The Seven Levels of Nechama-Two-Confrontation
Transcribed and unedited: The second of the Seven Haftarot of Nechama – Comfort begins in Isaiah, chapter forty-nine, verse fourteen. Read an unbelievable haftarah: VaTomer Tzion, and Tzion says, Azavanee Hashem, G-d has left me, forsaken me, V’Adonei Sh’Cheychanie, and the Lord has forgotten. So who is speaking? People or G-d? HaTeeshchach isha ulah Mei’Racheym Ben bitnah, do you think a woman would forget a child who is nursing at her breast? Do you think a woman would forget the issue of her womb? Gam Eleh Seeshcachachnah. A woman would forget her child, V’Anochei Loh Eshchaceich, and I would never forget you. Who is speaking? Audience: “G-d.” And the imagery is absolutely gorgeous. So the Jews say, “You forgot me.”
“What are you, an idiot? Do you not understand it is impossible for Me to forget you. There is nothing you can do to erase the connection, the umbilical cord. You are attached whether you like it or not. So do not worry. I am going to lift you up. I am going to bring you back to Me. You are going to be dressed in the most beautiful clothes. By the way what does that ring in your head? I am going to dress you in beautiful clothes, and I am going to decorate you like a bride.
What does that sound like? They talk about it in the Haggadah. Do you remember in the Hagadah when we speak about you were a baby and you were abandoned—read Yechezkel chapter sixteen, when G-d compares us to a child found and abandon and blood and the umbilical cord all filthy and blood, and G-d takes the child and raises the child and cleans her. He puts makeup on her and jewelry and then they make love. It is an incredible verse. So this is a parallel between the two. But we do not have time for that now.
And I am going to take care of all of those people who bothered you. Verse twenty-two: so says the L-rd, “I will lift up my hand to the nations, and I am going to take care of everything that happens.”
Verse twenty-four: I am going to save you. You say this, I am in chains in a dungeon, and G-d says, “I am going to save you, everything is going to be great.”
Then the Jews speak again, verse twenty-four. “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty? Or the captives of the victorious be delivered?” Okay that is very nice, they are saying, but, how are You going to get us out the hands of the Babylonians? How are You going to do it?
Excuse me but if You had all this power, right, we would not be here in the first place!How are you going to get us out?
So the Jews begin by saying, “You forgot us.” “I did not forget. I am going to take care of everything that happens to you.” “How?”
So G-d says, verse twenty-five, “Thus says the Lord, even the captains of the mighty shall be taken away and the terrible shall be delivered and I will contend with him that contends with you and I will save my children.”
Chapter fifty. Before I read to you chapter fifty I want to read to you how the Gemarah understands this chapter. It is a Gemarah in Sanhedrin, 105A. “Ba asara Bnei Adam V’YeshiVoo Lifanav”. Ten men came and sat in front of Isaiah the Navi, Isaiah the prophet. “Amar LaHem,” Isaiah said to them, “Chazroo B’Teshuva”, repent. “Amor Lo,” so they said to Isaiah, “Eved Shemachro Rabo V’Eesha Sh’geersha Ba’alah Cloom Yeish LaZe El Zeh Cloom.” If you have a woman and her husband drivers her out of the house, “Get out! Get out!” And then all of the sudden he says, “Listen, can you do my laundry for me?” So you are telling me to do Teshuva? You just chased me out of the house like a man chases his wife out of the house. And now You are telling me of please, do the laundry? Do teshuva?
“Amar Lo HaKadosh Baruch Hoo L’Navi,” so the Holy Be Blessed Be He said to the Navi, “Lech Amar LaHem,” go and say to them.
Now look at the first verse in chapter fifteen. “Ko Amar Hashem Ey zeh Sefer Kreetot imchem Asher Sheelachteeha,” where? I never divorced you. Where is the divorce document? Where is it?
Do you realize what is happening in this verse? You say to G-d, “You forgot me?” He says, “No I did not forget you. I am going to take care of you.”
“How are you going to take care of everything?”
“I am almighty G-d, I mean who do you think you are talking about, I can do anything!” So then they are saying to him, “You are almighty G-d, You are going to take care of everything? Why did You let it happen in the first place? Why did You chase me out?”
