The Gates of Tears are Never Closed- 9 Av 2006
The Gates of Tears Are Never Closed
For the refua shlaima of Ita Riva Bat Leah (Iris Block)
“On the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and we also cried as we remembered Zion”
.( Tehillim 137:1 )
….As we remembered Gilad ben Aviva, Eldad ben Tova, Ehud ben Malka….As we remembered the soldiers, the wounded, the dead, the maimed.
When war broke out on the 17th of Tamuz, we looked at each other in surety. We knew that this was the time of punishment for us, of sorrow. We expected the worse – after all these were the three weeks, a time destined for sorrow.
Missiles rained upon Israel. Families were dislocated, refugees in our own country. The lives of innocent Jews were once again cut off. Cities were held hostage. Soldiers went off to war, and we held our collective breath – will they return? Will they return whole?
We were sure that this was a message from Hashem. A tochacha. A warning. As we read the newspapers, or heard the radio, we also read and heard the subtext: These are the three weeks, a time set aside of suffering.
We have experienced losses, unbearable losses: boys at the front, citizens working, riding a car, sitting in their homes. Mothers have been bereaved of sons; children have lost fathers.
Now it is Tisha B’Av.
Our Rabbis teach us that from the time of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, all the gates of Tefilla are closed except for the gates of tears. The gates of tears are never locked. And whereas it is true that any time we are in pain and sorrow and fear, we can cry out to Hashem with our tears; there is a time set aside in the Jewish calendar that is specifically for tears – that time is Tisha B’Av.
Just like the High Holy Days are a time for Teshuva , and on those Days of Awe, Hashem determines our year, so too on Tisha b’Av is a time for our tears and our crying affects the rest of the year.
Tisha B’Av is a time to contemplate and evaluate the status of the Jewish people, to feel our failures and our spiritual lowliness. It is the time to remember that whatever generation did not merit to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash is guilty as if they destroyed it. Tisha B’av is a time to cry because we continue to destroy the Beit HaMikdash.
If we don’t cry, how will our year be determined? What will happen to us if, on 9 Av, we do not open the Gates of Tears? The tears of 9 Av affect the rest of the year. The tears of Tisha B’av can break through the barriers.
I am speaking not only about wet tears that flow down your eyes, but internal tears, crying inside. .
9 Av is called a moed, just as Shabbos and Pesach are called moadim. A moed is a time that has a particular focus and purpose. Tisha b‘av is a moed for crying.
Yeshayahu 54:9 called the flood in the time of Noach, “Noach’s Waters” and our Rabbi explain the reason that the flood is called by his name is that Noach was responsible for the flood. The people of Noach’s generation sinned greatly. They were corrupt and guilty of every form of sexual immorality, yet the flood is not called by their name,, but by the name of the only Tzaddik who lived at that time!
It must be because Noach should have prayed on their behalf, beseeching the Heavens, yet he did not. It must be because, although Noach was a tzaddik, he did not feel the pain of seeing the others in their gross immorality.
He did not cry for them. He was not sorrowful, pained and sad. He did not feel sorry for them, or worry about their fate.
Still, after almost a year in the Ark, when he emerged from the Ark, he saw the devastation. He saw that all was lost, there was no one left, the world was destroyed. Then he cried. He cried and he brought sacrifices and he prayed. Because of those tears, and because of those sacrifices and because of those prayers, Hashem swore never to destroy the world again with a flood.
This is why Noach was blamed for the flood. His tears after the flood were so powerful that the strength of them convinced Hashem to swear never to bring another flood. The tears flowing from Noach’s eyes before the flood, might have prevented the destruction! Perhaps Noachs’ tears would have moved his generation to change. Perhaps Noach’s tears would have moved Hashem to desist from bringing a flood at all.
Rashi teaches that Noach was among those of “little faith” and therefore, he did not enter the ark until the rain became strong. That is hard to understand – after all, Noach spent 120 years building the ark. He built it despite the fact that many in his generation sought to kill him for his endeavors. He gathered the animals to enter the ark. He heard the voice of God with his own ears. How could one say he was of “little faith”
Rav Pinkus answered this question. Noach knew that Hashem had decreed a death sentence on his generation. However, he thought that Hashem would be merciful and that at the last moment, His Midas HaRachamim (mercy) would take charge. He never believed that the Midas HaDin (justice, punishment/reward) would carry out the flood.
This was his lack of faith. He did not believe that Hashem would destroy the world. This is why he didn’t pray and he didn’t cry. He relied on the mercy of Hashem. The world was destroyed.
