There are three very basic types of tears. The first is called basal tears. They occur in healthy human eyes; the cornea is continually kept wet and nourished by these basal tears. The second type of tears is called reflex tears. They are caused by having foreign objects come in contact with the eyes, or smelling an onion while cutting it, or the smell of strong black pepper or any other pungent smell that can irritate the eyes, and sometimes from a bright light as well. The third category is crying or sobbing. This happens due to strong emotional stress, anger, suffering, mourning, or physical pain. Many people also cry when extremely happy, such as during times of intense humor and laughter or some other type of pleasure.
The third type of tears is what interests me most of all. We understand, physically speaking, that it is water that comes from our eyes and runs down our faces and makes us feel wet. But tears are so much more spiritual than physical. These tears speak – they say what we can’t say in words. They yell when we aren’t even able to open our mouths. Tears might look transparent and made of water, but I feel that tears are made of blood, and that when one cries, it’s just like when one gets a cut or a wound. This is why it is written in the holy Torah that when one insults another it’s as if he spilled his blood. This hurt is a wound to the heart.
A person can get hurt, insulted, or offended by anyone. And when a person gets hurt by someone they care for and love, the pain is even greater. If one thinks of the heart’s pain as a wound, then the greater the pain, the greater the wound – and that much greater is the treatment required for this pain. If a small cut needs a little Band-aid, the larger the cut, the larger the bandage it needs.
When one cries out of pain, usually emotional pain, it is like blood is flowing from that wounded heart. The greater that pain, that’s how much of and how long those tears will flow. If someone had a huge cut and the blood wouldn’t stop flowing, no one would ask or wonder why the blood wasn’t stopping. They would see the wound and understand that it takes time to stop such a big cut. So too with the pain of the heart. However, the cuts or wounds of the heart no one can see. This is why you might hear people say when they see someone crying, “Come on, it’s not that bad,” or “Stop crying, it won’t do you any good anyway.” And with small children, we are always telling them to stop crying. If we just understood that tears come from a wound inside the heart and that tears are the “blood” flowing from the cut, we wouldn’t be so quick to say “Stop crying.”
The blood will stop after the cut is bandaged properly and the right measures are taken to ensure that it won’t open up again. We all understand that the cut needs time to heal. Why is it that when it comes to the heart, we demand that the heart stop bleeding? The heart is the most important organ each of us has in our body and without it we can’t live. Why don’t we understand that crying is simply a way of letting others know that we have been hurt and we need help?
Bandages for the heart come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. They can be a hug or a listening ear. They can be a good word or a smile. But no matter what they are, they are fitted exactly to that pain of the heart. Since no person can see into the heart and know what the pain is and to what extent the damage, we must show a great deal of compassion and patience when we see someone (whether we know them or not) sobbing. We should stop and see if we can help them.
People might not see into our hearts, but G-d sees all of our cuts and wounds and is always there for us. He is the best “doctor” around. As for us, we can think about this the next time we see our children or dear ones crying. The more understanding we have, especially if we have a different outlook on tears, the more sensitive we will be to others’ pain, and the better the world will look.