3 Weeks and 9 Av: Tears of Pain, Tears of Hope

Nov 17, 2014

Mrs. Golda Warhaftig
30 July 1998 / Menachem Av 5758

One of the main motifs in Eicha is the motif of “tears.”
“She weeps bitterly in the night and her tear is on her cheek” (Eicha 1:2.)
“Over these things I weep; my eyes run with water” Eicha 1:16.)
“My eyes fail with tears, my insides churn” (Eicha 2: 11.)

Yes, tears are sometimes appropriate, even if our society considers them as signs of weakness. “There is a time to weep” (Kohelet 3: 4.) We can discover who and where we are by exploring what brings us to tears. Let’s recondition and re-sensitize ourselves to express feelings through tears. Hashem bequeathed our world with many potential blessings. One of those was tears. Before creating man, Hashem separated the vast waters into “upper and lower waters.” The Midrash says, “Rabbi Brachya said the lower waters didn’t separate from the higher waters except through tears.” There is something in the nature of separation which warrants tears. Tears are an expression of pain. Tears are so powerful that they even have the ability to transcend thought, speech, action, music and prayer. “And if the gates of prayer have been locked, the gates of tears are not locked” (Brachot 32.) Tears can often have a cosmic effect echoing through the world. “Whoever cries at night, stars… cry with him” (Sanhedrin 65.) Weeping is to re-capture the child within, to re-discover that clear point of truth in the core of one’s being. “Why did they cry for Aaron for 30 days?” Because he judged with integrity” (Avot D’Rabbi Nathan 12.) The people of Israel recognized Aaron’s ability to find the common factor among all people and to break down barriers. Crying is a response to a loss, it is the longing for something that was and is no more. Crying is a revelation of one’s core existential angst.

When Adam is told that thorns and thistles would grow for him, the Midrash states, “He cried and asked ‘Will I and my ass share the same trough’ ” (Pesachim 18.) What troubled Adam was the fear of being de-throned from his permanent place within the creation – it was a question of self-definition. Similarly, Sisrah’s mother’s sobs at the loss of her son also expressed her existential agony, for her life was enmeshed with her dead son. At the famous dramatic confrontation between Yoseph and Yehudah, when Yoseph reveals his identity he also cries. Rav Soloveitchik ponders the essence of these tears. He poignantly notes that Yoseph had intended to mete out judgment to his brothers but then he suddenly realized that he felt only mercy. Here there was self-discovery through tears.

Crying, therefore is not merely despair or helplessness. Within our tears, flow the deeper mechanisms of our lives; not only on an individual level but for the collective soul of the Jewish people as well.

Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that the Midrash says “Just as Yoseph didn’t appease his brothers except through tears, so Hashem will not redeem His children except through tears” (Midrash Rabba 13b.) And whose tears were these? These were the tears of Rachel, pleading for her children. And Hashem responds and says, “Stop crying and dry your tears for there is a reward for your effort… and they will return from the land of the enemy” (Yirmiyahu 31:15.) Thus, tears of grief and yearning will be transformed to tears of joy.

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