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
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
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