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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 27, 2007 / 12 Menachem-Av 5767

The concept of consolation seems somewhat shallow

By Rabbi Francis Nataf


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Private, communal post-mourning spirituality


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | While mourning is something that we seem to understand intuitively, such is not the case with consolation. Even as our experience tells us that we do get consoled after the loss of a loved one, it leaves one with a sense of intellectual ambivalence. The concept of consolation seems somewhat shallow. In thinking of human loss, there is nothing that can take such loss away. Certainly, we are not expected to simply forget what was important in our lives. Likewise, there is nothing that can really mitigate the finality of our losses. In fact, mourning is recognition of one's having forever missed an opportunity to appreciate the full importance of what we once had.


Yet consolation is an important part of our personal life cycle as well as the cycle of the national Jewish year. With Tisha b'Av, the national Jewish day of mourning, behind us, we read haftaros that are chosen to console us. We are told that things will work out in the end; that better days will return. A happy historical ending, however, does not take away the pain of all those that will have suffered until we reach those promised better times.


The nuance revealed by the Hebrew word "nachem" may help us better understand what we are supposed to feel. When G-d decides to destroy the world through the flood, the Biblical text tells us that he was "yinachem" from having created man (Genesis 6:6). Here, the word can clearly not be translated as being consoled. Rather, as in many other places, the meaning seems to be to change one's mind or to regret.


Analyzing the different uses of the word, one sees that the word "nachem" indicates a change of orientation towards something. It can indicate a negative reorientation just as easily as it can indicate a positive one. As such, consolation seems to be the reorientation needed by survivors to continue being productive in their lives.


Reorientation involves a reordering of that which is important in our lives. Our lives are made up of so many subjective decisions regarding what is important and what is not. The famed American educator, John Dewey, gives an example of this when he writes about adapting to life in a new city — at first many stores, streets, etc. seem equally important, since we don't know what is most useful to us. After a while we adapt to our surroundings by filtering out that which we think is not useful to us (Democracy and Education. p.49). To check the truth of this, picture any large mall that we frequent in our minds. Even among the stores we do not visit, some are quite familiar and others not at all — we have assigned value to certain stores and not to others. When a new need arises, we will familiarize ourselves with stores that we had never noticed.


Loss necessarily creates a vacuum in our lives. Consolation is the process of reordering our focus in view of emerging new needs. Consolation allows us to displace some of the importance once attributed to what we've lost onto a new locus. So when Isaac marries Rebecca, we are told (Genesis 24:67) that he is finally consoled for his mother. He finally finds a new locus for his appreciation of feminine compassion and care that was embodied by his mother.


In the case of Isaac, someone new came into his life to enable him to find what was taken away. Much more frequently, we must make do with what was always in front of us, but remained overshadowed by something greater.


In the case of the Holy Temple, one of the main foci of our spirituality was taken away. Each year, we need to first internalize that loss, realizing how great an opportunity the Holy Temple


represented. Once we have done that, we need to seek how to fill the vacuum left in the wake of its destruction. How indeed? If the Holy Temple represented a clear channel for interaction with G-d, we are obligated to seek other, if more indirect, channels that have survived.


At least two such channels exist — prayer and appreciation of the Divine imprint in nature. It may not be coincidental that Av is the month where we traditionally take our vacations which allow for greater exposure to nature, and Elul can be described as a month of prayer. The complete dialogue between man and G-d that existed in the Holy Temple can actually be divided into its component parts in the next two months. In Av, we can allow G-d to speak to us. In Elul, we can speak to G-d.


In Av, we can seek our inspiration in nature. We can admire a world filled with tremendous beauty and harmony. I believe this to be one of the greatest religious experiences available to us today. The late great Jewish thinker, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, once spoke about the opportunity missed by those who find grandiose views on their vacations, only to respond by snapping a camera and moving on. When we see the waves on the seashore, majestic valleys, sunsets, and the like, we have a tremendous religious opportunity placed in front of us.


The Sages formulated several blessings to formalize these opportunities — the fact that these blessings have fallen into disuse may represent a much greater tragedy than we realize. Whether we make the blessings or not, let us not waste the few chances we have to feel G-d's presence in our overly urbanized lives.


A month of Av filled with religious inspiration can allow us to better exploit the second area of religious connection allowed to us — the world of prayer. Our religious dedication in the month of Elul, culminating in the High Holidays, naturally focuses on prayer. Just as the first set of three blessings in the central Amidah prayer allow us to focus on Whom we are addressing, the period of consolation that follows Tisha b'Av can allow us to have greater appreciation and thus connection to Whom we will be addressing in the month of Elul.


The various rituals of Av and Elul allow us to be more prepared for Rosh Hashanah without a Holy Temple. As stated above, we are moved to reorient ourselves to the most productive spiritual channels that we have without the Holy Temple. Like most ritual, however, it does not work automatically.


It is up to us to infuse the rituals of mourning and consolation with the meaning implicit in them.

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Rabbi Francis Nataf is Educational Director of the Jerusalem-based David Cardozo Academy. Comment by clicking here.


© 2007, Rabbi Francis Nataf