My Eyes Are Dry
“If only someone would turn my head to water and my eye to a spring of tears.” Jeremiah 8:23
I was taught and always read this as Jeremiah frustrated by the inadequacies of his tears. I imagined him weeping and wondering if he could possibly cry enough to express his anguish. I thought of this verse as I read Abu bin al-Abras: “My eyes seep sorrow; water skins with holes.”
I imagined the scene and wondered why my eyes are dry. I am not a crier by nature. I tear when I see someone who is suffering, when I read stories of the countless horrors imposed on Israel over the course of history, but I do not cry. I used to recite Jeremiah’s words whenever I felt I should cry but could not.
Perhaps, Jeremiah’s eyes were also dry. I see the prophet begging the Babylonian soldiers to chain him to the exiles; his people. I can picture the prophet of doom using every ounce of his strength to console and give hope. Jeremiah’s eyes were probably dry as he assumed his new role to lay the groundwork for Israel’s survival in exile.
Yes, his eyes were dry. They probably were filled with light and hope.
I heard a story of a young woman with five children, whose passionately adored husband suddenly died. She did not shed a tear. She took care of her children, went to work and raised 5 extraordinary human beings. Twenty five years later she married a man she did not love but who gave her comfort and security. He died less than a year later. She wept oceans of tears at his funeral.
The officiating rabbi, who had buried her first husband, asked her why she cried for this man, whom she did not have the same love, but not for her first husband, whom she adored. “Rabbi,” she answered, “for whom do you think I am crying? I never had time to cry for my first husband. I had to raise my children with laughter and light. I can only afford to cry now.”
Jeremiah’s eyes may very well have been dry. He too, had to raise his “children” and give them hope and light. He did not have an opportunity to weep as he traveled among the ruins caring for the crushed, wounded and ill.
Why are my eyes dry? Because I see life as having to be lived with that same joy and light. Yes, I can echo Jeremiah, “If only someone would turn my head to water and my eye to a spring of tears”, but even on Tisha B’Av, I see the glory of the Jewish People. I see our incredible will to flourish, not just survive. I rejoice in the thousands who study and ask. I see light in the countless acts of Chesed and compassion.
Yes, I mourn on Tisha B’Av; I mourn in awe for a people that keep through their mourning, the Temple alive two millennia after its physical destruction. I mourn in wonder that we continue to read Jeremiah’s rebukes 2400 years later as if they were meant for us. I mourn and can detect just that little sparkel in Jeremiah’s eyes.
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