is our obligation to allow ourselves to be consoled.

This consolation does not in any way minimize our yearning. Rather, it signals our emunah that one day — may it be today — we will merit seeing the Redemption.

We were banished from our homeland because of our sins. We have spent nearly 2,000 years in a bitter, painful exile. Yet the Ribbono shel Olam still refers to us as “ami — My people”! No matter how far we have fallen, we are still His people. The bond between Hakadosh Baruch Hu and His children is an eternal one, and this fact alone is a great source of consolation.

The Midrash teaches us: “Nachamu — Who needs consolation? What may this be compared to? To one whose sons were taken captive in his lifetime; whom do we console if not the father? So too [in Yirmiyahu 10:20 it states]: ‘My sons have left me and are no more.’

“To what [else] may this be compared? To one whose house was burned down; whom does one console if not the owner? So too Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, ‘My house has been burned…’

“To what [else] may this be compared? To one whose vineyard was cut down and burned; whom does one console if not the owner of the vineyard? About Hakadosh Baruch Hu it says [Yirmiyahu 52:13]: ‘Now the vineyard of Hashem Tzvakos is Beis Yisrael…’

“To what [else] may this be compared? To a shepherd [when] a lion entered among his flock and tore a sheep to bits; whom does one console if not the owner of the sheep? So it says of Hakadosh Baruch Hu [Yirmiyahu 50:6]: ‘My people were like lost sheep; their shepherds caused them to go astray.’”

The Midrash concludes: “‘Nachamu, ami’; it is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, so to speak, who is asking Klal Yisrael to comfort Him!”

The very fact that after so much torture and tribulation, so many Yidden will gather this Shabbos to seek consolation and comfort in the words of Yeshayah Hanavi is, in itself, a great source of consolation. As we say in Tachanun, “Habeit miShamayim ur’eih… — Look from Heaven and perceive that we have become an object of scorn and derision among the nations. We are regarded as sheep led to the slaughter, to be killed, destroyed, beaten and humiliated. But despite all this we have not forgotten Your name — we beg You not to forget us.”

May we merit seeing in our time His words to Rochel Imeinu come to life: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your accomplishment. [This is] the word of Hashem … and they will return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future… Your children will return to their border.”

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