“Excuse me. I did not chase you out. Where is the divorce document?”
Look at the end of verse one. You are sold with your own sins. It was for your transgressions that your mother was sent away. It is your fault. I did not send you away, you sent yourselves away.
You see a number of incredible ideas. First of all, we already mentioned once that it works in stages. Here the stages are literally played out in the verses. It is unbelievable, is it not? They are literally played out. You see the stages of the interaction this conversation between G-d and the Jewish people. It is fantastic. In these stages, you find confrontation. Where the Jews say, “Well why did you do this?” He says, “What do you mean why did I do this? You did this.” Part of the true reconciliation demands that there be confrontation. You cannot say, “No, I am sorry.” “No, I am sorry.” “No, I am sorry.” And let us just forget about it and go on. That is not a true nechama. That is not a true reconciliation or restoration of a relationship because the damage has been done and you have to work it out and go through it. This is incredible. Part of nechama is to have confrontation over the things that went wrong.
But look at the way that this played out in a midrash. This is also a Pesikta. First part of it we already read. HaKadosh Baruch Hoo said to Avraham, this is a pesikta chapter thirty, paragraph three, and they have this in English by the way, but I do not have this in English. The pesikta is Rav Kahana. “Daver Acher Amar HaKodesh Baruch Hoo L’Avraham,” the Holy One Blessed be He said to “Avraham, Lech V’Nachem Et Yirushalayim Shema MeKabelet Tanchumin Mimcha,” go and comfort Jerusalem. Maybe they will accept condolences from you. “Halach Avraham,” so Avraham went, “V’Amar KeeBlee MeeMeny Tanchumin,” please accept from me words of consolation. “Amra Lo,” so Jerusalem said to Avraham, “Heyeach A’Kabel MeMacha Tanchumin, SheAseteenie Ca’har,” how am I going to accept consolation from you? You once referred to Jerusalem as the mountain where I will see G-d and G-d has seen me. That is how you look at me, like a mountain? That is very nice and it was very poetic but frankly I am not interesting in someone who sees Jerusalem for the mountain and not for the people. I do not want to accept consolation from you.
So G-d says to Yitzchak, please go and console my people. So he goes and the Jewish people say, “Excuse me Yitzchak, we do not want to hear from you. Do you know who destroyed this place? Esav’s children. You are the father of Esav, go away, go away.”
So Yaakov comes. He says, “Alright, I will comfort them.” Yaakov comes, “My children,”—excuse me Yaakov Avinu, we do not want to hear from you—do you remember you said, “Ayn Zeh Kee Eem Beit Elokim?” This is non other then the house of G-d? Well now there is no house of G-d. What about us? This is only a house of G-d. What about us? The bond? “We do not want to hear from you.” There are incredible ideas in this midrash, I mean how do you deal with all of this?
So then G-d says, “Listen, Moshe, you have to go.” Moshe runs and he says, “You know, I want to comfort you.” “You? You? You are the one who wrote the portion of Ki TaVo with all of the curses and all of the warnings. Go away, we do not want to hear from you.
So Moshe comes back with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov to G-d and they say, “Lo Keeblu MeMenu Tanchumin, they do not want to talk to us.” So G-d says, “MeYad Amar HaKadosh Baruch Hoo,” so immediately G-d said to them, “Alei Menachem et Yerushalayim, you know I am the one who has to comfort them.”
Now listen to the next thing. G-d says, “You know I think that I am halachically obligated to comfort Yerushalayim because the halacha is that if someone sends a fire and that fire causes damage, the one who starts the fire is liable to all the damages.” Correct? Who started the fire in Yerushalayim? G-d. It is a pasuk in Eichah. You cannot burn a stone building that has absolutely no wood. How did it burn? In fact if you go to Yerushalayim now you will see that you have structures in which the walls are there, just the roofs caved in because they were made out of stone and wood. You could still see the walls. They do not burn in a fire. You have to start the fire with something. G-d started the fire.
