“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come … Before the silver cord snaps and the golden bowl is shattered and the pitcher is broken at the fountain.” (Koheles 12:1ff) When I hear these words, a terrible sadness overcomes me. I think about how many minutes and seconds I have wasted, the shortness of life, the few moments we have in this world … and then we lie in the dust!
Last Motzae Shabbos, during Melave Malka, a glass pitcher shattered at our table.
And now we come to Tisha B’Av, when everything shattered.
I read in the Artscroll biography of Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l a moshul. They built a yeshiva building in Baranovich in 1911 at tremendous sacrifice. There was no money, but they managed to build it. At the dedication, Rabbi Wasserman said the following story: a king made a great celebration for his subjects, with feasting and music. But the king’s son was depressed and was not able to join the celebration. One of the king’s advisors counseled, “Have the orchestra play sad, emotional music.” Hearing the sad music, the king’s son began sobbing. The advisor then said, “Quickly now, play happy, fast music,” and the king’s son snapped out of his depression.
Rabbi Wasserman was placing the building of the yeshiva in the context of the terrible nisyonos of those times, when all of Yiddishkeit was threatened by alien philosophies and the First World War was about to overthrow the entire world of European Torah communities.
My friends, we are coming to Tisha b’Av. It is a time to let our tears flow freely. It is time to open our hearts to the tragedies around us, the bitterness and pain of this Golus. At this very moment, as I write, the leviah of Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss zt”l is unfolding in Yeru-shalayim. We are losing our towers of light as darkness closes upon us.
What was Rabbi Wasserman’s point in telling this moshul?
My friends, do we cry when we daven? If we would understand our danger, if we would stop to consider the precarious nature of our existence, we would cast ourselves in front of Hashem and pour out our hearts. Dovid ha Melech had the courage to say it: “Every night I drench my bed, with my tears I soak my couch ….” (Tehillim 6) Maybe that is why Dovid merited to be the eternal king of Israel. He felt the pain.
I knew a choshuve Yid named Amos Bunim, who sobbed hysterically every time he davened. Yes … every time! You could hear him throughout the shul. He was not embarrassed.
“Eichah … Alas, the City that was great with people has become like a widow…. She weeps bitterly in the night and the tear is on her cheek…. She has no comforter from her friends, all her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.” (Eichah 1:1-2)
My friends, if we don’t cry when we daven, then – please forgive me – I wonder whether we are davening. Yes, I also feel the pressure. I know how it is. I have an appointment after minyan and I have to rush. Next time I will daven with more kavana.
The words of Koheles ring in my ears: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come ….”
Stop! Think! Let’s not be afraid to feel the pain. You don’t have to sob so the entire shul hears you, but cover your head with your tallis and cry.
“From the day that the Temple was destroyed, the Gates of Prayer were locked … but even though the gates of prayer have been locked, the Gates of Tears have not been locked.” (Berachos 32b) This page in the Gemara (32) has the gematria of “lev … heart.” If we open our heart, the tears will flow.
Parshas Dvarim, which we read this week, begins, “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Yarden …” Where exactly were the Legions of Israel standing when Moshe spoke these words? The last possuk in Bamidbar spells it out: “In the Plains of Moav, at the Yarden, by Yericho….”
Last week, I merited to drive on the most meaningful – at least to me -- of all roads, Route 90, which runs north and south along the Jordan Valley. From there, with Yericho behind you, you can look eastward over the Yarden River, and see the Plains of Moav, the exact place which the Torah describes. You can see, in your mind’s eye, the Legions of Israel and you can hear Moshe Rabbeinu’s emotional farewell. “So I spoke to you, but you did not listen! You rebelled against the word of Hashem…” (Dvarim 1:43)
My friends, when will we wake up? When will we cry for our People and our lost Bais Hamikdosh? When will we tune out the raucous sounds emanating from the lost culture around us and remember who we are?
“Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the heaven…. A time to weep and a time to laugh…. A time to wail and a time to dance …” (Koheles 3:4)
Rabbi Wasserman’s moshul brought to mind the words of Chazal, “all those who mourn for Yerushalayim will merit to witness her joy …..” (Taanis 30b)
It is time to cry.
“Let him put his mouth to the dust … there may yet be hope.” (Eichah 3:28)
Hashem has not forgotten us.
Bais Hamikdosh: The Holy Temple, which was destroyed on the Tisha b’Av
Bnai Yisroel: The Children of Israel
Chazal: Rabbis of the Mishna and Gemora
Choshuve: Spiritually elevated
Gematria: Numerical value
Kavanah: Spiritual concentration
Melave Malka: Meal Saturday night after Shabbos ends
Nisyonos: Spiritual tests
Possuk: Sentence in the Torah
Yarden: Jordan River