Dear Mishpochah (Family),
The God of All Comfort
The word COMFORT has come to me in hundreds of condolence cards since my husband Neil’s promotion to glory in late March. You, our Jewish Jewels partners, have reached out to comfort our family as if we were your own family. You have wept with us, fulfilling Romans 12:15 in a very touching display of godly compassion. I was comforted and overwhelmed by the personal notes written on many of the cards. Such love! God’s love through all of you has comforted me greatly. Thank you.
One portion of scripture was woven throughout your expressions of consolation: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
“God of all comfort” is one of God’s names. It has been said that if we have a need, God has a name. When Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to this aspect of the Father, the God of all comfort. ALL comfort. Since our Messiah only did those things He saw His Father doing, He also came to comfort. His mission was expressed by the prophet Isaiah, and confirmed by Yeshua Himself, when He proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord GOD was upon Him, anointing Him to “…comfort those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Isa. 61:3) and to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18).
Hannah Whitall Smith in The God of All Comfort makes some insightful observations on God’s comfort. She states, first of all, that God is not indifferent to our trials, nor does he forsake us in our time of need. Like a mother who comforts a hurting child, God hugs us to His heart when we hurt. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…” (Isa. 66:13).
Smith mentions that discomfort arises from anxiety in one’s relationship with God, especially doubts about His love. She may have a point here. I found a comment on the back of one of the sympathy cards that links God’s comfort with confidence in His love in a beautiful way. It best expresses the source of the comfort that I feel today:
“No matter what season of life we’re in, we can count on one thing never to change: God’s unfailing love. Because of His love we are never alone. Because of His love we can have courage, even when we are afraid. Because of His love we can be strong when we feel weak, and find joy even on the difficult days. And because of His love, we can look to the future with hope, knowing He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is carefully working all things together for our good and His glory.”
Smith also mentions that we must first believe in order to be comforted. Comfort follows faith and never precedes it. Believe and then receive. Trust in a Good God who longs to comfort us. He is a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1). Believe the Word of God in verses such as Isaiah 51:3, “For the LORD will comfort Zion. He will comfort all her waste places…” Note the word ALL again. God wants to comfort us ALL in ALL our trials, for He is the “God of ALL comfort.”
Comfort in New York City
As many of you know, our baby showers begun in 2007 at B’nai Zion Hospital in Haifa, Israel, originated out of a desire to comfort that city. The Lebanon War had ended, but the city was still suffering greatly. The neonatal ward of the hospital had been hit by a missile. The Lord spoke to my heart to have Jewish Jewels sponsor a baby shower for the new mothers and their babies in the hospital to bring JOY and COMFORT to Haifa.
After Neil’s passing, we received an invitation to the retirement dinner for the CEO of B’nai Zion, Dr. Amnon Rofe. Dr. Rofe is also an ob-gyn and the one who was with us for each of the baby showers. The celebration dinner honoring Dr. Rofe was to occur in New York City. This precious man has been to our home for dinner and even to a service at Temple Aron HaKodesh. He knows what we believe and values our friendship, although he is a pre-believing, traditional Israeli.
Proceeds from the dinner were to help build the new neonatal ward of the hospital. For a donation of $1,800 we could also have photos and words included in a memory book to be given to Dr. Rofe. I prayed and felt that the Lord said, “I am sending Israel to you, since you cannot go there at this time.” Our Jewish Jewels administrator, Sheryl, a seasoned New Yorker, agreed to travel with me. We designed a collage of our baby showers to be included in the memory book, and were given not one page, but two. One of our Jewish Jewels partners “just happened” to send us 14 preemie outfits several weeks before we left, so they traveled with us to New York City, to be taken that same week to Haifa.
Dr. Rofe had been informed ahead of time that Neil would not be with me. When he saw me, he wrapped his arms around me in the sweetest hug. Such comfort. He thanked us for coming, and asked me to please let him know when we are in Israel again. God knows. His will. Sheryl and I felt that we kept the warm connection with B’nai Zion. We obeyed. God will bless. May our friends in Haifa know that we have not forgotten them, and be comforted. “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God” (Isa. 40:1).
