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From Where Does Our Comfort Come?

When our hearts are broken , we seek comfort. The sources of heart break are many and varied. We may lose a loved one, even after a full and rich life, and stand bereft.

People expect us to heal quickly;  after all, he lived to a ripe old age. And: my partner of 60 years is no longer in my bed.  And my parent who raised me and whom I called every Sunday morning for my entire adult life can no longer take my call.We wait and crave comfort.

Or a friend may turn out to be other than we expected. They may reveal behavior that is hurtful and make us realize that our friendship was never heartfelt. It served them for a time, and now it no longer does. Or: we were blind to who they truly were, and now in seeing it, we know that we were never truly friends. We look for comfort from a heartbreak about which people almost never talk.

Or we yearn for something with desperation. Perhaps we yearn for a child but our bodies do not comply. We imagined a child of ourselves upon whom we could lavish love and care and who would become a part of our lives. And this promise is delayed or perhaps permanently broken. From whom can we find our comfort?

Also: when our hearts are broken, as they begin to heal, we see the suffering in the world around us. We are alerted to the myriads of heartbreak and see suddenly that so many walks with us in their own brokenness accompanying ours. As we lift our eyes up from our own concerns, we become like Job who only at the end learns to pray for his friends as well as his own needs.

We yearn that God will fulfill the promise to comfort God’s people. Yet we see the promise delayed. As we share our heartbreak with others, as we see the brokenness around us, we may choose to step forward as agents of our own loss and brokenness. We know that we cannot heal; for we cannot be healed. And yet: we know that we can provide ease and breath. A hug. A kind word. A listening ear.These tools are known to us because we yearn for them. And though they may not be offered, we realize as our eyes are lifted that we can offer them to others.

At first, we do so as agents of our own pain. At first, we do it in spite of or in the absence of God. But when such love is offered with a full heart, something changes in us. We discover that our offerings of comfort provide their own surcease from pain. In listening to others, opening our hearts, and inclining our ears, we discover that we too are heard. We go from being agents of our own brokenness to becoming agents of God.

In that motion, we discover that our brokenness and loss will linger and be, perhaps forever. And: we learn that we can be healed. We are met by God and comforted to a depth we had never imagined. Our acts of consolation transform us to become ourselves consoled and healed. For me in that space in between, in that offering of and yearning for comfort, I have found and been healed by God. Comfort My people indeed.

Shabbat Shalom
 Rabbi David Booth

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784