Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why Do We Cry?

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva

We have all cried - sometimes from joy, more often from sorrow. Why do we express both opposite emotions in the exact same way? Why is Hashem, usually so generous with the wondrous resources with which He has endowed us, so restricting in this respect? Was there not some way to differentiate more clearly between joy and sorrow?

On a physiological level, the encyclopedia informs us, "Strong emotions cause the tear ducts to constrict and to emit tears." That is the technical explanation of tears. It seems logical that strong emotions should cause constriction, which sets the process of crying in motion, and tear ducts are unable to differentiate between sorrow and joy. However, let us try to understand why Hashem causes it to work just this way.

The answer may be found in Zechariah 8:19. "Thus speaks Hashem of Hosts, the fast of the fourth month [Shiv'a Asar b'Tammuz] and the fast of the fifth month [Tisha b'Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedalya] and the fast of the tenth month [Asara b'Tevet] will one day tum into days of joy and celebration for the House of Yehuda, provided only that the people will learn to love truth and peace." The theme that sorrow will one day not only give way to joy but actually turn into joy is basic to Judaism.

An example of this idea appears in Yirmiyahu 31:12. "Then [in the Messianic Era] the young women will dance joyously; young men and elders together. I [Hashem] will turn their mourning to joy. I [Hashem] will comfort them and cheer them in their grief and sorrow."

This verse echoes clearly the statement that we saw expressed by Zechariah. Yirmiyahu is not predicting some new, joyous celebration with no roots in the past. Rather, Hashem will turn the mourning of centuries of exile into joy and celebration when Moshiach comes.

We began this article by wondering why suffering and sorrow and also joy and happiness should express themselves in identical ways. Why do both opposite emotions bring us to tears?

We have now discovered that the technical explanation that we stated above expresses a much deeper concept and reality. The suffering and troubles that overtake us, bring us to tears when they strike us with their cruel force, and later they bring us to tears when we finally are released from them. This is because it is all from the Hand of the One Hashem.

As the Torah tells us in D'varim 32, "I [Hashem] wound, and I heal; "G-d strikes, and G-d heals. He brings suffering in order that we may be healed and comforted. The sorrow and the suffering is the mask, and the rejoicing is the reality.

Only when the going gets tough, do the tough get going. As the Mishnah states in Pirkei Avos, "According to the pain is the gain." In other words, no pain no gain. Hashem's game plan is to cause us to soar to Him through our sorrow and pain.

We have shed many tears throughout our long, tragic and bitter exile, personally and nationally. However, the Chazon Ish stated that all those tears have not been lost. Not even one teardrop has disappeared. Hashem has carefully and lovingly collected and stored each and every one of them. The time will come when all of our tears will return to us transformed into tears of joy, and we will welcome them together with Melech HaMoshiach, may he come speedily in our time.

1 comment:

  1. After the Jews left Egypt, the Egyptians pursued them until they came upon the Red Sea, at which point they were unable to continue. G-d told Moshe: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth! (Shemos 14:15) They need do nothing but go forward and the sea will not stand in their way. This was sufficient for those whose trust in G-d ran deep. Consequently, the tribes vied with each other as to who would be the first to go into the water and thereby increase the honor of Heaven [ArtScroll Sotah 37a, note 60. See also Maharsha, Chiddushei Aggados to Sotah 37a “קפץ שבטו של בנימין וירד לים כו'”).

    Yet, Nachshon ben Aminadav, the prince of the tribe of Yehudah, leaped forward and descended into the sea first... Yehudah still ruled with G-d, i.e. he had faith in the Holy One, Blessed is He...” (Sotah 37a) In the end, the sea split because he – one person, one lone individual – took action, thereby sanctifying G-d’s Name! (see Bamidbar Rabbah 13:4)

    If I fasted on the ninth of Av last year, why should this one be any different? You should know that Hashem is disgusted with people that have that attitude. If you ask Hashem to redeem us so that His Name should be sanctified throughout the world like it was at the splitting of the sea, tomorrow could have totally different circumstances!