Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
The first words of this song come from the Haftarah read after Tisha B'av, words of comfort after destruction. They also echo the words we say to mourners: Hamakom m'nacheim etchem (Ashkenazi) or Min hashamayim t'nachamenu (Sefardi) – in English, "May the Place comfort you," or, "May you be comforted from Heaven." The verse is Nachamu Nachamu ami, Anokhi anokhi hu m'nachemchem, "Be comforted My people; I, yes I, am the one who comforts you." (Isaiah 40:1, 51:12)
Reb Zalman wrote this song for the end of shiva for his father (the first week of mourning); he sang it to me over Skype at the Oraita rabbis conference in 2008, at the end of the shloshim period for my own father. As we approach the three weeks, the communal mourning period leading up to Tisha B'av (the day the first and second Temples were destroyed), the words of this song take on their more universal (or at least communal) significance as uttered by Isaiah.
[from 2009: There is so much to write about the mourning process, which I am not ready to write about yet. But this is my petichta to writing more. In the meantime I wish you all blessings for the period of the three weeks that this time should help us all find deeper relationship with and love toward that which we have lost.]
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Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006