Being joyous and celebrating Shabbos Nachamu is a custom with deep historical roots. The Maharil in his Minhagim (27) explains that the entire nation should rejoice on this special Shabbos. He further writes that we should express our faith and conviction in the arrival of the redeemer who will surely comfort us.
Because of this, it is worthwhile to treat this Shabbos differently than another Shabbos. Indeed, the sefer entitled Drashos Even Shoiv (Parashas VaEschanan) states that we should treat Shabbos Nachamu like a yom tov. This sefer was written by a student of the Rashba.
The Ritvah (Taanis 30b) indicates that the food preparations on this Shabbos should be like yom tov; in other words, the food should be more elaborate than for a regular Shabbos. Many shuls recite special piyutim on Shabbos Nachamu as well.
Shabbos Nachamu also represents the first of the Seven Shabbats of Consolation that lead up to Rosh Hashanah. But aside from being the first, Shabbos Nachamu is different than the others. Of all the seven, it is only Shabbos Nachamu which contains this remarkable “yom tov” nature.
Another aspect of the yom tov nature of Shabbos Nachamu is that the Torah reading is always Parashas V’Eschanan, when we lein the Aseres haDibros, the Ten Commandments. This is a convention enacted by Chazal. The Chofetz Chaim (in his Biur Halacha to Orech Chaim 428) explains that this was enacted so that during the week immediately before Tishah B’Av we can read the reproach of both Moshe Rabbeinu in Parashas Devarim as well as that of Isaiah in the Haftorah.
Certainly, this is an important reason, to enable us to get the most out of Tishah B’Av and help direct our teshuvah.
But perhaps there is another reason, as well. Chazal tell us that there is no joy like Torah. Last week we read “Yisamach Yisachar beOhalo.” Yissachar, who dedicated himself to Torah study, will rejoice in his tent. The Abarbanel, among others, explains that there is no simcha like the joy of Torah. This then may be another reason for why Shabbos Nachamu is always on Parashas V’Eschanan.
The reading of the Aseres haDibros gives us joy. It uplifts, nourishes, restores.
There is something different about Klal Yisrael. The collective neshamah of the Torah nation is configured with a different operating system, one that finds joy and meaning in Torah itself. We are only truly happy, we only thrive on account of Torah.
We have just witnessed grave tragedies. The day that commemorates the destruction of both palaces of Hashem, the batei HaMikdash. We have just suffered losses unprecedented in our collective memories. Klal Yisrael needs a reprieve, a salve for our affliction and ailments. There is no better salve than that of Torah, and the receiving of it.
Many have the minhag to immerse in the mikvah on Shabbos Nachamu, even those who do not do normally immerse Shabbos morning. And, of course, the minhag is to honor the rav of the shul with the aliyah of the reading of the Aseres HaDibros (See Mogain Avrohom 428:8). These minhagim reinforce the joy of the day.
Just as the Chofetz Chaim tells us this special enactment was made so that the Haftorah will inform the impending day of Tishah B’Av, so too should we look at this Haftorah to inform how we conduct ourselves. We should once again serve Hashem in happiness. The period of mourning is over, and we should once again find the joy in our lives.
As in every yom tov, indeed, in every venue of human endeavor, the more we prepare for something the more meaning we ultimately can derive from it.
So, while it is still early, let’s go out and shop for a few extra delicacies for Shabbos Nachamu. Let’s hug our children. Let’s enjoy our older relatives. Let’s be tolerant of the foibles of others. Let’s appreciate the gifts that HaKadosh Boruch Hu bestowed upon us — especially the gift of Torah that is embodied in the reading of the Aseres HaDibros. And most importantly: Nachamu, Nachamu Ami.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.