By Rav Yisrael Asulin
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
One of the most special gates in heaven is called the gate of tears. The Talmud says about this gate (Brachot 32) “Rabbi Elazar said, from the day that the Temple was destroyed the gates of prayer were sealed, but the gates of tears were not sealed, as the verse says, “Hear my prayer, Hashem, give ear to my outcry, be not mute to my tears. ”
The Holy Zohar says: “Rabbi Yehuda said, the verse says about the future, ‘In tears they will come, with supplications I will bring them’. What is the meaning of ‘In tears they will come’? In the merit of the mother of the child (the mother of the Jewish people), who is Rachel, the people will come and be gathered in from the exile. And Rabbi Yitzhak said the redemption of the Jewish people only depends on crying, as the verse states ‘In tears they will come’.”
The midrash says on Chapter 137 of Psalms: “All of the exiled people lifted their eyes and saw that Jeremiah had departed from them, they all cried and screamed out , Our teacher Jeremiah behold you’re leaving us by ourselves, and they cried there, as the verse states ‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and also wept.’ Jeremiah answered and said to them, I testify in the name of heaven and earth that if you had cried out once while you were still in Zion, you would not have been exiled. ”
Halacha (Practical Laws):
- It’s forbidden for a person to cry on Shabbat or bring himself to sorrow. However, if a person feels better when he cries because it relieves the sorrow in his heart there are opinions that permit him to cry on Shabbat.
- A person should always be careful how he speaks to his wife, because her tears come easily. (Bava Metzia 59)
- The holy Arizal, may his merit protect us, said that every person should try to cry during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and shed tears before G-d. From his tears he will merit to have a good year and good decrees.
- “A person who cries over a kosher person is forgiven for all his sins”, and “G-d counts and stores in his treasure house the tears of some who sheds tears over a kosher person.” (Shabbat 105)
The verse says in Psalms, “G-d is close to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him sincerely”, that is to say the most easily accepted prayer is one that comes from the heart. The phenomenon of crying is usually connected to reaching the deeper more essential places inside a person. The Holy Zohar says, “There is nothing more important before G-d than tears, because a person’s heart and will and whole being are awakened through the tears.”
“Tears come out from the depths of submission and proper intent and they testify to a broken heart. “(Rabbenu Bachye) Therefore a prayer which is accompanied by tears is a more accepted prayer, as the sages said in Brachot 32: Even though the gates of prayer were sealed, the gates of tears were not sealed.
- The Ramchal, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, writes: “Crying causes great rectifications in heaven and sweetens harsh decrees.” The Holy Arizal, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, explained the reason for this: It’s known that salty water hints to the attribute of harsh judgment and sweet water hints to the attribute of kindness. Therefore when a person sheds tears, which are made of salty water, this is hinting to the fact that the harsh decree has been washed away from him.
There is a general principle in Judaism that a spiritual awakening from below causes an awakening above. That is to say that when a person does an action hear on earth, he causes the same action to happen in heaven. Therefore, when a person prays to G-d and sheds tears at the time of his prayer, he brings out from inside of himself the salty tears through crying, which hint at judgment, and automatically in heaven the decree is nullified and removed from him.
- It is known that cutting an onion brings tears to the world. The reason this is so can be explained by the Rambam’s teaching, (Yesodei HaTorah Chapter 3), that all of the planets and galaxies are placed one on top of the other like the layers of an onion. That is to say that each one envelopes another, smaller one, just like placing a ball inside of another ball. The Sages said in the Gemara that the gates of tears are not closed, that means that when a person wants to break through to a new path, to enter a new ‘world’, this is done through tears.
The reason that tears break through the heavens is because tears come to a person from his mind, as the Zohar says “The source of all water and liquids in the body is from the brain.” The brain is the most important part of the body because that is where the soul resides, and the soul is the highest part of our being. Therefore, when somebody cries he connects himself to the highest part of himself, his soul, and he merits through his tears to reach new spiritual levels.
- The Maharal explains why praying with tears is such a great level of serving G-d. “Prayer is the essence of the world, and immediately after Adam was created he prayed to G-d”. There are prayers which cause things in the world to come into existence. An example of this was when Adam prayed for rain. Something which is supposed to grow seemingly in a natural way is actually waiting for a prayer to be prayed for it to grow. Through this type of prayer man helps bring completion to the world.
And then there are prayers which are characterized by tears. “A tear causes a person to lose his strength, until it is released from him.” As long as a person thinks there’s a chance to deal with the problem he’s facing, or deceives himself that he has the solution, he won’t cry. Only when he agrees to see clearly his difficult, confusing situation, the tears will burst forth. That is to say he truly feels a deep lacking in his life and his prayer of tears is seeking only G-d, because only He can fill such a deep feeling of lacking, “a tear only wants the King” (Zohar). The gates of tears have not been sealed for this reason, because tears are not connected to obtaining something in this world, rather the gates of tears are gates to reach G-d, and these gates cannot be sealed.
- It’s written in Likutei Moharan (Torah 250): “Tears take away part of a person’s sight, and tears are the aspect of divine providence and vision. When a person is in sorrow and he sheds tears, he needs G-d’s providence to provide him a salvation, and therefore a person sheds tears in order to bring upon himself divine providence.”
When someone is crying he’s not able to speak and the tears prevent him from seeing clearly. That is to say that crying gives expression to a situation which can’t be expressed in words. When somebody cries he releases from himself uncontrolled sounds, and at the same time tears flow from his eyes and cloud his vision. He finds himself in a situation where he’s not able to speak and not able to see well. Our connection to the outside world is through our mouths and eyes, and at a time of confusion the windows are closed and the connection to outer world stops. Exactly in this situation, when somebody can’t see and he has lost control, he gives space for divine providence to influence him with abundance from above.
It’s important to point out that tears don’t come forcefully when someone decides to cry. They come when G-d decides to let them come to someone.
When somebody agrees to work on himself and allows himself to feel pain without knowing the solution or seeking to blame someone else, in the end the tears will come.