There was another reason that I felt led to travel to New York City. WMBC, a television station in NYC, has been airing Jewish Jewels for 21 years. The manager of the station, Victor Joo, has given us great favor. I had mentioned to Neil months ago that I believed the Lord wanted us to fly to New York City to thank this lover of Israel for blessing Jewish Jewels all these years. My intention was to treat Victor and his wife to dinner. They insisted on treating us, and we had a delightful evening of fellowship with Victor and Angie. Thank you, WMBC!
There was a third reason that I sensed the Ruach HaKodesh leading me to New York City. My only brother has been going through chemotherapy for lymphoma, and I have not seen him in a few years. I heard the Lord say, “Go see your brother.” Sheryl and I took a train from Grand Central Station to Mt. Kisco, NY, to see my brother and other relatives. As we were purchasing our tickets, a pregnant woman approached me and asked if I would buy her a ticket to Tarrytown, NY ($11). She wouldn’t say why. I gave her the money, shared the Gospel, gave her one of my books and contact information, and rushed to catch the train (with one minute to spare).
The miracles in Mt. Kisco included leading two of my relatives in a prayer of salvation, the Gospel presented to five more relatives and friends, and an ongoing encounter with my brother. (Please pray that he follows my instructions concerning the Four Spiritual Laws that I gave him!) After all that, we got on a train, returned to New York City, toured Ground Zero, took the subway to Brooklyn, and visited Sheryl’s pre-believing Jewish family. A good visit—until midnight. Back to NYC so that we could attend a Messianic Shabbat service on Saturday morning before flying home that afternoon.
As if that was not enough to see the hand of the Lord, our trip began at the Ft. Lauderdale airport with an encounter that only the Holy Spirit could have arranged. We were waiting next to a woman in a wheelchair. Lorraine overheard Sheryl say something, and commented on it. Then she said, “I buried my husband of 59 years yesterday.” She began to cry. I began to cry. Then I laid hands on her and prayed. I trust she was comforted (2 Cor. 1:4).
I sensed the fulfillment of two verses in this adventure with Abba. John 13:20, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Acts 9:31, “...And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” We were received wherever we went, and the Kingdom of God was increased.
Comfort: The Jewish Root
The Hebrew word for COMFORT is neh-KHA-mah, also written nechama. The word for COMFORTER is meh-NAH-khem. I read an interesting article by the Jerusalem Prayer Team that explained that the letters of the word neh-KHA-mah can be broken down into two overlapping words: no-ach (comfortable and resting) and cham-ma (warm). Therefore, neh-KHA-mah is an offer of rest to a troubled, suffering soul. Comfort is often induced by warm, restful conditions. (Think: down comforter.)
Neh-KHA-mah, as a noun, appears only in the New Covenant Scriptures (2 Cor. 1:3). Otherwise, it is a verb in both the Tanach and the Brit Hadashah. It was only as I began to research COMFORT that I remembered my husband Neil’s Hebrew name: Nahum ben Aria, which translates to comfort and consolation, the son of a lion. Comforting was definitely part of my husband’s character. His gentleness and compassion made him great.
There is a village in Israel, that some of you have been to, that has the name Nahum. It is Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), the village of Nahum, or the village of comfort. There is also a book of the Bible that means COMFORT or COMFORTER: the Book of Nahum the prophet. This is the book in which the downfall of Nineveh is foretold. The COMFORT in this is that God would be righteous and just in His judgment of the cruel Assyrians. Another book in the Tanach is about neh-KHA-mah, the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah means “God is my comfort.” Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king of Susa in Persia in the 5th century B.C., is distraught when he learns that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed. He asks the king for permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, permission is granted, and Nehemiah is comforted, even though his task is rife with opposition.
Comfort from the Word of God
God’s Word is a great source of COMFORT for His children. Consider the following verses: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort (y’na-kha-MOO-nee, ינחמני) me” (Ps. 23:4). “This is my comfort (ne-KHA-ma-tee, נחמתי) in my affliction, for Your word has given me life” (Ps. 119:50). And finally, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
The “rod” of Psalm 23:4, the shepherd’s rod, refers to the Word of God. In W. Phillip Keller’s classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, the author beautifully describes how the rod symbolizes God’s Word as a source of comfort. In brief: The rod was the main weapon of defense for both the shepherd and his sheep. It symbolized the shepherd’s strength, power, and authority. It made the sheep feel secure. We can have great assurance in our hearts as we contemplate the “power, veracity and potent authority vested in God’s Word.” “This, as well as the use of the rod to examine the sheep, is a source of comfort. A sheep that passed ‘under the rod’ was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.” “If we will allow it, if we will submit to it, God by His Word will search us.” This is done out of concern and compassion for our welfare, and should be a comfort to us (Ps. 139:23, 24). There is so much more; I highly recommend Mr. Keller’s book if you do not already have it. A must read! Very comforting.
The Ruach HaKodesh as Comforter
Yeshua the Messiah said, “…The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (Jn. 8:29). God did not leave Yeshua alone. Yeshua followed His Father’s example. He did not leave His disciples alone. He said to His talmidim (tahl-me-DEEM), “If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Jn. 14:15-18).
These verses, in the King James Version, use the word COMFORTER for the Holy Spirit. In most other versions, the word is translated Advocate, Helper, Counselor, Paraclete, or Friend (The Message Version). Yeshua was saying a final farewell to His talmidim. He was leaving them, but not without comfort. The Spirit of truth (the Ruach HaKodesh) would be spiritually what He had been to them physically, invisibly what Yeshua had been visibly. But even more. This Helper would indwell them, to help, guide, direct, counsel, and strengthen (much more than the down comforter concept). The word in English gives a nice picture of the Comforter that God was sending: com-forte—with strength.
I am personally experiencing the strength of the Holy Spirit in my own weakness. He is resurrection life (Rom. 8:11). He is the indwelling Presence of God. The comfort of the Holy Spirit means more than consoling us in our grief and loss. It includes the idea of anointing, quickening, empowering, encouraging, and strengthening. When Yeshua said, “I will not leave you comfortless (orphans). I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18), He was referring to the Ruach HaKodesh as a distinct Person, “another Comforter,” of the same kind as Himself. The Spirit would do for believers everything Yeshua did and more. That’s COMFORT! They (we) would still have a Teacher (Rabbi), Friend, Defender, and Helper—dwelling within us.
Seven Weeks of Comfort
There is a period of seven weeks on the Jewish calendar, beginning with Tisha B’Av, and ending on Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah, known as Shiva d’ Nechemta, literally “Seven Weeks of Comfort.” It begins this year on August 11, 2019, and ends on September 30, 2019.
Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the Jewish year. It is a fast day that recalls numerous catastrophes suffered by the Jewish people. These include the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th of Av, 586 BC, and the destruction by the Romans of the Second Temple in Jerusalem on the very same day in 70 AD. Tisha b’Av was also the date on which the Jewish people were expelled from England in 1290 AD, and the expulsion of the Jewish people from Spain in 1492.
For 49 days, observant Jewish people seek to be comforted by God. They ask him to prepare their hearts to be transformed at the New Year. They mourn the “brokenness of creation” and attempt to move toward repentance, teshuvah (teh-shoe-VAH), in Hebrew.
The Shabbat that begins on Friday, August 16, 2019, at sundown, has a special name. It is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort. The Haftorah portion read that day is from Isaiah 40:1-26, and includes, “‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God. ‘Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’ A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.‘”
“Now may our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, COMFORT YOUR HEARTS and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).
Thank you, Abba, for Your Ruach HaKodesh, our Powerful Comforter! Much Love in Yeshua,