Find comfort? Where? How?

Today is called the Sabbath of comfort. With hundreds of thousands dead and millions sick from COVID-19, where and how are we supposed to find comfort?

As Jews, we are experts in facing shattered worlds. In 586 BCE, we witnessed the destruction of our First Temple in Jerusalem. Our spiritual center laid in ruins. Exiled from our homes, from our community, and from our city, we sat and wept by the rivers of Babylon.

Our captors and tormentors asked us for songs. “Really?” we must have said. “How can we sing? How can we find solace?”

Isaiah called to us, “Take comfort, take comfort, my people.”

Perhaps Isaiah repeated the command to find consolation because we were so despairing, devastated, and lost.

Today, a shattered world stands before us again and we weep. 150,000 have died of COVID-19 in the United States. 683,000 have died globally. 17 million people have tested positive — many of whom will have long-lasting and, perhaps, permanent damage to their health. In the United States, school houses and campuses are closing, one by one, to in-person education – in most places, school will continue only virtually. There is illness, death, isolation, protests, economic despair.

“A voice in the wilderness calls out,” Isaiah affirms.

Consolation starts with hearing the voices calling out — of our neighbors, of those living in isolation, in poverty, in pain, and in fear in our city.

“Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, call to her, run after her…” Isaiah continues.

Consolation advances by using our voices to speak to each other’s hearts – by supporting each other through this time, by running after each other with acts of kindness. Consolation continues by using our voices to lift up those who are cast down.

In Jewish time, today marks a turning point. Seven sabbaths of consolation will now take us to the new Jewish Year.

We can change and thereby our circumstances will change.

Masks. Hand washing. Social distancing. Driving towards cures and vaccinations. Hearing each other’s voices. Righting historic wrongs – personal, economic, communal, societal.

Healing. Restoring. Renewing. Reconciling. Returning.

[Image by Corey oconnell]

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