Tears that soften the heart
The Jewish calendar marks many events, some joyful, others filled with sorrow. Like our calendar, each of us live somewhere in between these two extremes.
Recently, my life was turned upside down. Due to a very serious infection, combined with diabetes, part of my foot needed amputation. Prior to this procedure I was very optimistic, having come to the realization that the removal of a toe was a very small price to pay when the alternative is the removal of the foot.
But then comes the healing process. Healing takes time, it takes patients, and it takes perseverance. Now, after being bedridden for three months, I’m bored, impatient to become active again but have little stamina to go about undertaking even small physical exertions.
All my life I was an active person, moving at 90 miles per hour, pursuing a life dedicated to Jews and Judaism. As a congregational Rabbi, teacher, chef and composer of Jewish music, I attempted to bring Torah to Jews and gentiles alike using the benefits of my Jewish education, as well as my personal connections to so many impeccable Jewish personalities. You see, I was very fortunate, for I was influenced by giants from a very early age.
In my early years at Yeshiva Beth Yehuda in Detroit, MI., people like Rabbi’s Shalom Goldstein, Shmuli Kaufman, Avraham Abba Friedman, Rav Shne’ur Weinberg and Akiva Greenberg (as well as their wives and families) were huge influences on me showing me how Jews dedicated their lives to live as HaShem’s agents.
In my teens I was privy to the greatness of Reb Yankef Kamenetsky, Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, Reb Yoelish Teitelbaum – the Satmar Rebbi and Rav Shmu’el Faivelson.
As an adult I had the privilege to sit and study with spiritual celebrities like the brothers Rabbi Ya’akov and Reb No’ach Weinberg (then of Yeshivat Ner Israel of Toronto), and in Israel – Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, Reb Aryeh Levine, Rabbi Nachum Bulman, the Nedvorner Rebbe – Reb Araleh Leifer and of course Reb Shlomo Carlebach. Over the past 40 years I have tried to bring these people into the lives and hearts of the simple Jew.
I was fortunate to have been married to Kathy (Hartstein) a very special woman, a true Eizer KeNegdo – a complimentary compatriot and my five children who sacrificed so much to bring Shabbat and Jewish life to so many. Together we were a team that balanced each other and served our people well.
I have yet to mention my parents Jacob and Helen Rosenzweig, holocaust survivors who faced horrors, who experienced miracles in the camps, who started over in a new land and brought their experiences to us and yet who raised us as Jews filled with pride and with love for our heritage, our people and love for our holy land.
I tell you this to put into perspective my downturn into sadness and loss. These past 13 years have been difficult and most difficult of all was my inability to express this sadness. All this changed recently when I was surfing YouTube. I was looking for a view of Birkat Kohanim – the blessing of priests. One Sukkot many years ago in Jerusalem I attended a very unique Minyan at the Kotel. Usually when one goes to the Wailing Wall, scores of separate Minyanim are taking place at the same time. But 4 times a year one very large Minyan is organized with hundreds of thousands of men, women and children all praying together as one body. At this Minyan, when the priests bless the community, instead of a handful of priests softly blessing their respectful groups, hundreds of priests gather against the base of the Wall and in unison bless all who assembled. The roar of the blessings recited word by word and the thunder of our responses of Amen reverberate off the Wall – is awesome.
While searching for this reminder of a time long gone, I found another You Tube video titled Jerusalem – Yerushalayim and it brought me to tears. I haven’t had such a cry in years. Suddenly I experienced the homesickness that every Jewish soul experiences even when our conscious mind is unaware of these feelings. For the next 7 minutes and 3 seconds I connected to the sum of all loss. Every negative experience both personal and national has its root in the loss of the Shechina – the physical presence of the King of Kings – from our senses.
This video brought me to tears that cleansed me of my personal loss and reconnected me to the sorrow of a nation both in Israel and in the diaspora. We await a Jerusalem that is the corporeal seat of both our physical King and the Holy One Blessed be He. Sometimes in our personal sorrow we forget that we are not alone. We can share this sorrow with each other and each collective tear lightens our load.
So cry I did and I was able to share my tears with all of you. Thank you for helping me lighten my own burden. Thank you for helping me realize that we need each other and that every shared tear brings us closer to each other and to that great day when our tears will wash away our disconnect and bring us ever closer the Source of all goodness and joy.
The Rabbi’s say that one who cries over the destruction of Jerusalem will live to see it rebuilt.