Parshas Vayigash 2009
Why does a Jew Cry?
The pasuk in this weeks’ parsha tells us; “V’lo yachol Yosef l’hisapek l’chol hanitzavim alav…vayitein es kolo b’bchi” – “and Yosef could not contain his emotions in front of all of the assembled people….and he raised his voice and wept”.
The fact that Yosef wept when he divulged his identity to the brothers, is self understood. However, in this weeks parsha we find that Yosef wept again and again. In fact, there are at least several recorded instances in the parsha where Yosef “raised his voice in crying”.
When the brothers first came down to Egypt and Yosef overheard them expressing regret over selling him, the pasuk says he began to cry. Later on, when the brothers brought Binyomin to Egypt and took him in front of Yosef, the pasuk says that Yosef “picked up his eyes and saw his brother (Binyomin) and was overcome with a desire to cry, so he exited to his private chambers and wept. Then, when he finally revealed himself to Binyomin, he not only raised his voice in weeping, but he actually “fell on his brothers shoulders and they wept together.” Later on it says that when Yosef finally met his father Yaakov Avinu after their long separation from each other, what happens?….Yaakov Avinu recites Krias Shema (there is a beautiful Pshat to explain this..) and Yosef weeps on his fathers shoulders. Finally, at the end of the parsha it says that when the brothers offered themselves as slaves, Yosefs’ immediate reaction was to weep. Furthermore, the Torah makes a point of explaining that Yosef didn’t simply cry – rather, he could not contain himself in his desire to cry (“v’lo yachol l’hisapek). We see from these pesukim, that Yosefs entire being was saturated with emotional expression.
Indeed, this expression was not limited to Yosef. His mother, our Rachel Imeinus’ entire essence is also one of constant weeping, – to the point, where the pasuk in Yirmiyah says that Hashem told Rachel “mini kolech mibechi, v’eiynayich min dimah, ki yesh sachar l’peulasech” – “please cease your crying, for there is much merit to it and in your zechus I will return your children to their boundaries”.
The reality is that Yosef Hatzadik represents the basic essence of the Jewish people. As the pasuk says, “habein yakir li Efraim”. Therefore, if the Torah is telling us that Yosef was constantly crying, this means by extention that the Jewish people feature and inherently posses this ability to cry.
The question is; why does a Jew cry?
Perhaps one would think that we, the Jewish nation, cry because weare constantly faced with trials and tribulations? However, we see from these pesukim that Yosef did not simply cry as a result of a danger etc. Rather, in every action that he did, he would cry. He saw his brothers express regret over having sold him…nu? ..so he ought to have been happy?..yet, we see that he actually cried. He finally meets his Father…he cries. etc.
In general, we find that the Jewish people have a tendency to express their emotions by crying. Today, in our modern world, it is no longer a virtue, ”in vogue”, or “stylish” to cry. However, in previous generations, a Jew was defined by his/her ability to cry.
So again, the question begs a deeper explanation. Why do we cry so much and why do we posses this intrinsic quality?
The Nations of the World do not understand the true concept of crying.
In the sefer Toras Haolah of the REMA (see hakdamah), it tells the story that when Yirmiyah the prophet saw the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, he fell on the rubble of the Temple and wept. At that moment, the noted Greek philosopher, Afalton, was passing by and noticed Yirmiyah weeping on the stones. He asked the prophet, (they say) “you are the wisest of the Jewish people and yet you see fit to cry over sticks and stones”?! He expressed amazement at this and asked Yirmiyah why he would cry over the past? What was in the past is gone forever (he argued) and a wise person must not cry over the past, but rather seek to build a new future!
