“Av” means “father” in Hebrew. It’s a Jewish tradition when talking about this month to add the name Menachem to it, because Menachem means "consoler" or "comforter". Therefore, this month can be thought of as Menachem Av – “Comforting Father.” This is especially beautiful when you know the history of the human tragedies that are said to have taken place in this month.
Here is a list compiled by Keisha Gallagher of Grace in Torah.
Too often, when I am in the midst of a struggle or hardship, I’m unable to feel the comfort, consolation, and compassion of God. And for me, it doesn’t really matter whether I am struggling as a natural consequence for something I did or didn’t do (missing the mark), or if I am struggling because of something someone did or didn’t do to me or a loved one. Either way, I often feel alone in the struggle when I’m feelings-dependent. I’m sure I am not the only one who experiences struggles this way and I’m pretty sure the universality of this human plight is at least one of the reasons this month of Av needed Menachem. I know I must align with this truth first (Our Father comforts) before I can let the emotions out. Otherwise, I wallow in the all-too-present dis-comfort from the situation.
It’s been encouraging to me to remember that our heavenly Menachem AV comforts us even in His discipline. And that His comfort especially during discipline is what both strengths us and also allows us to see the good in it. Where do I get that idea from?
Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
The background to this verse is this: In order to rid the Israelites of their idolatry, God brought them to exile and near destruction using the Babylonians. That’s a hard situation to be in! But now, Nehemiah has returned to rebuild Jerusalem, and the people are recognizing that they need to recover their lost heritage, which is the Torah of God - they are covenant people with responsibilities before their King. No more rebellion!
When the priest and teacher Ezra stand to read Torah, there is great weeping. They weep because they finally understand the magnitude of the tragedy of the fall of their once great nation. The reason for the Babylonian captivity became clear – their idolatry was behind it all. They weep for what should have been, could have been...if only...They weep as they mourn their sin.
And they wept because God restored them. God indeed brought comfort, consolation, compassion. Our Menachem Av. God has not abandoned them, afterall; He preserved a remnant. They can experience revival. But it took a large toll to get the message.
Do not be grieved, for the joy (hedvah) of the Lord is your strength.
Menachem Av brings joy (hedvah), which brings strength. Only two times in all of the scriptures is this word hedvah, joy, found; here in Nehemiah 8:10 and in 1 Chronicles 16:27. This isn’t the word for the kind of joy associated with what we’d think of as rejoicing or joy in English. That word is simchah, which is found dozens of times. The uniqueness of hedvah is that it is directly connected to God, joy-of-the-LORD. It is His joy.
'Simchah’ is that kind of rejoicing that involves human participation, usually in the form of expressing gladness and gratitude to God for what He has and is and will do for us. The biblical festivals are great examples of ways we can express this joy/simcha. But what the Israelites of Nehemiah’s day needed was different. They needed, as do we when we are struggling under the weight of our sins and the sins of others, a kind of unique joy that we can’t manufacture ourselves. This hedveh is totally dependent upon God. He bestows it, we receive it.
I am fascinated by the ancient Hebrew language, and I am grateful to those who teach me the biblical meaning of words like hedvah. Biblical scholar Skip Moen, PhD. says that the word picture behind hedvah means behold, a door in the fence. He says,
“What is the joy of the LORD? It is the gladness of providing a door in the fence – a path for coming into His presence. What cheers our Lord? A way in. God rejoices that there is a door for us to come into fellowship with Him. We are not shut out for He has provided a way back. The joy of the LORD is that He can fellowship with us! The hedvat of the LORD exists because He made a way! “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21) is connected to the joy of the LORD.”2
Nehemiah tells us that a door in the fence is our strength. If that’s not a picture of the beauty of repentance, I don’t know what is! The Israelites’ captivity caused them to forget the door. What in your life causes you to forget the door? The Israelites needed Nehemiah and Ezra to show them the way. Who is your Nehemiah or Ezra? Seek a mentor if you do not have one.
Nehemiah was tasked with building back the waste places, the ruins of lives that had forgotten God’s promises. How can you be that same kind of builder in your family and spheres of influence? Do you know someone who needs to know that hedveh of the Lord is their strength? Who can you mentor this way? Who needs you to show them the door of connection and attachment to God?
As our Master Yeshua says: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11
Let’s go straight to that door!