So G-d says, “I burned it with fire, therefore I have to fulfill my halachic obligation.” And then G-d says, “I also have to do it for another reason. The halacha is that if a Jewish slave of a non-Jewish master escapes from his non-Jewish master, you are not allowed to bring the Jew back to his non-Jewish master. What did I do? I gave the Jews over to non-Jewish masters. I did not keep my own Torah. I have to fix this.
It says in the Torah that I commanded the Jewish people, that when you harvest a field, do not harvest it completely. Always leave something. What did I do? I finished Yerushalayim. I did not leave anything. I did not keep my own Torah.
Of course I have to go to Yerushalayim to fix this.” Don’t you understand? This is an entirely different stage.
The first stage is, “I am the only one who can comfort them. The second stage is, “I am halachically obligated by my Torah to comfort them.” Astounding, is it not? But there is more.
The third stage. There is a story of a non-Jew who is chasing a Jew to kill him, at the time of the destruction. And he finally grabs the Jew and is about to kill him, and a snake comes and bites the Jew. And the Jew is dying from the poison of the snake and he says to the non-Jew, “You did not kill me, the snake did. The only reason you have power over me is because G-d wanted you to.” And he died.
When Hadrian successfully crushed the rebellion of Bar Kochba, he asked that Bar Kochba’s head be chopped off and brought to him. So when they brought Bar Kochba’s head to Hadrian, there was a poisonous snake wrapped around Bar Kochba’s head. And Hadrian saw that Bar Kochba did not die of a sword wound, he died from the poison of this snake. He said, “I could not have killed Bar Kochba. G-d killed him first.” So we say, “You did not kill us, G-d actually killed us.”
So therefore listen to the next stage of the midrash. HaKadosh Baruch Hu will say to Yerushalayim, “Please accept consolation from me.” “Amra Lo”, Yerushalayim says to G-d, “Ayna Mikabel Mimcha Tanchumin, Ad SheAni V’Ata M’Dabreem Tochachot.” I am not going to accept any consolation until we have it out. Look at what You did to us.” Sh’ne’e’mar, as the verse says, listen to which verse it chooses, L’Cha Dodi Nei’tzei Ha’sade. Come, my beloved, let us step outside. You know, roll up your sleeves? This is how the midrash is reading it. You do not talk to me until we work this thing out. That is what it says in the pasuk. We have to talk this out.
And excuse me, who is the one who tried to sell Joseph? Who tried to sell Joseph? Audience: “The brothers.” The brothers. Who is the one who comforted Joseph? I mean who is the one who comforted the brothers for selling Joseph? Audience: “Joseph.” Joseph. “So here You are yelling at us for all of the bad things we did to You, and You are the One who is supposed to be comforting us, the same way Joseph did. Why don’t You treat us the way You would want your Zaddikim to act?”
And G-d says to them…do you understand that this is exactly the way we read this haftarah. First of all it goes in stages. And we showed how all of our haftarot go in stages. But we said that one of the major ideas of this haftarah, this the second, is that there has to be, in order for the sake of reconciliation, there has to be confrontation. Where this one says, “Listen, this is what bothering me,” and you work it out. Because remember, the mourning is over a relationship, which is exactly what we say in the haftarah, what we saw in the midrash. It means that part of nechama is this confrontation for the sake of reconciliation. And this is a heavy idea. It is obvious that it is a heavy idea but how would we do it practically? Do you want to go into practical exercises too?
Y Audience: “What was the first stage? You said that the second stage was that he was obligated to comfort…”
Actually that was the third stage. The first stage is he sends Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and Moshe and it does not work.
So then he says, “I will do it myself.” Then the second stage is, “I am halahically obligated to do it.”
The third stage is that the Jews are very sensitive to the fact that none of these bad things would have happened had G-d not have done it and therefore it was G-d.
The fourth stage is when G-d actually comes to the Jews to be comforted and the Jews say, “No talking until we deal with the issues. You are the One who did it directly, and why do You not do what Yosef did? So what, we are the ones who did something wrong, You should still comfort us. Yosef comforted the ones who tried to kill him, David HaMelech comforts Shimmy Ben Gayra who tried to destroy and humiliate David. So You should do the same thing.”
