V’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) What Brings You Comfort?

Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.
Carole Leskin Photo/Used by permission.

            This week’s portion is filled with famous texts and powerful themes. V’etchanan includes the repetition of the 10 Commandments (5) and the Sh’ma (6:4). It  is also a special themed Shabbat, Shabbat Nachamu, (comfort) coming as it does on the Shabbat immediately following the observance of Tisha B’Av (see this week’s blog on jewishsacredaging.com). We begin the portion with Moses again lamenting the fact that he will not cross over to Canaan and God’s rather direct response. (3:23-19). Lots to discuss.

            For us this week I want to look at the theme of comfort. We rarely discuss this theme in the context of our worship. The HafTorah picks up this theme  as it comes from Isaiah 40, and is the first of a series of HafTorot that follow Tisha B’Av. The Isaiah passage begins with Nachamu, nachamu ami (comfort, oh comfort My people says your God). The tradition is still impacted by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the staggering texts of Lamentations. We seek comfort in the midst of tragedy.

            I think we seek comfort in the midst of life. There are so many issues that bombard us now. The “news cycle” is a constant barrage of information that can overwhelm and depress. I know many people, myself included, who have adjusted their news input in these last few years out of a need for personal comfort. Each day brings so much, from the political situation here and overseas, to the continuing explosion of violence and division in our society. How often have we wished for a sort of psychic “time out” so we can gather our own self. Of course, our tradition reminds us that we have this built in, it is called Shabbat. The issue there is that so many of us have yet to fully adopt this practice of really celebrating and observing Shabbat as a psycho-spiritual time out.

            So, I wonder this Shabbat, what brings each of us comfort? As we emerge from the Covid enforced isolation we may slowly understand that we have lived through and experienced social trauma. So much has changed! The levels of uncertainty, expressed or felt, are quite real. In this context, where do you seek comfort from the uncertainty of life and its challenges? Do we seek family or friends? Do we seek to reinvent our self. Have we sought out the comfort of a faith community?

            A theme of our tradition has been the ability to adapt and change within the contexts of time and space. Resilience has been a major factor in our ability to survive, despite challenges from within and outside of our own community. Each of us may have a different level of comfort or place we go to that brings us that sense of comfort. What does it for you? Where do you go, or to whom do you go to seek that sense of comfort? And what of people who have no place to turn, who helps them?

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Richard F Address


  1. This is one of the most insightful and heart-felt pieces I’ve ever read. Too often we get so stuck in the despair of Tisha B’Av, Lamentations—and forget that our people moved beyond the Temple to become something much more solid. And this text reaches towards hope! Hopefully Israel will be able to move beyond its current horror, and find an even stronger democracy! You have given me hope Rabbi Address! Thank you!!!

  2. The last sentence of this commentary reminds me of the excellent pieces written by Carole Leskin on this site. She is a “solo ager”, and as such does not have the blessing of a partner with whom to share life’s joys and challenges. My heart goes out to all in this category.

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