In contrast, when Haman vowed to exterminate the Jews, Mordechai knew that this was a decree from Heaven. Although the words, “to destroy, kill and exterminate all of the Jews” were spoken by Haman, the decree was from Hashem. Mordechai believed that the Midas Hadin would prevail.
Therefore he cried to Hashem. “When Mordechai perceived all that was done, Mordechai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the midst of the city and cried with a loud and a bitter cry” ( Esther 4;1)
The threat was real to him, the anger of Hashem was tangible. He didn’t rationalize, and convince others that it would not happen, because of Hashem’s great mercy. Instead, he told them it would happen! But that they should plead, beg, cry before the Only One who could save them.
“In every province, wherever the king’s commandment and his decrees came, there was a great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping and wailing: and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” ( Esther 4: 3)
Mordechai gathered all the children to fast and pray. He did this because he knew that the destruction would happen. He knew they deserved it and that Hashem runs the world on Din (justice). He cried, and he prayed that Hashem should have mercy and nullify the terrible decree. He begged Hashem to turn aside Din, to act with Rachamim and to spare His people.
If Mordechai had thought: Hashem is merciful and He would never allow His people to be destroyed, then he wouldn’t have prayed. The destruction of Jews in Persia would have taken place.
A Time to Cry
9 Av is a time for us to cry. It is a time to remember that all the threats promised in the tochacha (rebuke) are true and that all of the troubles can descend upon us as they have in other generations. We should not be “little of faith” to think they could never come! We should feel the flood of fire in this world, feel the spiritual emptiness of the vast majority of Jewry, we should tremble and be fearful for our future. We should know the danger we are in: ayt tzara leYakov, a time of trouble for Yakov.
Perhaps this is the biggest chesed of the war we have faced for the last three weeks. There have been many kindnesses Hashem has shown us during this time, but perhaps the biggest chesed is that the war has forced us to cry.
If not for the war today, we would have gone through the three weeks, we would have fasted as we are supposed to. We would have refrained from music, as we are supposed to. We would not have bought or worn new clothes. That is the halacha and we keep the halacha.
But if it were not for the war, we wouldn’t have cried. We wouldn’t have cried in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our prayers. We wouldn’t have mourned for what should be and isn’t. We would not have engaged in the introspection, asking ourselves the questions; What did we do wrong? What do we need to fix? How should we entreat the Holy One blessed be He?
The chesed of HKB is that He gave us this opportunity to fear, to feel and to cry out in sincerity for His salvation. We should cry for those displaced families, for the bereaved families, for our missing soldiers. We should and do feel their sorrow, their bewilderment, their loss and their fear.
But we should not only cry for those displaced families, for the bereaved families, for our missing soldiers. We should cry for the lost spiritual state of this country and of world Jewry. 9 Av is a time to cry for what isn’t and what could be.
There so many things to cry for. We should cry because of the high percentage of intermarriage in the Jewish world and for the lost children of those families who don’t even know the verse, Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. We should cry for the lost Jewish souls who may never find their way back to their spiritual center.
We should cry that even here in Israel, there are so many marriages of Jews and non-Jews. We should cry because we are losing track of who is Jewish because of the flow of non-Jewish immigrants into the country. We should cry because perhaps a time is coming that our children will not be allowed to marry their children because we won’t know if they are Jews.
We should cry that while we, the religious public, read the subtext of the headlines, the vast majority of Jews in the world do not see the hand of Hashem in our victories, even more so in our losses.
We should cry because we didn’t cry over the unholy parade that was to take place in Jerusalem. Because we didn’t adequately feel the pain of the Shechina in seeing His holy city defiled.
We should cry because over 300 religious girls do not have a place in high school in the coming year. Is this not cruel and unjust? Are we not a community that who commits to educate every Bat Yisroel as is her due?
We should cry because the pull of the street has become so big that we sometimes don’t even realize how much it pulls us in the wrong direction. We should cry because we have let it into our home, thinking that it is harmless, when in fact it eats away at our foundations.
This is the short list. I am sure that you can add many, many items to is.
We should cry like Noach could have cried - for his generation who deserved destruction. We should cry like Mordechai – because we are facing din and we do not deserve to be saved. We should be begging, crying and pleading for Hashem to spare our generation, from this war, and from the spiritual devastation of our generation.
We should cry because 9Av is a moed – a time set aside for tears, a time when we can break barriers with our tears.
Our Rabbis expound on the verse “By the Waters of Babylon, we sat and we also cried when we remembered Zion.” When the Jews reached Babylonia, and the prophet Yirmiyahu was leaving them to return to Eretz Yisroel, as God had commanded him, they began to cry and scream: Rabbeinu Yirmiyahu, are you leaving us here? He answered them: I testify by the heaven and the earth, that if you had cried one good cry while you were still in Zion, you would never have been exiled. (Midrash Socher Tov 137)
We need to cry a good cry. The power of a cry can prevent exile. The power of a cry can bring us home to where we need to be. Tisha B’av has the power of tears. And if we cry, we can prevent terrible decrees from befalling us.
