Saturday, 5 August 2017

Our Resilient Jewish Spirit

This Shabbat is another special day on the Hebrew Calendar. It is שבת נחמו Shabbat Nachamu. 

Shabbat Nachamu ("Shabbath of comfort/ing) takes its name from the Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah 40:1-26. It is called by this name because of the Haftarah’s opening words,נחמו נחמו עמי " “ : Be comforted, be comforted my People.”  It speaks of comforting the Jewish people for their suffering. It the first of seven Haftarot of consolation leading up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

For me, this National milestone also bears a personal significance. It was on Shabbat Nachamu that my parents were liberated from the Nazi camps, seventy two years ago.

Growing up in the shadow of the Shoah, that is the date my parents always mentioned when asked about their liberation. Some found it strange. Why? You may ask.

Most people would remember and mark the Gregorian Calendar date as their anniversary of such an important event in their lives. Strangely enough, I never knew it by any other date other than “Shabbat Nachamu.” I doubt my parents ever remembered or at least did know the Gregorian date at some stage. Now, more than ever, I find it odd that they never remembered their Hebrew birth date, yet remembered the Hebrew date of their rescue from the inferno. That oddity is woven with bright coloured threads that send shivers through my spine each time that I stop to think about it.

It is only this year that I finally realized the significance or the symbolism of this date.

Firstly, for Jews to remember, observe and commemorate Jewish holidays and events, while being inmates of death camps in a hostile environment that tried to erase every connection to their essence as Jews, is commendable. As the years go by, I learn and read more and more stories of how some Jews risked their lives during those years to hang on to every possible shred of Jewish tradition. That is truly inspiring.
Clinging to their wonderful tradition, the customs, the celebrations at least through remembering them, infused in them the hope for better days and the firm belief that the “Eternal of Yisrael shall Never Lie.” What a fountain of optimism and courage it must have unfrozen in them. Their resilience was second to none.

Moreover, in Yiddish, the lingua franca of most European Jews upon whom the Shoah was brought, this disastrous event in Jewish history has come to be known as “Der Churben” דער חורבן  (The Destruction). This is the same name that was given by Jews to the destruction of both Temples, which according to tradition were both destroyed on Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av,  חורבן בית המקדש (the Destruction of the Temple).

How appropriate, then, that the Liberation of these Jews, who did all they could to cling to their Judaism, took place on the very day we console Am Yisrael on all of its sufferings.

And the parallel between their survival and that of Am Yisrael goes further than that. Like Am Yisrael, my parents and many other Jews were liberated to see the resurrection and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. They came out of the Abyss, collected the broken pieces of their shattered lives and built a bigger and stronger tabernacle out of it in Eretz Yisrael.

May Am Yisrael continue to thrive on our Promised Land and make our Jewish Homeland go from strength to strength for ever and ever.



  1. It's interesting...those paths that didn't take up the Nevi'im...missed that part about the comforting. Missed the Haftarah.

    There are paths and alternative narratives that only took on the Pentateuch...and at least one case I'm aware of which had variants to the real Torah...disregarded the Nevi'im. Groups that thought they'd had a golden age about to boom as the Torah Jews were enslaved, murdered, tortured, during and after the events of the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Second Temple.

    Nearly two thousand years later, the Jewish people are comforted by being home and sovereign in their own land. Especially, as you point out, after the Shoah.

    It just goes to show you can't jettison the Nevi'im, the Haftarah, or even the Oral Torah, doesn't it? Those that did may have gotten a short-term gain, but not the comforting.

    I, for one, am glad to see the Jewish people thriving again in their own land, able to be themselves.

  2. Thank you, as always, George for your supportive and enlightening comments. Shabbat Shalom <3

  3. Thank you, dear Batzi, for your article. I have just come home from the cardiac rehab on this auspicious day ! Unlike your parents, who suffered the indignity of being locked up, with their lives in the hands of the Nazis, mine were luckier, being with the British Army: my father with the Jewish Brigade, fighting in Italy, and "being charming" with captured SS fellows, liberating them from their weapons, and smuggling these to the Haganah in Genova, and my mother with the Jewish Relief (she was with the group which liberated Belsen).

    Of course what distinguishes us, as a people, is generally a capacity to adapt to circumstances, and to make some of the right decisions. Some might call this intelligence (and some might be right). The Covenant with Hashem, a kind of "duty of care" on one side, and a fealty on the other, is also a feature which helps us get out of scapes, much like those cartoon mice, in a hostile cat dominated environment...

    Have a great day Sis.

    1. Great to hear from you, Jonathan. Indeed adaptation is the middle name of our Jewish people, part of our genetic blue print. And thank goodness for that.
      Take care and remain blessed <3