THE POWER OF TEARS

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

I recently read a very emotional and well written story in the December, 1998 edition of the Jewish Observer, p.47. It was entitled "Jump Start, Delay, and a Siyum Mishnayos". Just thinking about the story brings tears to my eyes, which is why I decided to write about "The Power Of Tears".

I know I got you all psyched up about the story in the Jewish Observer, but please be patient. I will get to it in due time. First I want to refer you to the wonderful Artscroll translation on Kinnos of Tisha B'AV by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer.

In part of his Overview, (xii-xiii) he brings an interesting conversation which occurred between the Greek philosopher Plato and lehavdil elef havdolos, the prophet Yirmayahu after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

Plato met Yirmayahu at the Temple Mount weeping bitterly over the Temple ruins. Plato asked him two questions.

1) How is it befitting for such a preeminent sage in Israel and such intellectual stature, to cry over a building which is really no more than a pile of sticks and stones?

2) The building is already in ruins, what good will your tears do now? Why cry over the past?

Yirmayahu responded by asking Plato if as a renowned philosopher, he had any perplexing questions. Plato recited a long list of complicated questions, whereupon Yirmiyahu, humbly and quietly, solved them in a few brief sentences. Plato was dumbfounded. He could not believe that any mortal man could be so wise.
"All of this profound wisdom I derived from those 'sticks and stones' and that is why I'm crying. As for why I'm crying over the past, this I can't tell you because you will not be able to understand the answer."
Rav Lopian (Lev Eliyahu, I Shevivei Ohr, 155) relates the Alter of Kelm's (Rav Simcha Zisel Ziv) explanation of Yirmiyahu's answer. Our tears are not for the past, rather we cry for the future. As the Gemoro Brochos 32b says that at the time of the Churban (Destruction) although all the gateways to heaven were sealed, the gateway of tears always remains open. (I once heard from Rav Shraga Moishe Kalmanowitz, ztl, (Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, Brooklyn) that there are two ways to open a gate, either with the right key, or with an axe that breaks down the gate. Tears are like axe that burst through the gate.) Every tear we shed is collected in heaven and contributes to the reconstruction of the next Temple. This concept, which is so simple for any Jew to understand, is beyond the comprehension of a "rational" world-renowned Plato.

Further on in his overview (p. xiv) Rabbi Feuer brings the question of, if the gates of tears are never closed then why are there gates in the first place?

The Gerer Rebbe explained that although sincere tears always gain admission above, the gates were needed to shut out false tears.

Indeed, Rav Yonnoson Eibeshutz (Yaaros Devash II:11) observes that the numerical value of BECHI - weeping is equal to that of LEV- heart which is 32, because tears are meaningful only if they are sincere expressions of the heart.

You may, at this point, feel that this sicha is only for Tisha B'Av. but I refer you to p.xvii in the overview where Rabbi Feuer writes that he started to translate the kinnos on the day after Simchas Torah. He asked his rebbi, Harav Mordechai Gifter how to get into the mood after such a happy day, and Tisha B'Av so far off in the future?

Rav Gifter responded, "You are mistaken, Kinnos is not only for Tisha B'Av, they are for the entire year, except that throughout the year we recite Kinnos in a whisper, while on Tisha B'Av we shout them out loud! Whoever neglects Kinnos all year long and attempts to start reciting them on Tisha B'Av will not succeed in saying them even then, because he will recite the verses without any feeling and he will become bored. We must cry and mourn over the Churban all year long, in every season, and then our Kinnos will reach their climax of pain on Tisha B'Av!"

Rabbi Feuer (p.xiv) brings a beautiful story with Rabbi Aryeh Levin a man of rare compassion and sensitivity.

Once a distraught, recently widowed woman came to him and cried uncontrollably. All of his efforts to console her were of no avail. Finally the widow said that she would accept consolation if he could please answer the following question.

"Please tell me what happened to all of my tears? I prayed and prayed for my late husband, I recited chapter after chapter of Tehilim, and shed thousands upon thousands of tears. My very soul flowed into those tears. Were they all wasted?"

Gently, Rav Aryeh replied, "After a hundred and twenty years, when you will leave this world and ascend to the heavenly tribunal, you will see how meaningful and precious your tears were. You will discover that Hashem Himself gathered them in and counted every single teardrop and treasured it like a priceless gem. And you will discover that, whenever some harsh and evil decree was looming over the Jewish people, one of your tears came and washed the evil away, making it null and void. Even one sincere tear is a source of salvation!"

Hearing this the woman burst into a fresh flow of tears - not tears of sorrow and grief, but tears of courage and hope.

Rabbi Krohn, in "Around the Maggid's Table," p. 118 tells a moving story about the Chazon Ish-Rav Avrohom Yeshayahu Karelitz, z.t.l. and yibodel l'chaim Rav Yaacov Galinsky.

In 1950, the Chazon Ish had asked Rav Galinsky to keep his eye on a certain bochur who had left his non-religious kibbutz to learn in the Ponovezher Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Rav Galinsky saw that this was not an isolated case. There had been a thin but steady stream of such boys coming back to Yiddishkeit (Judaism).

Rabbi Galinsky took the liberty to ask the Chazon Ish, "Why do you suppose that so many children are now coming back to Yiddishkeit, leaving behind them the ways of their non-committed parents?"

The Chazon Ish's answer took Rabbi Galinsky by surprise.