Hashem has prepared us for this crying. For three weeks, He has reminded us to cry. He has spoken through the voice of our enemy.
Our Rabbis teach: “Every single day a Bat Kol ( heavenly voice) emanates from Mount Horev, proclaiming and saying, ‘Woe to them, to the people, because of [their] insult to Torah’” (Pirke Avos Chapter 6)
We understand that there was a time in Israel, when the Jewish people were on a high level, a time when the righteous of that generation were able to hear this bat kol. We also know that even we, who live in a generation that is not on a high level, hear the bat kol in our insides, subconsciously. Deep inside, the bat kol penetrates and we hear the Truth, we hear what is right. Subconsciously, that bat kol strengthens us, guides us.
But today, it is possible to say that the bat kol speaks to us a different way. Perhaps we are not on a sufficient level to hear the bat kol even inside of ourselves. Rav Pinkus explains that events of the world and specifically those events that happen to the Jewish people are a bat kol, a Heavenly voice.
There is a Heavenly voice coming to tell us that the Torah is insulted, that we have not honored it. I do not come to tell you what the voice is saying. Our Gedolim have sent out letters, and they have given advice, and even they have said; we do not know.
But it should be clear that what is happening is Divine hashgacha (intervention). It is true we may not totally understand the message, but we know it is a message. It is also true that although we don’t understand the message, we have to listen and we have to feel the events. We need to know that they are the voices that are shouting at us from Heaven.
Hagaon Rav Elchanan Wasserman (Hashem yikom damo) who was murdered by the Nazis (yemach shmam) used to say; Even today when there are no prophets, there is a way that Hashem speaks to us, and that is; through the voices of the enemies of Israel. When we are meritorious, we hear the bat kol from Horev, When we are not meritorious, we hear the voice through our enemies.
Rav Wasserman said this before the Shoah – that whatever Hitler was saying, was the bat kol from Heaven. When we look at the decrees Hitler made on the Jewish people, we know that Rav Elchanan was correct:
A number of years before the Shoah, there was a law enacted in Germany forbidding mixed marriages, so as not to contaminate the Arian race. Was that not a bat kol from Heaven?
It was forbidden to educate Jewish children in German classrooms. This was also a bat kol. Jewish children need to learn in Jewish classrooms and they need to learn Jewish subjects.
There was a law in Germany that it was forbidden for Jews to gather in public gatherings (at a time when Jews used to participate in “cultural evenings” with Germans). It was permissible for Jews to gather only in shuls and batei Midrash. Another bat kol.
Law after anti-Semitic law – but in fact, they were each a bat kol through which Hashem was speaking to us.
That is what our Rabbis mean when they say a bat kol comes every day. – Hashem has never left us. He sends us messages that we need to hear.
Also today there is a bat kol. We must listen to what it is telling us.
What are our enemies saying? They are saying that we don’t have a right to Eretz Yisroel. Is that not true? Do we deserve the land that has been given to us? Have we lived up to the gift that Hashem has given us?
Hashem warned us: “Beware lest our heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you. He will restrain the heavens so there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce and you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land which Hashem gives you: (Devarim 122)
What else do our enemies say? They are saying that are army is weak, that it has been weak since 1967. And it is true. Though we have dedicated soldiers, brilliant generals, excellent strategists, our strength lies with Hashem, not with our army.
It is true - our army is weak - without Hashem. We have no victories without Hashem.
Yet we rely on our army totally. Yes we daven, but at the same time, we follow the newspapers like it all depends on strategy, and smart bombs, and the best air force in the world.
“And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this strength. But you shall remember the Lord your God: for it is He who gives power to get strength …. If you walk after other gods, and serve them and worship them, I will testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyed before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God” (Devarim 8:17-20)
Our enemies are saying; God is great. That is a message from Hashem, as well. Hashem is great – He can punish us with a strong arm, or save us with the blink of an eye.
We are not winning this war. After 5000 sortees over Lebanon, after bombing major centers of terrorism, we are not winning this war. Yesterday 250 missiles were launched into Israel reaching as far as Beit Shean.
But it is not too late. Hashem is great. With His help, we can still win. Hashem is great.
We should not be of little faith, like Noach, thinking that Hashem would never execute judgments and that we can always count on His mercy. We need to beg Hashem to show His mercy, not to assume it will be ok. To plead like Mordechai that our enemies who seek to destroy us should not succeed.
We need to cry.