Rabbi’s Corner: Nachamu, Nachamu – Comfort, Comfort My People

Nachamu, nachamu – comfort, comfort, my people…” (Isaiah 40:1)

What do I write after a devastating week, both for the people of Turkey and Syria and for our Temple Beth Sholom community? What can I say that will offer comfort to our aching hearts, our grieving souls?

Our hearts are with the people of Turkey and Syria in the wake of Monday’s devasting earthquake which claimed more than 17,000+ people’s lives (as of Thursday) and left tens of thousands more injured. We keep the families, communities and relief workers who have been affected by this horrific act of nature in our thoughts and prayers.

Closer to home, our TBS family was shocked and saddened to learn of the deaths this past Tuesday of Irv and Monica Engel, a beautiful and loving couple who were stalwarts of our TBS community. Monica conceived of, developed and built up our renowned Mitzvah Meals program. Prior to the pandemic, Mitzvah Meals cooked and provided nourishing and healthy meals for over 400 unhoused or food-insecure people every week. Monica and Irv were dedicated to the pursuit of tikkun olam – repairing our world  – in both big and small ways. They epitomized the notions of friendship and community, action and caring, commitment and engagement. Temple Beth Sholom is a stronger, richer community because of their involvement. We are diminished because of their loss.

Nachamu, nachamu – comfort, comfort, my people…” (Isaiah 40:1) The prophet Isaiah says these words to the people of Israel after their entire world, Jerusalem, was burned to the ground and destroyed. Isaiah wanted to offer comfort and hope to a grieving and devastated people.

Nachamu, nachamu – comfort, comfort, my people…” How can we offer comfort to the people of Turkey and Syria when bodies are still being pulled from the rubble? When new snowfall as well as a lack of water and electricity, power and communications could cause a secondary, deadly disaster? How can we offer hope when we are so far removed from both Turkey and Syria?

Comfort begins when we act as God’s hands, and provide funds for those who are doing the relief work on the ground. Hope begins by saying ‘I have my basic needs, please let me help provide for those whose needs have been shattered.”

The Reform Movement works with organizations that are highly reputable and whose funds go for direct support. Let us offer gifts of comfort and hope. Please consider helping by making a donation for earthquake disaster relief to one of these three organizations:

JDC (https://fal.cn/3vHfh) This is a Jewish organization: The Joint Distribution Committee
IsraAID (https://fal.cn/3vHfg) This is a phenomenal Israeli Rescue and Relief Organization (usually the first on the scene of a natural disaster)
Red Cross (https://fal.cn/3vHfi)

Nachamu, nachamu – comfort, comfort, my people…” How can we find comfort in our grief at the loss of Monica and Irv? We can find comfort in continuing the good and important work that they started and were so very important to their sense of what was just, right and good: please consider making a donation to and volunteering at Mitzvah Meals. Speak out, speak up at injustices in our world, join our Social Justice Committee, attend our Erev Shabbat services (especially our musical Shir Joy Shabbat, Irv was in the choir and sang with joyous abandon), have dinner with friends – friendships were so very important to Monica and Irv.

Join us this Monday, Feb 13th, at  for a Celebration of Life service for Monica and Irv Engel at Temple Beth Sholom.  “Nachamu, nachamu – comfort, comfort, my people…”

Please join us tonight for Erev Shabbat services in the Sanctuary as we offer each other comfort and strength, lift each other up with our spirit, voices and friendship and celebrate Shabbat as a community.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom


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