A man calls the doctor: “Doctor, what should I do? My friend just keeled over and died!”
“The first thing is to make sure he’s definitely dead.”
“Okay, hold on.” A gunshot sounds. “Now what?”
The sense of helplessness in an emergency, the tragic miscommunication between doctor and caller and it’s tragic consequence and the eager ingenuousness of the final question provoke a simultaneously unbearable and exquisite emotion. We laugh, well, I did.
Most miscommunications are not so funny, but equally tragic, or painful. The husband who responds to his wife without thinking. The child who misunderstands a parent. The parent who misunderstands a child.
When I read all the advertisements for Shabbat Nachamu parties and gatherings, I see miscommunication. Nachamu means “Be comforted,” not, “Party!” I know that some people have joyous wakes when someone dies, but I’ve never seen a party to celebrate the end of Shiva.
The miscommunication does not begin with “Nachamu,” it probably begins with the way we mourn: If the mourning was real and heartfelt, we would not be able to switch so quickly to “Come join our Shabbat Nachamu Blast!”
Were we actually mourning?
Where is this miscommunication? When we are told to mourn what once was. Tisha B’Av is not to mourn what happened long ago; it is to mourn over what we do not have in the here and now because there is no Beit Hamikdash. We mourn the loss of possibilities. We mourn the sense that our efforts do not seem to matter as much as they should. We mourn that we live in such a confusing world. We mourn that we do not seem to celebrate our joys as much as we suffer our pains. We mourn that we do not hear the Torah’s teachings with more clarity.
We mourn the miscommunications. No wonder the Torah portion of Shabbat Nachamu contains the Shema: Hear what is really being said. It’s the only way we will effectively hear the message of the Shofar at the conclusion of the Nechama process.
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