Recently, the wonderful Jewish community of Staten Island was hit by two terrible tragedies. First, the passing of a very young Mrs. Miriam Winiarz, zlzy”a, who left her wonderful children orphaned from both their father and their mother. Then, less than a week later, another young mother and wife, Mrs. Rachel Eisenberg, zlzy”a, passed away also leaving both married and unmarried children as well as a grieving husband. As Torah Jews, we are always searching for the Torah response to such cataclysmic events.
I want to share with my dear readers a Gemara in Sanhedrin . Here, the Gemara relates that there was a woman who tragically lost her husband. A short time before, she had also lost her son. This woman lived right next to the great Rabbi Gamliel, the Nasi (Prince) of Israel. Rabbi Gamliel and the widow shared a common wall and thus Rabbi Gamliel would hear her copious weeping as she wailed incessantly over her double loss. The Gemara relates that upon hearing her crying, Rabbi Gamliel also cried until, like Leah Imeinu before him, his eyelashes came out from the excessive crying.
In Eichah Rabbah, the Medrash adds an important caveat to the story. Rabbi Gamliel attached to his crying also the calamity of the destruction of the Temple. I had thought that the intent of this Medrash is that once Rabbi Gamliel was already crying, he used his weeping productively to also bemoan the loss of the Temple and the pain of the Shechina. There are some people who don’t easily cry. So, if they are motivated by a moving play or a poignant novel to cry, they should utilize those cries and extend them for the Temple.
But, the Aleinu Lishabei’ach says a better reason for Rabbi Gamliel’s crying over the Temple. When he empathized over the double loss of this woman, it triggered in him that this could only happen because we don’t have a Temple. If we had the Temple, the ketores, the daily incense brought on the Altar would have protected us from such tragedies. The Mizbei’ach HaChitzon, the Outer Altar, which makes peace between us and our Father in Heaven would have forestalled such calamities. So too, as we reflect upon the double tragedy experienced in Staten Island, a proper reaction is to mourn over the absence of the Beis HaMikdash whose cloak of protection would have surely safeguarded these two wonderful women.
We might add that as so many of our brothers and sisters are suffering economically, either because of the tuition crisis or the parnassah crisis, we mourn over the absence of the Shulchan in the Beis HaMikdash from which emanated a blessing for the financial prosperity of Klal Yisrael.
This should spur us to have more kavana, concentration and devotion in our tefillos. For example, in our daily Shemone Esrei when we say, “Ki lishuascha kivinu kol hayom – For Your salvation we hope every day,” when we bentch, “Racheim na, Hashem Elokeinu, al Yisrael amecha v’al Yerushalayim irecha – Have mercy, Hashem our G-d, on Yisrael Your nation and Yerushalayim Your city,” and when we say thrice daily in Aleinu, “Al kein nekaveh l’cha, Hashem Elokeinu, liros m’heira b’siferes uzecha – I therefore hope, Hashem our G-d, to see speedily Your splendid might revealed.”
In the merit of our daily praying and pining for the Beis HaMikdash, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.