Friday, September 29, 2006

Question & Answer With MCAryeh - Tears

A Simple Jew asks:

Before Neilah on Yom Kippur at the shul I used to daven, the rabbi would tell us about the importance of shedding tears during this last prayer of the day. Year after year I tried and tried, but my eyes always remained dry.

It hasn't been until very recently that I have found that I have been able shed tears during hisbodedus, and I do not know exactly what to attribute this to.

Have you found as you get older tears now come to your eyes easier than when you were younger?

MCAryeh of A Whispering Soul answers:

Good question! It is very situational for me. When it is natural, such as in the case of a funeral, a birth, hitbodedut, tears flow easily. When forced, as in trying to induce tears for neilah, it is difficult to impossible for me to cry. I have had that problem with Tisha B'Av for years now. It has always bothered me that I cannot cry on cue over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, and even that I cannot cry over not being able to cry.

By nature, I am very attuned to my emotions, but part of that includes recognizing where my feelings are coming from and checking them for emes. With age, of course, there are more things to cry over, both out of joy and sadness, there are more life-events to trigger emotions, and there is a greater comfortability with the vulnerability of tears.

Now that I am in my 30s, I do find it easier to tap into the built up experiences that will trigger tears, especially when communicating with HaShem from my own heart, with my own voice. When trying to induce tears during prescribed prayers, however, I still struggle. I have to trust that HaShem will sense my sincerity and that tears, for me, at that point, would be insincere. The bottom line for me is about genuineness of feeling. If I want to induce tears for something I don't feel, I will have to start cutting onions.

Maybe it is enough that I am able to cry to HaShem in my own prayers to Him, but it does bother me that a movie can move me to tears, as can a passage in a novel, so why not the prayers set down by our Sages in the Yom Kippur service?


At September 29, 2006 at 9:06:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Oy, is this a loaded subject! I often find that certain words arouse a tear, but moreso [now whaddya think I'm gonna write?]...a tune, a niggun. Thus when Eicha is read on Tisha B'Av night, tears are aroused by a combination of the words and the tune that it's chanted to. At the Modzitzer Rebbe's first Shabbos Tish, at the end of the Shiva for his father, he hummed a tune that his father composed and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house! On Selichos night, when the Rebbe Shlita revealed a new tune that he composed [part of which was inspired by a dream of his father], again, I was in tears. This became almost outright bawling when they sang a Tish niggun from the Rebbe's grandfather, that I learned by the Tishes of his father. I could go on and on.
Yes, definitely as we get older it becomes easier to let our emotions show and our tears. But it is something very hard to do "on command." Emotions are not push-buttons.

At September 29, 2006 at 9:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

PS - Another thing that moves me to tears lately is the "Akeida" passage in the Selichos. Gmar Chasima Tova to all!

At September 29, 2006 at 11:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too much conscious expectation that some stimulus (a passage, a tune, a time...) will, or ought to, bring tears can sometimes make them not come.

Concentrating sincerely on the simple meaning of the words is our main job, anyway.

At September 29, 2006 at 12:46:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: Why loaded?

At September 29, 2006 at 12:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe 'loaded' with unshed tears!

I know that on Tisha B'Av, when I read Eicha to myself in a secluded spot, and concentrate on what those words mean in reality, especially when it describes what they do to appease hunger, I do shed tears. If you put yourself into the same situation and try to connect your body to the descriptive words - the key is to deeply concentrate in a secluded spot - then it is possible to imagine yourself there.

For Neila, I am usually weak and the tears are dry, but on the first night and first words in the morning, I throw myself into the words and the tears come. As the day goes on, my ability to concentrte so deeply is drained by the fasting. Don't you find this so? Can you fast and not feel weak?

At September 29, 2006 at 2:04:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I've heard Rav Weinberg say several times that the feeling we have on Neilah, of just wanting to be sevants of Hashem, is an aspect of the essense of being a Jew. Tears or no tears.

Great post!

At September 29, 2006 at 2:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Neshama and Neil: You have given me something to thing about. Thanks!

At September 30, 2006 at 2:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

By "loaded" I merely meant that there's LOADS to say about it. But I believe I've said enough - a Tzom Mo'il [helpful, effective fast] to all!

At September 30, 2006 at 4:30:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think being able to cry easier with age is a very, very good sign. Usually the opposite is true - children cry, adults don't. That's because unfortunatelly as many people age they grow farther away from G-d and their heart becomes blocked. I think being able to cry easier with age shows that Hashem is little by little turning our lev ha-even into a lev basar. May it be with all of us.

At October 10, 2006 at 2:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

ASJ - no tears for neilah, but I did come close several times, and the emotion was there....


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