Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
The Dual Role of Tears
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012 11:52:21 AM
Number of views: 2445

We have all cried – sometimes from joy, more often from sorrow. Why do we express both opposite emotions in the exact same way? Why is G-d, usually so generous with the wondrous resources with which He has endowed us, so restricting in this respect? Was there not some way to differentiate more clearly between joy and sorrow?

On a physiological level, the encyclopedia informs us, “Strong emotions cause the tear ducts to constrict and to emit tears.” That is the technical explanation of tears. It seems logical that strong emotions should cause constriction, which sets the process of crying in motion, and tear ducts are unable to differentiate between sorrow and joy. However, let us try to understand why G-d causes it to work just this way.

The answer may be found in Zechariah 8:19.

“Thus speaks Hashem of Hosts, the fast of the fourth month [Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz] and the fast of the fifth month [Tish’ah B’Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedaliah] and the fast of the tenth month [Asarah B’ Teves] will one day turn into days of joy and celebration for the House of Yehudah, provided only that the people will learn to love truth and peace.” The theme that sorrow will one day not only give way to joy but actually turn into joy is a basic principle of Judaism.

An example of this idea appears in Yirmiyahu 31:12.

“Then [in the Messianic Era] the young women will dance joyously; young men and elders together. I [G-d] will turn their mourning to joy. I [G-d] will comfort them and cheer them in their grief and sorrow.”

This verse echoes clearly the statement that we saw expressed by Zechariah. Yirmiyahu is not predicting some new, joyous celebration with no roots in the past. Rather, G-d will turn the mourning of centuries of exile into joy and celebration.

We began this article by wondering why suffering and sorrow and also joy and happiness should express themselves in identical ways. Why do both opposite emotions bring us to tears? We have now discovered that the technical explanation that we stated above expresses a much deeper concept and reality. The suffering and troubles that overtake us  bring us to tears when they strike us with their cruel force, and later they bring us to tears when we finally are released from them. This is because it is all from the Hand of the One G-d. As the Torah tells us in Devarim 32, “I [G-d] wound, and I heal.” G-d strikes, and G-d heals. He brings suffering in order that we may be healed and comforted. The sorrow and the suffering is the mask, and the rejoicing is the reality.

Only when the going gets tough, do the tough get going. As the Mishnah states in Tractate Avot, “According to the pain is the gain.” In other words, no pain no gain. G-d’s game plan is to cause us to soar to Him through our sorrow and pain. My wife and I have personal experience and first hand knowledge in this matter.

We have shed many tears throughout our long, tragic and bitter exile, personally and nationally. However, the Chazon Ish stated that all those tears have not been lost. Not even one teardrop has disappeared. G-d has carefully and lovingly collected and stored each and every one of them. The time will come when all of our tears will return to us transformed into tears of joy, and we will welcome them together with Melech HaMoshiach, may he come speedily in our time.

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