Va’Ethanan – Thoughts on the Perasha

The name of this Saturday’s Shabbat, as happened last Shabbat, is composed of two words separated by a hyphen; Va’Ethanan – Nahamu, although we read only Perasha VaEthanan. The other word, Nahamu, is actually the name of the Haftara that begins with the word Nahamu, meaning consolation. It is the first Haftara of consolation in a series of seven Haftarot that are read on each of the seven shabbatot after Tish’a be’Ab, leading up to the holiday of Rosh HaShanah.

Shabbat Nahamu is also known as the Shabbat when there are many singles’ events and retreats to encourage the meeting of singles and eventual marriage. Where is this custom coming from?

Shabbat Nahamu always occurs with the Shabbat after Tish’a Be’Ab. It is not a coincidence; this is how our Sages established it. It is a Shabbat of consolation after the commemoration of the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. Another important date in the Jewish calendar always occurs during this week as well, the 15th of Ab – Tu Be’Ab; which is six days after Tish’a Be’Ab – the 9th of Ab.

We learn in the Talmud that the 15th of Ab and Yom Kippur are the two happiest days in the Jewish calendar. During those days, young maidens go out into the fields dressed in borrowed white dresses; they are followed by young men searching for a bride to marry. These young maidens proclaim to the men that what is important to them is not the beauty and the looks of a person, but rather the values and traditions of what they live by. Each man then chooses one of those maidens, and through marriage they establish a Home in Israel. Each maiden borrows a dress in order to not to embarrass the ones who cannot afford a dress. Rich and poor girls must borrow their dresses for the occasion.

In remembrance of that happiest day in today’s world, we now have Shabbat Nahamu singles’ retreats and events to encourage marriages. I know many couples who attended these retreats and are now happily married.

We pray and hope that soon we will all witness the rebuilding of the Third Temple with our own eyes, where once again we will see those young maidens and young men flock the hills of Jerusalem and build a blessed home in Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.

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