Gates of Tears
(כג) וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֙מָת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָעֲבֹדָֽה׃
(23) A long time after that, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to God.

בפסוק וימת מלך מצרים כו' ויאנחו בנ"י כו' פי' מו""ז ז"ל כי קודם שמת היו שרוים כל כך בגלות כי לא הרגישו שהם בגלות. ועתה התחיל קצת גאולה שהבינו הגלות והתאנחו. וכן פי' מ"ש והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים שלא יוכלו לסבול דרך מצרים כו'

"The Israelites were groaning.." On this verse, my grandfather and teacher commented that before the king died, they were so sunk in exile that they didn’t even feel the exile. But now began, a little bit, the process of redemption, now that they became aware of their exile and groaned [because of it]… This is also the meaning of: "I will bring you forth from beneath the sufferings of Egypt" (Exodus 6:6), meaning that [Israel] will no longer be able to put up with the ways of Egypt.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃

And YHVH said, “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings.

The Exodus from Egypt began with “feeling the exile” and with crying out. What is the role of awareness in the process of change/liberation? Of crying out? What else in your experience might catalyze change/ liberation?

וְאָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: מִיּוֹם שֶׁחָרַב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ נִנְעֲלוּ שַׁעֲרֵי תְּפִלָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״גַּם כִּי אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ שָׂתַם תְּפִלָּתִי״. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשַּׁעֲרֵי תְפִילָּה נִנְעֲלוּ, שַׁעֲרֵי דִמְעָה לֹא נִנְעֲלוּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי ה׳ וְשַׁוְעָתִי הַאֲזִינָה אֶל דִּמְעָתִי אַל תֶּחֱרַשׁ״.

On the subject of prayer, Rabbi Elazar also said: Since the day the Temple was destroyed the gates of prayer were locked and prayer is not accepted as it once was, as it is said in lamentation of the Temple’s destruction: “Though I plead and call out, God shuts out my prayer” (Lamentations 3:8). Yet, despite the fact that the gates of prayer were locked with the destruction of the Temple, the gates of tears were not locked, as it is stated: “Hear my prayer, YHVH, and give ear to my pleading, keep not silence at my tears” (Psalms 39:13).

  • How do you understand the ideas of the “gates of prayer” and the “gates of tears” How do prayer and tears function for you in moments of loss or distress?

  • Have there been times when tears opened something that prayer, or even words,couldn’t? What is the role of tears or other expressions of vulnerability in the process of change/ liberation?

  • We dip parsley (symbol of renewal and spring) into salt water (symbol of tears)? What do you imagine is the relationship between renewal and tears? Between tears and liberation?