Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11
Last week, on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, we learned about the toxicity of hatred, and how the hatred in our hearts led us to the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. This week, we begin the Sabbaths of comfort with Shabbat Nachamu, which as it turns out means, “the Sabbath of comfort.”
What do we need following the destructive force of hatred?
We need to receive love, but we also need to find and express our own love. Perhaps that is why VaEtchanan contains the Shema and V’ahavta. This parasha commands us to love. Love is the antidote to hate. Love and hate cannot exist simultaneously in the human heart. Yet, how can we be commanded to feel?
The short answer may be that we are to “fake it until we make it.” If we cannot feel the love, then we must go through the motions until we do. The V’ahavta paragraph of the Shema starts with the commandment for us to love God will everything that we have: our hearts, our strength, our very souls.
Yet, what does that mean? How can we love God with everything all of the time? How could we possibly maintain that kind of intensity? When could we find space in our lives to love anyone else?
I would like to suggest that if we love God with everything that we have, then we must also love each other with everything we have. If we are to devote ourselves to God and to Torah, then we must also devote ourselves to each other and to Creation.
The challenge of Shabbat Nechamu is not to respond to violence and loss with hatred, but rather with love. Love is meant to be shared, and the more love we bring into the world, the less room there will be for hate.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras