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    One of the English-
    language Jewish songs

    with the most staying
    power is Mordechai Ben
    David’s “Just One
    Shabbos.” Dovid
    Nachman Golding tells
    the story of when and
    why it was first written and produced:
    On one of our trips to Eretz Yisrael in the early
    ’80s, MBD and I would be amazed by Rabbi
    Meir Schuster ztz”l. Every Friday night, he
    would place at least dozens, and up to hundreds,
    of young Jews who had never experienced a
    true Shabbos meal with a family in a warm,
    frum environment. During that trip, we were
    working on a Shabbos album, and it didn’t take
    MBD long to write the lyrics and the tune to
    this amazing hit song (“Western Wall on Friday
    night / His first time ever there / Strapped into
    his knapsack / With his long and curly hair…”).
    My good friend Stanley Felsinger was the
    owner of Camp Monroe, a camp for Jewish
    children from nonreligious backgrounds. Soon
    after Stanley opened the camp, he himself
    became Torah-observant, which led him to
    make the entire camp kosher. He then took it a
    step further and approached Rav Aaron
    Schechter of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and asked
    him for a suggestion on how to deal with

    Shabbos in camp. The Rosh Yeshivah suggested
    that Stanley try to get the children to experience
    some part of Shabbos, so Stanley came up with
    an idea of forming a volunteer Shabbos Club.
    But how would he attract the children to join
    this club? Then an idea hit him. Every Friday,
    he would play the song “Just One Shabbos”
    over the camp loudspeakers.
    It didn’t take long before the entire camp
    learned the song and started signing up for the
    club. When Stanley repeated this story to me, I
    passed it along to MBD. It blew MBD’s mind
    that hundreds of children were singing his song,
    and they weren’t even religious! That was all
    the information he needed to hear. Several
    hours later, we drove up to Camp Monroe with
    a few musicians — I remember that Yossi
    Piamenta a”h was one of them. Mordechai did a
    free concert for the entire camp, and the place
    was really rocking to the music. What a
    memorable night that was — it taught me never
    to underestimate the power of a popular song
    when it comes to igniting the spark in a Jewish
    “Just One Shabbos” is a fantastic song and
    clearly an inspiring and impactful one, and
    perhaps its source is a Gemara in Talmud
    אִיּלּו הָיּו י ִשְׂרָאֵל מְשַׁ מְּרִין :(a3 Taanis (Yerushalmi
    שַׁ בָּת אַחַת כְּתִיקֻּנָּה מִי ַּד הָי ָה בֶן דָּו ִד בָּא
    Chazal in Talmud Bavli, however, teach us

    that it is not just one Shabbos, but rather it
    takes two for us to go free and bring the geulah.
    The Gemara (Shabbos 118a) tells us:
    אמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי אלמלי
    משמרין ישראל שתי שבתות כהלכתן מיד נגאלים
    If only the Jewish people would observe two
    Shabbosos they would immediately be
    Rav Mendel of Vitebsk explains that the
    Gemara doesn’t refer to keeping just any two
    Shabbosos. Rather, it means if the Jewish
    people would observe Shabbos chazon, the
    week before Tisha b’av, and Shabbos
    Nachamu, the week after it, Moshiach would
    If we used the week of Chazon to feel the pain,
    mourn the loss, acknowledge the shortcomings,
    and commit to improve, and we then observe
    Shabbos Nachamu, in which we take comfort
    from our resolve to translate those emotions
    into actions that will improve our behavior,
    then surely we will have the means to transform
    the condition of Jewish existence.
    The question is – where do we find this
    nechama? How does reading the words
    “Nachamu nachamu ami” this Shabbos make
    anything different? Where is the nechama
    when nothing is different and nothing has
    changed? Israel continues to have enemies that
    seek her annihilation. Antisemitism continues
    to be on the rise. People continue to
    confront challenges and suffering. Where
    is this elusive nechama?
    Rav Pinkus points out that nechama is not
    about getting back what we lost. When we
    pay a shiva call and offer nichum aveilim,
    we cannot bring the deceased back to life.
    If we could return someone or something
    lost to the person who lost it, they wouldn’t
    need nechama, they would have what they
    were desperate for back. So what, then, is
    An answer can be found in an ancient and
    mysterious text called Perek Shira. Many
    believe that it was written by Dovid
    HaMelech after he completed the book of
    Tehillim. Perek Shira is discussed by
    many of our greatest sages including the
    Ramban. It lists 84 elements of the natural
    world including the sky, the earth, and all
    kinds of animals and shows how the
    natural world sings God’s praises by
    attributing a pasuk to each one. The
    message of this magnificent work is that
    the whole world is a symphony, and we can
    learn from what each aspect of the world
    contributes to God’s song.
    Perek Shira states: “Retzifi omeir:
    nachamu nachamu ami, yomar
    Elokeichem.” The Retzifi is a certain type
    of bird and through its song and its life we
    learn something about nachamu nachamu
    ami. What does this cryptic statement
    mean? What does the Retzifi do and what
    did Dovid HaMelech mean to suggest
    about what we can learn from it?

    The Knaf Renanim, written by the great 17th
    c. Moroccan Kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Azulai,
    explains that this bird lives in the north and
    does not like the cold. Other species of birds fly
    south for the winter, but the Retzifi stays behind
    because he does not want to miss the beginning
    of the spring. So how does this species of bird
    survive the cold and harsh winter?
    Rav Azulai explains that they form a tight
    circle there. Each bird puts its head under the
    feathers of the one next to it. The Retzifi
    survives the winter and stays warm only by
    connecting with his fellow birds. Remarkably
    coordinated, these birds take care of themselves
    by finding cover and simultaneously provide
    cover for the one next to them under their wing.
    It is from this behavior that we learn the
    meaning of Nachamu nachamu ami.
    According to this interpretation, Dovid
    HaMelech was suggesting that if we want to
    know how to weather the cold, survive the
    darkness, and endure through the harsh exile,
    we must follow the model of the Retzifi.
    Survival, and indeed nechama, comfort, are all
    about practicing achdus – unity and togetherness.
    If we confront our challenges with empathy,
    kindness, and a desire to draw closer together,
    we will not only survive, but we will thrive.
    Yes, nothing is different one week later than it
    was on Tisha Bav. Nothing has changed about
    our circumstances or our standing in the world.
    And yet, there is one thing different. Through
    sitting on the floor together, through crying on
    one another’s shoulder and through feeling
    each other’s pain we become closer, more
    cohesive, and more of a people.
    That is the comfort that Yeshayahu promised.
    Nachamu, nachamu ami…if you feel a sense of
    ami, my united people, if this hardship brings
    you closer instead of driving you farther apart,
    then indeed, nachamu nachamu, you have
    found comfort despite the difficulty.
    When Tisha B’Av ends, we rise up off the
    floor and anticipate a return to music, meat,
    clean laundry, and joy. But when doing so, we
    must not put the pain of others in the rearview
    mirror. The nechama comes if it remains in our
    windshield, a continued concern for us to work
    on and help.
    Just one Shabbos of inviting those who are
    alone, reaching out to those who are different
    than us, making an effort to say good Shabbos
    to everyone we pass, and we will finally all be