Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
Comfort and Solidarity: What the Jewish calendar teaches us about building a secure and just world
This upcoming Shabbat, July 24, 2021, marks the confluence of two unique dates on the Hebrew calendar: Shabbat Nachamu and Tu b’Av. These two moments could not be more different—the former, our first attempt at consolation after mourning the destruction of the Second Temple during Tisha b’Av. The second, a celebration of love. However, as JCRC’s Rabbinic Fellow from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Aaron Torop explains, both offer lenses of relationships that sustain us in our pursuit of a just and safe world for Jews and non-Jews alike.– Jackie
Shabbat Nachamu (the Shabbat of comfort) is the first Shabbat after Tisha b’Av (the ninth of Av), the day that we mourn the destruction of the Second Temple and other calamities that befell the Jewish people on that day. This Shabbat is named for the Haftarah that we read from Jeremiah, who attempts to console the Israelites after the destruction, saying, “nachamu, nachamu, ami,” comfort, oh comfort, my people (Jeremiah 40:1).
Shabbat Nachamu teaches us the importance of stopping to comfort one another in times of tragedy. We must find these moments of solidarity and consolation, turning inward to help us cope with the terrifying rise of hatred and extremism over the past several years, and even more acutely, over the past few months. Like at our recent Under the Tent gathering, sitting with our community helps our entire Jewish community build relationships with one another, comfort each other, and provide strength and support as we move forward.
The second “holiday” on this Shabbat is Tu b’Av, the fifteenth day of Av. It is sometimes referred to as “Jewish Valentine’s Day.” While historically it has been a minor holiday, it has recently re-entered Jewish imagination as a day of love and community. It was a day of communal gathering and crossing tribal lines: on this day we celebrate when the tribe of Benjamin was forgiven for starting a war between the tribes and was welcomed back into the community.
These two moments: Shabbat Nachamu and Tu b’Av, are a powerful paradigm for how we respond to hate and extremism. Tu b’Av reminds us that providing comfort to ourselves is important, but not enough on its own. We must remain steadfastly committed to working across lines of difference to transcend our ‘tribes’ and join the entire Cincinnati community against hate and extremism. The twenty-six incredible leaders that form the inaugural cohort of our Leaders in Light Institute are a perfect example of that: bringing together leaders from the different ‘tribes’ of arts, business, civic, and religious life to learn, build relationships, and act for the sake of our whole community.
Perhaps most important, we know that neither of these frameworks on their own is enough. We must have comfort and connection, and intracommunity safety and intercommunity dialogue. Our work to build relationships must happen within our Jewish community, across denominational and ideological lines, and with our allies from different communities. Both of these are critical to our goal of a secure, vibrant Jewish community in Cincinnati, around the country and world. This Shabbat, we join together Tu b’Av and Shabbat Nachamu, and are reminded of the importance of both forms of relationship, knowing that the Jewish community will only be sustained when we have room for both moments of comfort and moments of transcending communal borders.