Does G-d Cry? Special for Tisha B’Av

There is a phenomenal Midrash (Jewish Oral Tradition) on Eicha that describes G-d in a state of agony. “Woe, what have I done?” G-d wails. “I have destroyed the Temple; I have cast out my children! What have I done?”

An angel comes to G-d and says, “Do not cry, G-d. Let me cry your tears into the world.”

“No, I will go into My inner chamber and I will cry there,” G-d tells the angel. And He does just that. The Midrash is telling us that G-d is in His inner chamber, locked in His room, so to speak, crying. G-d is crying because He misses and wants the Temple.

But if G-d really missed the Temple, you may be wondering, what would stop Him from building it? If G-d really wanted to redeem the Jewish people, why does He not bring the redemption and return us to the Land of Israel? This is similar to the question, if G-d really cares about the Jewish people where was He during the Holocaust?

According to this Midrash, G-d was in His inner chamber crying; concealing His tears.

One Tisha B’Av several years ago I shared this Midrash with a group of students at Isralight. One of the participants was a fellow named Tom. The son of two holocaust survivors, Tom was very involved with holocaust studies and passionately angry with G-d. But after hearing this Midrash he approached me and said, “You know, Rabbi, I’ve been waiting so long for a rabbi to tell me that G-d is crying. Now I can cry with G-d, rather than be angry at Him.”

If people knew just how much G-d is still crying, there would be many more, like Tom, joining G-d in His tears. Most people imagine G-d having “endless power,” without emotion, stoically looking at us from heaven above. Rabbi Kalymous Kalman Shapira — who was the rabbi of the Warsaw ghetto and eventually perished in a concentration camp described G-d as having “endless pain.” Our pain is limited because we are limited beings. But in His infinitude, G-d’s pain is endless.

It is very difficult for us to understand why G-d is in pain and what He is doing crying in His room. Further, why would the angel of the Midrash want to cry G-d’s tears into the world?

According to Rabbi Shapira the angel knew that if one of G-d’s tears entered this world, then the whole world would be destroyed. If we were to hear G-d crying, knew how pained G-d was over the state of this world, we would be filled with torturous shame about ourselves, so much so, that we could not go on living. Our inability to handle G-d’s pain is, therefore, why G-d is compassionately hiding it from us.

Now we can begin to fathom that when we experience a lack of intervention from G-d it is not a sign of insensitive abandonment; it is actually a sign of compassionate Divine repression. Sometimes humanity stoops to such a low level of ethical behavior that should G-d respond and do justice the world would necessarily be completely destroyed. Therefore, G-d so to speak, hides in His room. And if G-d were to allow His pain to become manifest in this world, we could not take it and the whole world would be destroyed. Therefore, G-d does not allow the angel to reveal the divine pain to the world. In other words, because we are in such denial of G-d’s pain over the cruel acts of humanity, experiencing it would so devastate us that we would die on the spot. We are not ready or willing to acknowledge and feel G-d’s pain.

Now, you may wonder, if having a Temple would stop G-d from crying, then it would seem logical for G-d simply to build another Temple.

But He can’t.

G-d cannot build the Temple without something from us: We have to want the Temple and of-course, the spiritual meaning it represents. Practically speaking, there is no point in building a Temple unless we want to embody the presence of G-d in our lives and acknowledge the Godliness within each other.
What we are not doing is crying, and this is why G-d is crying. If we really understood what we were missing, we would be bawling our eyes out over the loss of the Temple — yearning for it to be rebuilt. What is missing, however, is not the building. It is the awareness that a greater presence is absent from our lives. A consciousness of G-d, a desire for G-d in our every day, is gone.

G-d cannot rebuild the Temple until we want G-d in our lives and need a Temple to express that holy desire. The Temple remains in ruins because we do not yet want G-d in our lives enough to warrant a Temple.

And for this we must mourn.

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