How can reading Scripture provide comfort
after a national tragedy?
Rabbi Susan Elkodsi – Sunday, Oct. 11, 2017 – Newsday – On Faith
What a timely question during the festival of Sukkot, when we read the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which astutely noted that what has happened before will happen again. National tragedies aren’t new. They’ve been happening since time began: Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, destruction of the Holy Temples and exile first by the Babylonians and then the Romans, to name a few.
During 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites experienced hunger, thirst, plagues and mutiny, but no matter how angry God was with the people, God’s positive attributes, including compassion and loving kindness, prevailed. Reading our sacred texts can provide comfort by reminding us that humanity has lived through these large-scale tragedies, and often come out stronger as a result.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God’s presence can be found with the people in their wanderings. In the Talmud, Rabbi Simon ben Yochai says that God’s presence went into exile with the Israelites, and quotes verses including 1 Samuel 2:27, “Thus the Lord has said, ‘I revealed myself to the house of your fathers when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh.’”
Reading Scripture by itself can only go so far, however. We must remember that being created in God’s image means that we are God’s partners in creating a better world. May we find comfort and strength in our sacred texts and know that we are not alone.