"The generation that became non-religious came from parents who were religious. These religious parents saw what was happening with their children but, for whatever reasons, they could not stop them. They cried lonely, bitter tears, they prayed, they fasted, but it was too late to stem the tide. But Hashem does not forget a Jewish tear. If those tears of sincerity did not help to save their own children, they have helped for the grandchildren and in some cases, great-grandchildren. That's the reason why these children come back to Yiddishkeit today - because Hashem doesn't forget Jewish tears."

And now, the moment you have been waiting for. I'm finally up to the Jewish Observer story that I referred to at the beginning of this sicha. (J.O. December, '98-p.47-"Jump Start, Delay, and a Siyum Mishnayos")

This story will show us a step further. That sometimes tears have a delayed reaction for the person they were addressed to. Even though, at the beginning they don't seem to have an effect, years later they can reach their mark.

The story is about a fellow who makes a Siyum Mishnayos on Shas for his father's yahrzeit on the hundredth year of his father coming to America. He retells the trials and tribulations that his father went through.

He tells how the "Goldene Medina" (Golden Land-a named ascribed to America) made his family goyim. He was the youngest of nine children. The other eight had already severed their ties with Yiddishkeit. His father's last hope was his youngest son Mordechai, who was being pressed by his father to enroll in Yeshiva College.

Finally, on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, he courageously approached his father before davening and said, "Papa, I'm not going to Yeshivah College. I'm not going to lay tefillin anymore. I'm not going to shul on Shabbos, and I'm going to be just like my brothers and my sisters and my friends."

The author continues, "The courage dropped from my hands as I lifted them up to protect myself from the expected slap....My father's eyes blazed, and he stepped toward me. Suddenly he stopped and began to plead. 'Motke, du bist die letzte - Mordechai, you're the last one. My last hope. You are not like the others. Don't say what you said. G-D forgive you, don't mean what you said.'

I was shocked to hear my father beg. Begging was not his way to deal with the family. I realized that he must be deeply wounded if he didn't attempt to hit me. I couldn't bear to see his hurt. I loved him.

'Papa, please don't make me learn to be a rabbi. I just want to be like my friends and everyone else in the family.'

'So don't be a rabbi. You can still be a good Jew-put on teffilin, stay kosher, keep Shabbos. But don't you also become a goy like the others. It's enough for me that I raise eight goyim. I don't need nine. Motke, Motke, it's enough already.'

Papa burst into tears. I also burst into tears and threw my arms around him. 'Papa, Papa, please don't cry. I don't want to hurt you. It makes no sense to me to be frum (religious), but I'll try, I'll try.'

For this sixteen-year old, the tears were soon forgotten and I went the way of my brothers and sisters, and all the other Jews charmed by America.

Later in life I remembered the tears. When my son, Shlomo Michael, who is named after my father, wrote me to tell me that he was learning at Yeshiva Ohr Somayach to learn what it means to be a Jew, I immediately flew to Jerusalem to talk him out of his nahreshkeit (foolishness). Then I remembered my father's tears.

So on this centennial of my father's coming to America and on his Yahrzeut, I want this siyum to tell America: 'America you beat us Jews bad, but you didn't win.'

And to tell my father, 'Papa, you were beaten badly, but didn't lose.' "

There is one more story about crying which I would like to retell. This is one of Rav Shalom Shwadron's, ztl. classic stories and I was privileged to hear it directly from him. (Can also be found in "Around the Maggid's Table", p..118-119.) Rav Shalom, ztl. heard it cited in the name of the Bialystoker Maggid, R' Myrim Hillel Rappaport (1870-1963). Some say that the story was first told by the Minsker Maggid, R' Binyomin Shakovitsky (1863-1938).

The Bialystoker Maggid told how he was once walking in the street and heard a faint cry coming from inside a building. No one was doing anything about it, so he decided to see what it was all about.

As he walked into the building, the crying got louder. Finally he pinpointed it to the second floor.

He found it came from an open apartment. When nobody answered his knock on the door, he went in to investigate. No one was there. But still he could hear the wailing. He finally located the wailing coming from a closet in one of the rooms.

He opened the closet door and saw that it was a tallis that was crying. The maggid, quite taken aback, looked down at the tallis and said, "Tallis'l, tallis'l, why are you crying"?

The tallis responded, "My owner and his family have all left for their summer vacation. They took their clothing, food and furniture, but they left me here alone, forsaken and forgotten."

The Bialystoker Maggid smiled at the tallis and said thoughtfully, "Tallis'l, tallis'l, don't feel bad. There will come a time when your owner will take a long trip- and you will be the only thing he will take along." (There is an almost universal Jewish custom to bury a man in the tallis he wore while he was alive).

The tallis, to the Bialystoker Maggid, represented everything that is spiritual in this world. It is that, and not material things, that man 'takes along' with him after he has lived his prescribed years on this earth.

"How wise then is the man," says Rav Shalom, "who enhances his spiritual life in this world so that he has ample 'baggage' to take along with him on his final voyage!"

In conclusion, I just want to point out- who knows how many tears our parents and grandparents shed for us. Let those tears find their mark and let us not push them to another generation. Maybe in that merit we wont have to cry for the next generation. May we merit the coming of Eliyahu and Mashiach and the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:23-24- "Vheyshiv leiv avos al banim vleiv bonim al avosom-and he shall return the heart of parents to children and the heart of children to their parents." And the prophesy of Yishayahu 25:8 "....umacha hashem elokim dima me'al kol panim...-...may Hashem elokim wipe away tears from every face... Amen.

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