This D’var is dedicated to the memory of my father and to everyone who has lost someone of significance.

Vaeschanan. What a noteworthy Parsha filled with a plethora of major topics.  It readily lends itself to a D’var Torah. Moses, nearing death, gathers the B’nai Yisroel for his final speech. He does this while standing on the banks of the Jordan River, looking longingly into the Promised Land. He imprints the Ten Commandments on the minds of all those in attendance. He recites the Shema and reminds the Israelites that G-d is one and that they must serve Him and love Him with all their heart and all their might. He points out that G-d also loves them, his chosen people. Why then have I decided to give my D’var today on the Haftorah rather than the Parsha? Isn’t that like attending a Smorgasbord, but only choosing a salad for lunch?

“Nachamu, nachamu ami”. Comfort, comfort my people. G-d commands the Prophet Isaiah to speak to the suffering people of Jerusalem and assure them that their suffering will soon be coming to an end. Haftorah Nachamu is the first of seven Haftorahs dealing with the issue of consolation. It’s always read immediately after Tisha B’Av. The last of the consolation Haftorahs is read on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Hashanah. I remember the excitement I felt chanting Haftorah Nachamu on my Bar Mitzvah. How wonderful, I thought, that my father’s name had the same root word as the Haftorah.  How fitting, I felt, that I should be able to perhaps provide my father Nacham with some comfort for the loss of his entire family at the hands of Hitler during World War II.  This Haftorah of consolation was a perfect opportunity to provide my father with some comfort through my efforts. Little did I realize at the time that the notions expressed in the Haftorah would later have a significant impact on me.

Before I explain please allow me to side step for a moment and explore with you something that recently crossed my mind. Why is Parshat Vaeschanan paired with Haftorah Nachamu?  The traditional viewpoint is that there really is no particular reason why the two are read on the same Shabbos. It seems to me, however, that a closer symbiotic relationship never existed. Vaeschanan clearly encompasses a belief in G-d. Nachamu requires people to have faith in G-d that things will improve. Is not belief in G-d and faith in Him the path that leads to comfort?

In 2000, my beloved father passed away. Therefore, this year is the “Chai Year” (18th year) of his afterlife. While grieving during Shiva, I recall thinking about some of the most meaningful times I spent with my father. My Bar Mitzvah was one such time. I remembered my father advising me to swallow a raw egg before going to shul. This, he explained would make my voice stronger and clearer. Huh? Okay.  What a confidence builder for a thirteen- year- old whose voice took a detour just weeks before as it bounced up and down at will and without permission. At the very least, what a great placebo. I will now return to my grief during Shiva. I was lost. I mean, really lost. My mother had died ten years earlier so I was officially an orphan. To comfort myself, I wrote a letter to myself which I will now share with you.


It was a Sunday in January. As usual, I phoned my father to talk to him about his health, the terrible food served at the assisted living facility, and anything else that may occasionally come up. This time, however, was different. A strange female voice answered the phone. My father, I was told, had fallen and been taken to the hospital. I phoned my sister, Jo, who also lived in Charlotte to find out what was going on. We soon learned that my father had suffered both a serious heart attack and stroke and that he was deemed comatose. The next morning, I was on a plane to Charlotte.

My father had earlier suffered a damaging heart attack and debilitating stroke. But my father was a survivor. After all, he made it through World War II. My father came to America in 1937 to live with some relatives. He had already served in the Polish cavalry as a young man. Although born in Russia, he attended German schools as a youngster after the Germans ousted the Russians. When the Germans lost World War I, the Poles took over. The Poles were drafting again in response to a general unrest in Europe. By 1940, my father, who could barely speak English and was not yet a U.S. citizen, was a U.S. soldier. My father survived the War. His family did not.

Although my father was almost 90, he still “looked good”. Why, 25% of his hair was still black. His skin remained relatively smooth and had a nice olive hue to it. Although my father’s cardiologist had opined that it was only a matter of time before “the end”, the end was approaching too quickly. My family and I, thank G-d, had visited my father only a month earlier. We could chat with him, joke with him, and show him our love. I remember saying goodbye to my dad and thinking that this would be our last goodbye. Now, a month later, I found myself before my father and our Maker having to deal with matters vastly beyond my comprehension.

Throughout the week my sister, her husband and I visited my father and stayed by him, although he could not communicate and usually seemed to be sleeping. Occasionally, my father would half-open an eye and seem to look in the direction of our voices. Sometimes a finger would move. I was convinced that this was his way of communicating. Without question he, at least, sensed our presence.

On Friday night and Saturday, I could not visit my father. It was Shabbat, but not very restful. When Shabbat ended, we went to the hospital. My father’s breathing seemed strained. Unlike other visits, my father actually grasped our hands throughout the evening. Suddenly, my father’s eyes opened wide and he began to stare at something. He had the appearance of a young child looking in amazement at some wondrous thing while declaring “WOW!” His eyes then closed. He appeared calm. He took a gentle breath, then another one, then another, then a whisper, then silence.

It was the seventh day since the fall. Shabbat was over. My father was not alone. He could now rest. Shavuah Tov Dad.


Belief in G-d.


Comfort.                                        Good Shabbos.