Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Samuel Kaye
As a child, I had a security blanket, knit by a family friend, made of resilient white yarn. It was my token of safety, and it was something that I couldn’t sleep without. It was my one and only, no other object could do, no matter how worn out or threadbare it got. One morning I couldn’t find it. Despite knowing that it had been with me when I went to sleep, and therefore was in the house, I cried myself hoarse feeling the panic of simple need.
Now, as a father myself, when I tuck my daughter in at night for the bedtime shemah, there are all sorts of comforting tokens I make sure she has. The stuffed bear/blanket which was a gift from one set of grandparents, a pig-shaped pillow from the movie Moana, a Winnie the pooh blanket, and of course her sus, attached to a stuffed sloth, that a student of mine gave us when she was born. Yet none of these things can avert her crying if one of her parents doesn’t sit in “abbas chair/ mummas chair” as she falls asleep.
Comfort comes in many forms. Sometimes in things, stuffies, knick-knacks, and handmade gifts. Sometimes comfort comes in knowing that, even in the darkness, the people you love are at your side. During the 7 weeks we find ourselves in right now, the period between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, we read the haftarot of consolation. This week, as a part of the haftarah, we read an extraordinary verse; one of the very few in Tanach which imagines God in the role of the divine feminine. כאיש אשר אמו תנחמנו כן אנכי אנחמכם ובירושלם תנחמו. “As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you; you shall find comfort in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13)
What a powerful and wonderful vision of the divine comforter. In his book Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow, Rabbi Arthur Green writes, “(God) loves us fully, the way only a parent can love a child. This is a God who accepts us as we are, with all our shortcomings. However, God is also a parent who cares enough to make demands on us. God as parent has not given up on us and maintains faith always in our ability to grow and change. God knows that this growth if it goes far enough, will eventually bring us back to our deepest selves and to a relationship with the One who is our Source. A trusting parent knows that any road the child takes will lead back home.”
When I close the door and turn off the lights, my two-year-old daughter knows I’m not going anywhere, and yet she is still worried. My blanket wasn’t lost, it was simply in the wash. The need for comfort and consolation are not always in response to rational fears. Sometimes they are simply about being loved unconditionally.
God calls out to us from a text nearly three thousand years old, with words of comfort and words of love. These words remind us that God has not gone anywhere, like a parent sitting in a chair or a blanket in our arms. And, as we enter into the month of Elul, there is also a gentle reminder of another kind of comfort; the comfort that comes in faith, relationship with the divine, and in choosing to live a Jewish life.
May this month of Elul continue to bring your spirit comfort. Chodesh Tov!
Very good article. So true.