Cry Baby Cry

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Did you ever notice how much Joseph cries in the story of his descent to Egypt? More than once, when the brothers stood before him, he’s forced to excuse himself and cry from his emotions.  He cries when he sees Benjamin for the first time. After revealing himself, he cries on the shoulders of all of the brothers. Then he cries on Benjamin’s neck. When he sees his father after 22 years, he cries. I once counted (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Torah mentions Joseph’s crying 8 times, (and we all know how connected Joseph is to Chanukah, so it’s no coincidence).

Why does Joseph cry more than any other character in Tanach? There were others who experienced pain and suffering too, but why is he always crying?

If I would have to find Joseph’s one defining quality, I would say it is his clear recognition of Divine Providence. After twelve years in prison, he is whisked out of the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh, who says to him, “I hear you know how to interpret dreams”. He answers, “It’s not me! The Lord will provide Pharaoh with peace”. This is how he rose to the top of every place he found himself, as Rashi (Genesis 39:3) points out “the name of Heaven was frequently in his mouth”. The most stark example of his oneness with the Divine plan is what he says to brothers right after he reveals himself to them. “But now don’t be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you”. His ability to see Divine Providence is truly amazing!

So why is he alway crying?

In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling.

I can only imagine those dark years that Joseph was alone in the dungeon. Here is a kid who knew how great he was and believed in his destiny to rule and yet he finds himself all alone, incarcerated in the most corrupt place on earth. I’m sure he shed an innumerable amount of bitter tears to Hashem in that dark place. I bet he cried and cried, but I think that every time he cried he felt somewhat better and he was able to see a little more light at the end of the tunnel.  All of his crying gave him the eyes of God, as the Rebbe says. After all those tears, he became absolutely one with the hand of God. This is why he was crying more than anybody else and this is why every where he went he was successful, because his pain toughened him up so much that when he saw something, he saw it exactly as Hashem saw it. His struggles didn’t drown him. In the end, they aligned him.

Maybe this is another meaning of the verse about Joseph (Psalms 105:19) “אִמְרַ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה צְרָפָֽתְהוּ”. “The word of God purified him”. The fact that he always spoke of God, and spoke to God in his pain, purified him.

Don’t mention it

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Exhibit A:

Studies show that depression and anxiety are more rampant than ever. Suicide, drug and alcohol abuse and divorce are at all-time highs as well. The number one cause of death in the world is heart disease and depressed people are four times as likely to have a heart attack.

Exhibit B:

We all agree that the western world is currently undergoing an information revolution. We have far superior technological capacity to store, communicate and compute information than ever before. This technology not only gives us access to scientific, behavioral and literary information that was inaccessible prior to, but it also compounds and speeds up the level of produced information in the world as well.

But more information isn’t bad, is it? Well, it depends on how the information is presented and who it’s presented to. If scientific information is presented, as it mostly is, with the intention to belittle faith and increase skepticism, it can be a dangerous medium of information. When it’s presented to people whose faith is weak, whether because they’re religious education was poor or whether they went through some traumatic events within the religious system, those recipients of that information will likely buy-in to the anti-religious peripherals that swarm around their beloved information.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that all the pain and suffering in the world is from not believing in Divine Providence (Torah 250). I believe that so much of the scientific information which we read and circulate, that is presented without the intent to glorify God’s presence in the world, has the opposite effect. Just merely reading about scientific breakthroughs that coincidentally omit the existence of our Creator infuses us with doubt as to His existence, and ultimately His Guidance. In my opinion this is a huge factor behind the increase of depression, atheism and overall hopelessness that pervades the world.

The central theme of Pesach is faith. As Reb Nosson explains (Netilas Yadayim 2), Chometz represents the atheistic scientists and Matzoh represents those who believe in Hashem’s providence. For seven days we need to rid ourselves totally of any denial or doubt of Hashem’s supremacy in our daily lives. It’s not an easy battle. We really need to topple over that doubtful side of us, just like the Egyptians had to be drowned in the sea. I’m sure many might read this article and think “Oh please! I believe in Hashem and nothing I read or see has any effect on that for me”. Let’s not lie to ourselves. At least for those seven days, let’s stop the evil inculcation and only imbue within ourselves strong teachings of faith and belief. Beware though, you might actually start to feel happy. You’ll probably be less cynical and more hopeful too. Consider yourself warned. Happy Passover!

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Holy tears

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The Talmud tells a story about Rav Ketina, who was passing by the door of a wizard when the earth shook violently. He asked the wizard, “Do you know what causes an earthquake”? The wizard replied, “When the Holy One remembers that His children are suffering among the nations, He sheds two tears into the Great Sea, and His voice is heard from one end of the world to the other (Berachos 59a).

I just came back from Leżajsk where we visited the grave of the great chassidic master, Rav Elimelech from Lizhensk, who’s yahrtzeit is today. It was a very powerful experience to be together with thousands of Jews who make the yearly pilgrimage. There is a tradition passed down from several chassidic masters that whoever visits his grave will certainly be inspired to come back to Hashem before he leaves this world. I felt that feeling of Tshuva when I was there. It was a little scary, but good-scary. I spent a lot of time talking to the tzaddik about my friends and loved ones. I felt so much unique love for many of the people whose names I brought to the Rebbe, smiling as I pictured them in my head. I had a certain clarity when characterizing their situations to the Rebbe, as well as when I discussed my own circumstances. I shed tears and felt waves of truth crashing over me. I don’t easily cry but sometimes the tears were to be expected and sometimes not.

In Torah 250 Rebbe Nachman explains the meaning of tears. He says that all the pain and suffering of this world stems from lacking the knowledge of Divine providence. If we truly appreciated that Hashem is running things behind the scenes, we wouldn’t experience any suffering. The problem is that we feel like nature is running it’s course, which causes us great anguish. When somebody cries from pain he’s lacking that understanding of Divine Providence. The tears that come out of his eyes are infused with awareness of Hashem and a clearer vision of His providence. In a certain sense, he loses his own vision and is imbued with God’s vision. (The Rebbe brings a number of sources for this). This is why after we cry, we feel better. Because crying is transformative. It’s not only an expression of the pain, but it’s also a remedy of that feeling. Not only that, but seeing someone else we love cry can arouse us to cry too. Truth is contagious. Unfortunately we go through much of life wearing an armor of defense, so we can escape the uncomfortability of feeling vulnerable. But it’s important to be real and allow ourselves to be exposed every once in awhile, so our true soul could shine and draw down all the remedies it knows it needs.

 

 

 

לעילוי נשמת הצדיק של הצדיקים רבינו אלימלך בן הרב אליעזר ליפמן זצ״ל