Nachamu

NACHAMU, NACHAMU AMI...

(for Shabbat Nachamu)*

 

 

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

As you watch your precious Temple now consumed

In flames which rise as once your offerings did

As clouds of smoke ascending to the sky.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads away and face the north

And the journey that will take you into exile.

Take your children, and what's left of your belongings

Leave the smouldering Jerusalem behind

In the ashes of the words of long-dead prophets

Whose call to faith and hope you did not heed.

Now you weep, as though with sudden recognition

You begin to understand how you have failed.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You suffer now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road that leads to Babylon

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

 

 

 

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

As once more burns the Temple and your dreams

Destroyed by Roman violence and wizardry

Whose power leaves your gentle faith in shreds.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads once more to look away

To the journeys that will take you into exile.

Take your children, and what's left of your belongings

Leave the smouldering Jerusalem behind

Carry with you words of wisdom, jewels of knowledge

Cherish everything you've learned and carry on

Recognise that also this was bound to happen

Take your books, my words, take courage and move on.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You suffer now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road into Diaspora

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

 

 

 

 

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

As flames now eat your homes and synagogues

Your lives destroyed by Europe's mad crusaders

Whose violence is painted in My name.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads once more to look away

To the journeys that will take you into exile.

Take your children, and what's left of your belongings

Leave the smouldering homes and villages behind

Take the treasures from your synagogues and studies

Carry hopes and prayers like burdens on your backs

Shake your heads at human cruelty and madness

Cry to me and I will hear as I look on.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You suffer now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road into new exile

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

 

 

 

 

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

As you suffer not from swords but now from words

In royal edicts sent to make you homeless

Banished from domains which once you owned.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads once more to look away

To the journeys that will take you to new countries.

Take your children, and what's left of your belongings

Leave success and riches in the hands of kings

Who, maddened with their greed and stark ambition

Cannot understand the true source of your wealth

And so scatter you like so much dust before them -

Give them gold, retain your faith and carry on.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You suffer now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road to further exile

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

 

 

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

As with disbelief you find yourselves again

Facing flames - but not of Temple or of teaching,

But of crematoria which burn for you.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads once more, come face to face

With the journeys that will take you to oblivion.

Take your children, and what's left of your belongings

Leave your homes, leave hope, leave sanity behind

Cry to me and ask me how I could permit this

And I will answer silently with tears

That fall as rain from grey clouds now descending

To meet you as you rise to meet with me.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You suffer now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road that leads to Auschwitz

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.

                                * * *

In clouds which hover silently above us

In the rain which falls oblivious at our feet

Down beneath us, in the ground we daily cover

Are dust and ashes of our Jewish dead.

Two thousand years and more of persecution

Two thousand years and more of blood and hate

Burning temples, burning homes, burning children

Is this how God repays us for our faith?

We weep, but we are told to sing God's song

To remember, to be comforted - but how

Can we sing God's song in a strange land

Which hates us and would rather see us gone?

Where is this God who bids us sing these praises?
Where the power which has driven us to our death

In our thousands and our millions through the ages

Where are you God?  Speak to us as we weep.

                                                * * *

Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God

For there is much that you can never understand

No one answer that will solve this brutal riddle

Look inside yourselves, find comfort and seek peace.

Be comforted, be comforted my people

As you turn your heads once more to look upon

All the journeys which have taken you to exile.

Teach your children, share what's left of your belongings

Take the journeys that your ancestors have walked

Carry with you all the hopes and prayers they cherished

Suffer with them as you try to understand

The fires of Babylon and Rome and Auschwitz

Feel their tears, their pain, their faith, their hope, their love.

 

Yes be comforted, be comforted my people

You remember now and surely will again

Take the long and bitter road back through your history

Remember Zion, weep, but sing my song

In lands more strange than ever you'd imagine

And I will give you comfort, bring you home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Rabbi Pete Tobias August 1995

 

 

 

 

* Shabbat Nachamu is the Shabbat after Tish'ah b'Av, so called because the haftarah for the day is Isaiah 40, the first of a series of haftarot of consolation following the destruction of the Temple on Tish'ah b'Av, which begins with the words nachamu, nachamu ami -  translatable as 'be comforted, be comforted my people.'

 

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