A few years ago, shortly before Tisha B’Av someone forwarded me a touchingly beautiful and masterfully produced video, entitled “Letting Go.” Narrated by Rabbi Yoel Gold, it depicts the incredible story of a man who forgave his childhood friend who was largely responsible for the death of his family during the Holocaust. The friend had stolen the visas he procured for his family at the onset of the Holocaust. The family of the man who stole the visas survived while the man who originally had the visas endured all of the horrors of the camp and was the only member of his family that survived. The video concludes with a poignant message that we all seek to overlook wrongs done to us and forgive, and ultimately, we are the biggest beneficiaries of doing so.
By the next day I had been emailed the video a few more times from different friends and family members, and everyone I spoke to seemed to have seen it too. It has already been posted on Aish.com and other major Jewish websites.
There has, in fact, been a plethora of this genre of videos that have been produced and circulated in recent years. They are highly professional and inspirational videos which contain a story or poignant timely message, with live interviews, and/or revolving pictures in the background. Each video contains a beautiful message, driven home with tremendous eloquence and professionalism.
That all led me to wonder why, if we have so many masterful presentations which resonate so deeply and create such a deep impression, do we seem to struggle so much with the very issues these videos are targeting? If when watching the videos, we all relate and connect with their message, why do we have such a hard time remembering the message in real time, when faced with challenging situations?
The simple answer is that in real life when challenging events unfold, there is no soft music playing in the background, and there is no pleasant calm voice narrating the difficult event. When there is a confrontation with a neighbor, the guy who sits behind you in shul, your boss, employee, or spouse, it arouses within you feelings of anger, resentment, and hurt. At that moment, when one is emotionally triggered, it is very hard to overlook perceived slights and insensitivities, especially when one feels he has been mistreated.
It is in those lonely painful moments, when overlooking a slight, insult, or even damage will afford him no glory, that one must be able to draw chizuk from the reservoirs of his soul, and remind himself of the incredible value, merit, and responsibility of swallowing one’s pride.
Tisha B’Av has an inextricable connection with tears. It’s a day dedicated to recalling our collective national pain and anguish, expressed through tears. What is the meaning behind the tears of Tisha B’Av?
We cry when our emotions defy expression. When we become so overwhelmed with inner feelings that overwhelm our very being, we shed tears. When we feel incredible grief and when we feel transcendent joy, we are unable to hold back the tears. In that sense tears make us feel very human, an expression of our vulnerability and finiteness.
The world thinks tears are wimpy and unmanly. But the Torah views properly and appropriately shed tears as an expression of humility.
Tisha B’Av is not a day of tears of despair, but rather tears of pain, longing, faith, and hope. The tears of Tisha B’Av reinforce our humanity, and strengthen our humility, which in turn reminds us that we have no recourse but to strengthen our faith in Hashem. The humility engendered by our tears allows us to recount all of the trauma and unspeakable atrocities we have endured throughout exile and remember that G-d is infinite and that there is meaning in all of our suffering.
That humility also helps us bend our pride before others, and learn how to forgive, even when beautiful music isn’t playing in the background. It’s acts such as those which will transform our tears from tears of pain to tears of absolute joy.
May it be this year!