Yirmiyah answered the philosopher and he said, “you are the great Greek philosopher and I’m sure you have certain questions that have been bothering you for some time with no good answers. Perhaps I can help answer your questions”? Said the Philosopher, it is true that I have many questions. However, I’m not sure that anyone is capable of answering these questions. Said Yirmiyah, ask and I shall answer. The philosopher then proceeded to ask Yirmiyah all of the different philosophical questions which had been bothering him for a very long time and Yirmiyah proceeded to answer each and every one with alacrity! The philosopher was absolutely astounded at Yirmiyas’ incredible wisdom and expressed amazement in this regard. Said Yirmiya, you should know that ALL of the widom that I posses, comes from these woods and stones! Furthermore said Yirmiya, that you asked me why I cry over the past, is something which I cannot explain to you since this is a deep concept and involves an explanation which you would not succeed in understanding. Only a Jew can understand the depth of the concept of crying over the past!
Let us analyze what Yirmiyah was telling this Philosopher. He did not tell him that he would not understand because he was thickheaded. Indeed, Afalton was a great Philosopher! Rather, Yirmiya was telling him that since he was a goy, he was simply not conditioned to understand this concept, which even the simple of the Jewish people could inherently understand.
The Alter of Kelm writes in his Sefer, Chochma Umusar, how the famous philosopher Aristotle (of whom the RAMBAM writes that his intellect was a tad lower than that of a prophet) was not a greater chacham than himself, simply because he was a goy.
Therefore, we see from here that the depth of our ability to cry, is an exclusive phenomena of the Jewish people and we need to understand its significance.
Yosef Hatzadik Connects Heaven & Earth
Let us consider and analyze the middos and traits of Yosef Hatzadik.
There is a pasuk in Divrei Hayamim which we say every day. This is the pasuk of “Lecha Hashem Hagedulah V’hagevurah…Ki Chol Bashamayim Uva’aretz”.
This pasuk is enumerating the “middos” of Hasehm Yisborach, which are also incorporated by and exhibited by the Avos Hakedoshim. Of these middos, the 6th midda is called the “middas haysod” which is reflected in Yosef Hatzadik. In this pasuk, this 6th midda is manifested in the words “ki chol bashamayim uva’aretz”. The Zohar Hakadosh explains that that this is the ability (of Yosef Hatzadik) to be “me’ached shamayim va’aretz” – to connect heaven and earth.
We know that there is heaven and there is earth and there exists a huge divide between them. As the pasuk says “ki gaveihu shamayim meieretz” (Yeshaya Hanavi).
The characteristic of “ki chol bashamayim va’aretz” is the ability to make the connection and bridge the gap between heaven and earth!
A wicked person will differentiate between heaven and earth. He may agree that G-d created the earth, but he will limit his existence and influence to the heavenly spheres above. Conversely, a Tzaddik will proclaim “meloh kol ha’aretz k’vodo”! - G-ds glory fills the entire universe – heavens and earth! A righteous person recognizes that Hashem is found everywhere and he will thus appreciate the need and mandate to always live with Hashem.
This midda of being able to connect heaven and earth was a trait most reflected in Yosef Hatzadik from all of the other Avos. A “tzaddik” is one who deeply understands the need to create a synergy and make a conciliation between his physicality on this earth, with the knowledge that Hashem is always with him. This is why (only) Yosef specifically merited to achieve the title of “Yosef Hatzadik“ over the other Avos, since there was no other person with this special ability to connect these two worlds like Yosef Hatzadik!
In the reality of our physical world, we find that there are low points (Dead Sea) and high points (Mt. Everest). This is also true in a spiritual sense. The lowest (spiritual) point of the world in the time of of our forefathers, was Egypt. Within this land, Yosef found himself in the lowest spiritual place during his time in the house of Potifar, whose wife was constantly trying to seduce him.
An the opposite end of the spectrum and the highest possible spiritual place, is the Kisei Hakavod – the throne of Hashem. Yosef was able to forge a connection in this lowly spiritual place, with the beauty of the heavenly spheres, by resisting the temptations of his physicality.
Love as an emotional expression.
