Parashat Eikev 5779

Rabbi Pete Tobias – 23 August 2019

 
The Shabbat just passed was Shabbat Nachamu; so called because of the opening words of the haftarah, Isaiah chapter 40. In this haftarah, Isaiah offers consolation to the people of Judah who are exiled in Babylon following the destruction of the Temple on Tisha b’Av, a week earlier. The six weeks following Tisha b’Av are a period of consolation for that destruction; here is my offering from a little while ago…

Nachamu, Nachamu Ami…

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
As you watch your precious Temple now consumed
In flames which rise as once your offerings did
As clouds of smoke ascending to the sky.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads away and face the north
And the journey that will take you into exile.
Take your children, and what’s left of your belongings
Leave the smouldering Jerusalem behind
In the ashes of the words of long-dead prophets
Whose call to faith and hope you did not heed.
Now you weep, as though with sudden recognition
You begin to understand how you have failed.

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You suffer now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road that leads to Babylon
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
As once more burns the Temple and your dreams
Destroyed by Roman violence and wizardry
Whose power leaves your gentle faith in shreds.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads once more to look away
To the journeys that will take you into exile.
Take your children, and what’s left of your belongings
Leave the smouldering Jerusalem behind
Carry with you words of wisdom, jewels of knowledge
Cherish everything you’ve learned and carry on
Recognise that also this was bound to happen
Take your books, my words, take courage and move on.

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You suffer now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road into Diaspora
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
As flames now eat your homes and synagogues
Your lives destroyed by Europe’s mad crusaders
Whose violence is painted in my name.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads once more to look away
To the journeys that will take you into exile.
Take your children, and what’s left of your belongings
Leave the smouldering homes and villages behind
Take the treasures from your synagogues and studies
Carry hopes and prayers like burdens on your backs
Shake your heads at human cruelty and madness
Cry to me and I will hear as I look on.

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You suffer now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road into new exile
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
As you suffer not from swords but now from words
In royal edicts sent to make you homeless
Banished from domains which once you owned.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads once more to look away
To the journeys that will take you to new countries.
Take your children, and what’s left of your belongings
Leave success and riches in the hands of kings
Who, maddened with their greed and stark ambition
Cannot understand the true source of your wealth
And so scatter you like so much dust before them –
Give them gold, retain your faith and carry on.

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You suffer now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road to further exile
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
As with disbelief you find yourselves again
Facing flames – but not of Temple or of teaching,
But of crematoria which burn for you.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads once more, come face to face
With the journeys that will take you to oblivion.
Take your children, and what’s left of your belongings
Leave your homes, leave hope, leave sanity behind
Cry to me and ask me how I could permit this
And I will answer silently with tears
That fall as rain from grey clouds now descending
To meet you as you rise to meet with me.
Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You suffer now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road that leads to Auschwitz
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.



In clouds which hover silently above us
In the rain which falls oblivious at our feet
Down beneath us, in the ground we daily cover
Are dust and ashes of our Jewish dead.
Two thousand years and more of persecution
Two thousand years and more of blood and hate
Burning temples, burning homes, burning children
Is this how God repays us for our faith?
We weep, but we are told to sing God’s song
To remember, to be comforted – but how
Can we sing God’s song in a strange land
Which hates us and would rather see us gone?
Where is this God who bids us sing these praises?
Where the power which has driven us to our death
In our thousands and our millions through the ages
Where are you God? Speak to us as we weep.




Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God
For there is much that you can never understand
No one answer that will solve this brutal riddle
Look inside yourselves, find comfort and seek peace.
Be comforted, be comforted my people
As you turn your heads once more to look upon
All the journeys which have taken you to exile.
Teach your children, share what’s left of your belongings
Take the journeys that your ancestors have walked
Carry with you all the hopes and prayers they cherished
Suffer with them as you try to understand
The fires of Babylon and Rome and Auschwitz
Feel their tears, their pain, their faith, their hope, their love.

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people
You remember now and surely will again
Take the long and bitter road back through your history
Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song
In lands more strange than ever you’d imagine
And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

[This sermon was originally given in 1995]

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