Friday, July 27, 2007

Nachamu, Nachamu

Nachamu, Nachamu, no pun intended, but these are words that I have always found comforting. We have come through a difficult time in Jewish history and now it is time to be consoled. It is interesting tome that there are three haftorot of admonition and rebuke, yet there are seven of conciliation.

First of all, this suggest to me that it is more important to console than to rebuke. While there is a time to admonish in Judaism, so much more of the religion centers on helping and consoling. The idea of sitting Shivah and the lessons we learn from the book of Job about the importance of just being there, is crucial. There is no need to speak, unless the one who is grieving wants to talk.

The idea of a Mishabarach (a prayer asking that individuals be returned to full health; a spiritual and physical healing) is another common time when we see the importance of consoling and helping. In fact, I have seen a number of shuls, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox change the procedure for a Mishabarach. When it is recited, they simply ask those people who have a family or friend in need of healing to stand and insert the name at the appropriate place. I DO NOT like this approach at all.

It is important to be there for people when they have a loved one who is sick (Visiting the sick is another value stressed in Judaism that seeks to console). Rather than be so interested in saving time, or concerned with how it might look to others to see people line up to give the shaliach tzibor the name of a person, take the time to show that we are a compassionate religion (which we are).

Unfortunately my synagogue is one that uses the insert name here approach. It is a battle I have taken up with people and I did get the Rabbi to make a change. If he is given a name ahead of time, he will recite it, instead of making a congregant insert the name. I am pleased with this change but would still like to see them go further.

Maybe other congregants who have sick friends and family members feel differently but if I wanted to do a Mishabarach for someone, emotionally it would do little for me to need to insert the name myself. I hope that shuls get away from this approach and return to the vision of Nachamu, Nachamu!

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