Tisha B'Av, the Ten Days of Tshuva, Yom Kippur -- so many
tears, and so many reasons to cry.
Also when I am in pain or deeply hurt. Or very insulted. Or
even just simply frustrated with the `injustice' of not being
understood by someone who should care.
The tears can come quickly, some days more so than others.
Hopefully, there will be someone around to see my tears and
be able to make it all seem alright. In fact, it helps even
if they just sympathize, giving me some understanding and
showing me some concern.
Even if it doesn't `solve' the problem, and even if they
can't change the situation, it will still do wonders for how
Yet there is more. Often I cry to Hashem. How would I feel if
I thought He just ignored me (not that He just wasn't
agreeing to my requests)?
And how would I feel inside if my friend, spouse or neighbor
saw and heard me crying, but just walked away? Or just
ignored my tears and continued whatever she was doing? Or,
even worse, just snapped at me to stop my histrionics, making
mountains out of molehills, because everything is fine?
We are constantly reminded that "the outward brings along the
inward," i.e., we should do external acts in order to promote
proper internal feelings. And we all know that compassion,
kindness, sympathy and empathy are all character traits we
are supposed to constantly be strengthening and encouraging
in ourselves and others.
So I wonder, what effect does it have on me when I don't
respond when another cries?
How am I changed, as a person, by turning my back when I hear
someone screaming in desperation? Or pleading? Or whimpering?
Can it have no effect? Can it not help make me callous?
I thought of these things the other day as I stood on my
balcony and heard the plaintive cries of a child calling,
"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy," again and again and again -- not
yelling, not screaming, just calling in a whimpering,
desperate kind of way, over and over again. "Mommy, Mommy,
Mommy," for at least ten minutes.
I looked out over my balcony. There were two women standing
together and talking, there was a lady fussing with the hood
of a baby carriage, there were a few individuals walking
slowly from one place to the other, and a few women were
sitting on a bench talking and watching their children
I don't know whose little girl is calling out, "Mommy,
Mommy." It is definitely not the sound of a child who is lost
or afraid. Nor is it a whining cry. It sounds like a voice
wishing that Mommy would just answer, that she would just
turn and say, "What do you want, honey?" It is the pleading
voice of someone with no hope of being heard or helped,
unless this `Mommy' would deign to listen.
It is now at least 10 or 15 minutes since I first started
writing this article, and the little voice is still calling
out, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy."
Please, Hashem, don't treat us like we treat our children. I
know sometimes we are selfish or bad. Sometimes we go wild.
Sometimes we are stubborn and just want our way. But please,
please, please Hashem, help us to always turn our faces and
ask our children what they want, as we want You to always
turn to us. Let us always try to help if it is possible, but
if not, at least to always hear and show that we care.
Because how can we be what we are supposed to become if we
harden ourselves to the call of those who do need us? Yes,
even in those times when we know that we are right and can't
give in. Those times when we are `showing who's boss' so that
a child shouldn't think that he can always `get his way with
No, I'm not suggesting that a child shouldn't be punished.
And I don't think that a child who is deliberately crying in
the hopes of wearing you down to get what s/he wants should
I am talking about that pleading tone that expresses the
hopelessness of being overwhelmed by someone else's power.
The cry of desperation that expresses the feeling that there
is no recourse for help from anywhere else, that sound of
feeling that no one understands or cares.
Just as there are several different terms for prayer, each
defining a different mode, so must we learn to hear and
recognize the unique quality in each cry. The cry of
desperation is different from the scream of "I don't care
what you say." The plaintive sound of wanting to be heard is
not the same as the yell of, "I just want to do what I want
to do." The pitiful sounds of having nowhere else to turn for
succor at least deserves an attempted explanation of why, and
a minimal show of sympathy and concern.
Because kindness can never be taught by closing our ears
and/or by ignoring the pleas of another, even during those
times when we think the cry is unnecessary or unwarranted.
And hardening our hearts will never inculcate consideration
and compassion in us, nor in anyone else.
And we all are, after all, the children of Avrohom Ovinu.
[Preview to Elul and the triple cry of the Shofar: plaintive,
rousing, sobbing, whimpering, weeping, bleating. Begging that
we hear -- and listen.]