Dear readers:

Sadly, our tradition is replete with the theme of tears; we devote this edition of JHOM, which is published in the sorrowful month of Av, to TEARS.

People cry, angels cry, even God Himself cries. The first tear was given by God as a gift to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; God arms the two with a powerful therapeutic tool — a good cry - as they set out to face the tribulations of the real world. In various midrashic interpretations of the Akedah (the Binding of Isaac) story, Abraham weeps as he takes the knife into his hand, and then the angels weep, their tears blunting his knife and his eyes. An echo of this story is found in a story from the Zohar (a mystical work composed in the 13th cent.), in which God is moved by the tears of a child weeping over his dead father.

Avivah Zornberg Gottlieb's looks closely at the tears of Joseph, who weeps three times in the course of his masquerade with his brothers.

The destruction of the Temples and the exile of the Jews from their land bring on bitter weeping. Writes the author of Lamentations: "[Jerusalem] weeps in the night, and her tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her." In commemoration of the Ninth of Av which marks the destruction of the Temples, we include an early dirge, "Zion Weeps," which is traditionally read on the synagogue on the eve of the fast day.

In this month's edition on TEARS we read also of Rabbi Akiba who stood apart from his companions following the exile, laughing while they wept. According to the midrash from the School of Elijah, both God and Israel continue to weep through the long "night of exile." It is said that as the children of Israel cry throughout their bitter history, a waterskin fills up with their tears; when there is no longer room for a single tear more, the Messiah is destined to come. A folktale entitled "Jar of Tears" seems to be inspired by this tradition.

Prof. Moshe Idel studies mystical weeping which, like many other mystical techniques, allows the mystic to take initiative in establishing contact with other realms. And finally, medieval poet Judah Halevi asks questions of tears and inscribes a poem upon his friend's gravestone.

The Psalmist sings (Psalms 126): "Though he goes along weeping, carrying the seed bag, he shall come back with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves." André Neher writes of these tears:

"It is not the harvest that is important: what is important is the sowing, the risk, the tears. Hope is not in laughter and plenitude. Hope is in tears, in the risk and in its silence." This, then, is our hope: that the waterskin that is filled with tears be emptied upon the parched land and seed it, and that harvest spring forth.



Subscribe to the JHOM mailing list for updates.

Contact us

Tell a friend