See the stages; I mean we could have a complete shiur on any one of these things. What does it mean when G-d says, “I am halachically obligated to do it?” It is an incredible concept. We would be here all day. But you have to understand, and I am just choosing verses for you. I would be happy to read through every single verse with you but it would blow you away about what is hidden in these things, but we really do not have time. These deserve a two or three hour lecture but there is a limit.
Okay so the first haftarah is system, the second haftarah is confrontation.
Please, I am being very careful with my words about the practical incorporation of confrontation. It means that as we are preparing to do teshuva, we have to be prepared when we are asking for things on Rosh Hashanah, be prepared for the fact that there is going to be a confrontation.
One of the reasons that we are doing teshuva is because there is a confrontation that G-d is saying to us, “Many of the things that happened to you are things that you would like to have that you do not have, are results of your own actions.” And we have to be prepared for that. Therefore we have to be willing to think that way. We have to be willing to consider the possibility that G-d is going to say to us, “You deserved it,” or, “You do not deserve what you are asking for.” None of us, I have never seen anyone say, “Oh I deserved it.” You are not really supposed to say, but we will get to it later, but it is a possibility that it is going to be said. But not only that, we have to be willing to say to G-d, “I do not understand. You want me to accomplish x, y, and z, so why do you not give me what I need to accomplish x, y, and z?” And you find this in the haftarah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah:
Chanah says to G-d, “You created me as a woman. So you gave me breasts, you gave me a womb, so give me a baby and I will nurse the baby. But do not create me with a mission to accomplish and then not let me accomplish the mission. I do not understand you.” That is confrontation.
And she says to G-d, “Eem Ro’ot HerAni,” if You see me now and You answer me now, fine. But if You do not I will force You to see me. How? I will cause my husband to suspect me of adultery, and then he will bring me here to the Beit Hamikdash, and then he will bring me here to drink the water of a sota, but of course I will not have committed adultery and what happens if you drink the water of sota and you did not commit adultery? You get pregnant. So either way You are going to give me a kid, so You might as well give it to me now.
And that is what we daven for—can you imagine that is the haftarah we read on Rosh Hashanah? Do you realize that we have to have been prepared for that level of confrontation. When do you begin preparing for that level of confrontation with G-d on Rosh Hashanah? Second week of the seven weeks of nechama. That it is possible to say to Hashem, “I understand there is a system and I understand that I cannot comprehend all the details of the system and it is beyond my comprehension I understand, but You also said that You relate to me on my level. I am doing this, I have worked on this, I am learning, I am trying to be a better person, more sensitive, I am davening, I am doing what You want me to do, this is what I need to do in order to fulfill my mission in life, this is what I need.” You are allowed to say that on Rosh Hashanah. There are countless Gemarah’s and midrashim that describe that kind of speech to G-d. Now is not the time. But by the way the Shmonei Esrei, Musaf, is designed for that.
Audience: “But you are saying Rosh Hashanah all the time, but should not we be using this all the time?”
Shouldn’t you do teshuva all the time?
Audience: “Yes I mean should not we do this kind of confrontation every day?”
Yes but this is a more auspicious time to do it. That is all that it means. And the same way that it is a more auspicious time to do teshuva, it is a more auspicious time to do this as well. Audience: “But it is almost that we should save it up or something?”
No! G-d deals with us in a special way on Pesach. It means that you have access to special influences of G-d. During the second week of the seven of nechama, you have special access to this midah of Hashem. That is what it means, which is an incredible concept.
Where does this play out in halacha? This is incredible. Okay who does the talking in the cemetery?
Comforters, okay. V’Eyn HaMenachamem, once they are back at the house, Ayn Haminachamim Rashaeem [?Lasheves?] V’Eyn Rashaeem Lomar Davar, the comforters are not allowed to say a word, Ad Sh’yeeftach HaAvel Et Peev Techeela, until the mourner begins speaking first. Who began this haftarah?
No. Va’Tomer Tzion Azavanie Hashem, G-d waited for the Jews to talk first. Literally halacha. It is incredible. Initial reaction, who spoke first, who spoke? G-d, he used platitudes the same way we use platitude in the cemetery. Or I think we do it the same way G-d did.
Second stage: no talking until the mourner begins speaking. Exactly what happens–it is incredible is it not? Okay so the first one is system, the second is confrontation.