Shabbat Nachamu: The Comfort of Camp By Ilana Sanberg, Founding Staff Member and Summer Assistant Director | Camp Ramah Northern California

Shabbat Nachamu: The Comfort of Camp By Ilana Sanberg, Founding Staff Member and Summer Assistant Director

As we transition out of the mournful days leading up to Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, we seek comfort. This Shabbat, for that very reason, is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort. On Tisha B’Av, we are meant to mourn our loss–we mourn the destruction of the Temples and many other tragic events that befell the Jewish people over the course of our history. Then we move into comfort-mode, we think about caring for one another and about how to rebuild. 

This trajectory mirrors how I see these past few months. We lost many things, things that are worthy of mourning: we lost in-person communities and we lost experiences. We lost camp as we knew it. Right after the loss, right after our time of mourning we read in the Haftarah this week from “נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י”, “Comfort, comfort my people” (Isaiah 40.1). Why is the word Nachamu repeated? According to Spanish commentator Ibn Ezra, it means we must comfort immediately and repeatedly. When we lost in-person camp, we, the Ramah Galim community, quickly turned to comfort one another. We reached out to each other, we sent videos acknowledging our feelings and speaking words of comfort. With time, we also pushed ourselves to rebuild and reimagine. 

The Temple was once a gathering place for the Jewish people, the place they all came to from near and far. When it was destroyed, they were left scattered, with no Zoom–left to figure out how to continue to build and grow their communities.

These months have been hard in many ways, yet we are so lucky that our community has been able to come together in new ways, to take so seriously the task of comforting and rebuilding. I am so grateful to know that my community is one that takes Nachamu to heart–one that comforted immediately and one that I trust will comfort continuously. 

I truly hope we each learn how to offer and accept comfort in this New Year. As Ramahniks sing the beloved camp melodies of “Nachamu” in our own homes this Shabbat, I hope the reverberations of our songs and hopes will ripple out far and wide to comfort and heal the hearts of those in need.