Perhaps now we can properly understand the special and exclusive ability of a Jew to cry. Let us use the analogy and example of two brothers living in faraway places. Say for example, one brother lives in America and the other in Israel. What is the bond that binds the two of them when they are living so far apart from each other? The answer is – love. How about when the great Chasam Sofer spoke patiently with his little child and taught him “Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe”….What was it that connected the father and son? The answer is – love.
Feelings of love is a result of a connection of the heart. To create and facilitate this connection, one must be able to tap into and give expression to his emotions. He must not be a “cold” person.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu is so far removed from us that it is often difficult for us to conjure up our emotions as a means of forging this connection with him. It is for this reason, that the Greek philosopher Afalton, could not fathom why Yirmiyah was crying over the rubble of the churban Habayis – since crying is the result of feelings of connection.
The Mesilas Yesharim explains that the feelings we should have for Hashem is no less than the feelings of love we have for our own fathers.
The approach of all of philosophy is that everything needs to be subject to proper quantification within the realm of our intellectual capabilities and our tangible physical limitations. In this vein, had the Greek philosopher Afalton, witnessed the prophet Yimiyah weeping over the death of his father, surely he would have understood the justification in such crying. However, to witness the crying resulting from the wellsprings of feelings and emotional connection which Yirmiyah felt for Hakadosh Baruch Hu; – this was something far removed from his lexicon of understanding. For this reason, he misunderstood and miscategorized Yirmiyahus’ weeping, as the superficial weeping over ‘sticks and stones’.
Says Yirmiyah to Afalton, here you see in front of your eyes the result of the destruction of our Temple and you ask me why I cry? Had I been crying over an only child who perished at sea, you wouldn’t ask me such a question. Indeed, you would understand the justification in such crying. Therefore, you should know, that my motivation in crying over our churban, is no less justified and appropriate than had I cried over the loss of a child! I cannot help but cry, because of my deep feelings for my Father in heaven. I cannot help but cry as a result of my wellsprings of love for my loving Father in heaven, whose precious Temple sits here in ruins. On the other hand, you operate with your intellect only, - you have no feelings and your heart is like stone. To you, the knowledge of G-d is a concept only. Accordingly, you see G-d as being confined and limited to the heavenly spheres, whereas you are a man of the earth. Therefore, you do not feel any connection.
However, when I think of G-D, I think of a loving Father who is involved, interested and present in my every step through the vicissitudes of life…and it is precisely for this reason that I cry. It is the ability to connect heaven and earth that finds expression in the form of crying.
This is the answer to the original question of why Jews cry!
Our problem today in our modern world, is that we are losing the feelings and emotions which once defined our people. We do great things. We heed the Mitzvos. We are stringent in our religious obligations and commitments etc. However, we have forgotten how to cry! If we would only tap into our inherent ability to cry out to Hashem, everything would look different! If we would only tap into our wellsprings of feeling and emotions when we perform the Mitzvos, instead of coldly and methodically plodding through them, how inspired we would be!
We need to understand that a Jew who does not derive and display feelings and emotions from his Prayers, Torah learning, or any lofty spiritual pursuit, is lacking in his basic connection to Borei Olam! The yesod of all of this, is the latent and expressive feelings engendered from (and during) these pursuits.
It is impossible to connect to Hashem through intellect alone. It is only when we add the dimension of Hergeish – feeling, that we achieve and experience a true connection with Hashem.
In fact, we find numerous references to Tefiloh being an “avodah shebalev” – a “duty of the heart”…we say in Shemona Esreh..L’maan Shemo B’ahava”..etc.
Thus, in the final analysis, this indeed explains Yosef Hatzadiks’ unrivaled ability to cry. Since the entire essence of Yosef was to make that connection between heaven and earth. Indeed, Yosef was filled with feeling and emotion – he constantly cried – and indeed, this is the latent power of every Jew!
<Translated & adapted from Rav Shimshon Pincus – Tiferes Shmishon>
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