I write these words as the sun is going down on Shiva Asssar B’Tammuz. Another fast day passing and our Bais HaMikdash remains in ruins. What happens when we are asked to mourn, to grieve, to shed a tear, but we do not feel the pain?
When the Old City of Yerushalayim was once again ours during the Six-Day War, chayalim approached the Kotel with shock and awe. After 2,000 years we had come home! Israeli soldiers who had bravely fought fire in battle, now washed the Wall with their tears.
Two soldiers stood back, hesitating. Though they had grown up in the Land of Israel, they had not been taught the beauty of our heritage. They felt somehow lost at this sacred moment.
Suddenly, one chayal burst into tears.
“Lamah atah bocheh, why are you crying?” his friend asked.
“Ani bocheh sheani lo bocheh, I am crying because I do not know how to cry.” He responded.
Many of us are like that soldier, standing at the Kotel, not knowing how to cry. If we cannot shed a tear for Hashem’s home that is no more, for the Shechinah that is dispossessed, for the painful exile of our nation throughout the four corners of this earth, than let us at least cry because we feel no need to cry. Let us recognize how far we have wandered. Let us find a place in our hearts to weep for our golden city of Yerushalayim.
Allow me to share a childhood memory with you. Somehow, despite being a little girl at the time, I recall hearing a sound I had never heard before, coming from our kitchen. My parents were crying and laughing out loud. The radio was on. I heard the sound of the shofar blowing, the famous words “Yerushalayim Shelanu!” exclaimed, and I knew that something incredible had happened. I cannot describe to you the emotions that filled the room that day.
I think about what my parents must have been feeling and thinking.
My parents who had survived the gehenom of Bergen Belsen, who had been beaten and shoved into cattle cars, who had seen the fires of the crematoria devour our family, and who had watched their loved ones taken away never to be seen again, were now witnessing the wonder of rebirth. Our nation was alive! We had risen from the ashes. Hashem had restored His light to His children and shown us that we were a nation of miracles. From churban to Nachamu, Nachamu Ami before our very eyes.
We traveled to Eretz Yisrael. I’m not sure how my parents did it. I realize now how difficult it must have been for them to make the journey happen. But there was a burning desire to walk the roads where our avos and emahos once walked. To stand before the majestic Kotel. The Wall had waited patiently for each child to return and once again find shelter under its cool stones.
We asked over and over, “how did our soldiers do it? How did they get through the narrow alleyways and gates when they were being shot and attacked?”
My mother answered, “Yerushalayim’s time had come. Hashem, Himself, opened the gates.”
As we approached the Kotel my parents began to weep out loud.
“Surely our Zaydas and Bubbas are here with us. The malachim gathered their ashes from Auschwitz and brought them as karbanos in this very spot. We are not here alone, kinderlach. What a zechus, what a privilege! For 2,000 years we have davened for this, we have cried for this moment. What our Zaydas and Bubbas would not have given to stand here in our shoes! We are in the holiest place on earth.”
I will never forget that moment.
Years have passed.
We have come to take Yerushalayim, the Kotel, and Eretz Yisrael for granted.
How do you want what you already have? How do you cry? How do you mourn?
Let us at least shed a tear because we have forgotten how to shed a tear. The Chasam Sofer explains that if we mourn for Yerushalayim, we will find consolation. We see that our souls still long for the majesty of Yerushalayim. We have not forgotten.
May HK”BH see our tears and know that we yearn for the geulah, ache for Yerushalayim, and crave to be connected once again to the Shechinah.