Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Ki Tisa

This week the Chief Rabbi explains that during those difficult moments in life, there is one person who can always see us through.

How can we find comfort when tragedy strikes?

In Parashat Ki Tisa we are told that Hashem intended to destroy the Jewish people in the aftermath of the worshipping of the golden calf and the smashing of the tablets.

Moshe prayed to Hashem and he said, “Shuv Mecharon Apecha – Please God, relent from Your wrath.” “V’Hinacheim Al Hara’a Le’amecha – And reconsider the bad that you are going to be bringing to Your people.”

It is fascinating that the term used here is ‘V’hinacheim’, from ‘Nechama’ – which means ‘comfort’. So why is that term used for ‘reconsidering’?

Indeed we find that after Moshe’s prayer was successful the Torah tells us, “Vayinacheim Hashem Al Hara’ah – God indeed reconsidered.”

What we see from here is that ‘comfort’ is directly linked to the idea of ‘reconsideration’. It is linked to a change of attitude, a change of mind set and a change of action.

In the wake of tragedy when we experience grief, God forbid, one can simply wait for the world to come and bring them pity. One can engage in self-pity. But ultimately, in order to grow, to develop and to move forward, it is important that there is change. Because when one can effect a change of attitude, a change of mind-set and most definitely a change of circumstances, one is better placed to be able to cope.

Let’s consider what happened to the Jewish people after the Shoah, the most horrific national tragedy to have befallen us and perhaps to any people on earth. I think the world would have understood if the Jewish people were condemned to an eternal state of paralysis and depression. But that is not what happened. In the midst of our grief, with the emotional wounds still raw to this day, we have taken action.

In the immediate aftermath of the Shoah, there was a dramatic increase in commitment to Torah and to Mitzvot, to fighting hate and racism, to improving the values of society, trying to guarantee that the scourge of antisemitism would not raise its head again and, most significantly of all, creating the State of Israel.

We changed our national circumstances so that we could move forward constructively.

From Parashat Ki Tisa we learn that in those trying and difficult moments of our lives – and they affect all of us a one time or another – of course there is no easy answer to any situation but most definitely we ned to recognise that ‘Nechama’ – comfort is not necessarily going to come from what other people will do for us. Rather it is within our hearts, within our minds and within our power to do something in order to bring about the comfort that we need.

Shabbat Shalom


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