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Forms of Mourning: Crying II: Opening the Constraints

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to God (I Samuel 1:10).” Chana prepared for prayer by being bitter of soul; that bitterness was the koved rosh, the Mindfulness demanded by the Talmud (Berachot 30b). [Klei Yakar] The cry was an expression of the bitter soul. This was a cry of someone fully aware of her emotions.  It was not a burst of tears.


The Baal HaTanya (Chapter 31) explains that bitter of soul does not mean sad, for then it would not qualify as koved rosh, but an awareness that her soul was unfulfilled. It was, as the bitterness of Maror, the sense of being constrained.

The Beit Hamikdash had windows that were narrow inside and wide on the outside because they served to provide light to the world outside the Sanctuary. The Beit Hamikdash was a place of expansiveness and there was never a sense of constraint!

Any restraint we experience in our spiritual lives, my father zt”l taught, is the direct result of not having a Beit Hamikdash .

This is the Tisha B’Av cry of someone who, is not sad, connected to God and His Torah as sources of life and joy, and therefore, fully aware of how much more we can become; how much higher we can climb.

We find this idea of crying as the opening of constraints throughout Torah:

“The levels and degrees of repentance correspond to the magnitude of the bitterness and intensity of sorrow; the repentance stemming from purification of the soul and refinement of the intelligence (The Gates of Repentance; First Gate #13).”

We are taught that only a cry accompanied by joy in our ability to cry to God can open our restraints: “Crying is a shout from one side of the heart, while joy is the shout of the other side of the heart; a person must pray with, “all your hearts,” meaning, from both sides, with crying and joy (Zohar III 75a).”

They rejoice in Your name all day long; they exult in Your righteousness (Psalms 89:16),” ‘B’shimcha Yigilun Kol Ha’Yom,” B-K-Y-H, spells, Bechiah, crying (Likkutei MoHaran). Prayer must have a combination of rejoicing and crying.

The cry must itself be an expression of restrained joy: “One may not be sad while praying to God, sending a message that he finds no joy in his prayer; he may only restrain his joy (Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar haKorbanot, Chapter 2).”

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