The haftorah of Parshas Va’eschanon (Yeshayah 40:1) begins with the words,
“‘Nachamu nachamu Ami… Comfort, comfort My People,’ says your G-d. ‘Speak consolingly of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her period [of exile] has been completed, that her iniquity has been forgiven, for she has received double for all her sins from the Hand of Hashem.’” The double lashon of the nechamah that is being prophesized to the Bnei Yisroel conveys that although they indeed suffered to a double degree, such will be the level of their consolation. Although this idea is being revealed at this point, it represents a profound yesod in terms of the entire process of the punishments that members of Hashem’s nation are subject to as a result of improper actions.
Seforim explain that there is no sense of punishment that is to be placed upon the Bnei Yisroel that is meant to destroy them. The punishments that are meted out are meant to cleanse and purify, allowing the recipients to receive the eternal reward of Olam Haba. The eternal dimension of the Jewish soul can be perceived through that which there are members of the Bnei Yisroel who are subject to the pains of gehennom after they die. The Mourner’s Kaddish is meant to save the deceased from such pains, but the mere fact that such a dimension of punishment exists reflects the cleansing process to afford the eternal reward of Olam Haba.
Seforim explain that were a person to chalilah cease existing after he dies, why would there be an element of punishment in gehennom? The mere fact that a person would cease to exist would serve as the ultimate punishment. Why would there be a process of the torments of gehennom to play a role in the deceased’s destiny? The key is that all punishments are meant to cleanse and bring forgiveness to enable the ultimate eternal reward. The recognition of this idea is unique to the Bnei Yisroel.
When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers in Parshas Vayigash, the posuk tells us, “Now Yosef could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, ‘Remove everyone from before me!’ Thus, no one remained with him when Yosef made himself known to his brothers.” The capacity to appreciate that whatever occurs is all for the good is unique to the Bnei Yisroel. Yosef understood that he was sent early to Mitzrayim to establish a spiritual structure through which the nation would be able to survive their long years of bondage in Mitzrayim. It doesn’t mean that tears weren’t shed, but that the tears themselves are to be defined as part of the building process, for in the end, ultimately, everything leads to the place that is destined for Klal Yisroel. Once again, any tragic situation is meant to cleanse and purify to enable the spiritual element to blossom.
A talmid of the Netziv wasn’t able to understand why, although the Netziv, who had fervently been mispallel for the geulah of Klal Yisroel from golus, had died and gone to Shomayim, still, after many months, the geulah had still not come. The student asked the Chofetz Chaim how such a thing could happen. The Chofetz Chaim answered that the Ramban had made a deal with a friend that the first one to die and enter the Olam Ha’emes would come in a dream to the other and explain what is occurring in the Upper World. The other person died first, yet, for a long while, he hadn’t come back to reveal anything to the Ramban. Finally, the friend came to the Ramban in a dream and told the Ramban that he wasn’t permitted until then to come back, and that he wasn’t allowed to reveal any of what takes place in Shomayim. The only thing he was permitted to reveal was how in Shomayim, the posuk in Sefer Tehillim (48:10) of “We hoped, O G-d, for Your kindness in the midst of Your sanctuary” was to be understood. What was seemingly understood in this world as being a result of the Name of Hashem of Elokim, that of strict justice, in the inner sanctuary of Hashem, in Shomayim, is recognized as a function of absolute kindness.
The Chofetz Chaim told the talmid that the Netziv in Shomayim is now privy to the appreciation of the pure chesed that occurs on Earth. As humans dwelling in the lower realm, we aren’t privy to such a reality.
If the posuk in Sefer Yeshayah had just said “Nachamu” one time, the novi Yeshayah would be revealing to us that the future will indeed be bright. The chiddush that the second Nachamu is teaching us is that all that we went through were vital ingredients in the ultimate positive that is being revealed in the end. Every step of tragedy had to happen. There was a need to cleanse and purify the Bnei Yisroel. The tears that were shed were all to accomplish the goal.
The Maharal in Netzach writes that before a seed could grow and develop, it must first rot in the ground. Thus, destruction is a step in the future acquisition of the goal, and it is that point that is being revealed in the second lashon of Nachamu. Just as the monn that fell from heaven contained no waste, because there is no evil that falls from heaven, so too, it is in the depths of that yesod that the true nechamah of Klal Yisroel can be found.
Rabbi Rapps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.