Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Tears Are The Tears Of Eisav

Rav Shlomo Levenstein brings an interesting thought in the name of the Kotker Rebbe, zt"l.  We all recall that when Eisav HaRasha came before Yitzchak Avinu, a"h, for his blessing he was distressed to discover that Yaakov Avinu, a"h, had come previously and "stolen" it from him.  So distressed he was that he began to cry and Chazal say that he shed two and a half tears.  Because of these tears, they note, we have had to endure centuries of suffering at the hands of Edom, Eisav's descendants.
But the Kotzker Rebbe asks a simple question: we have a principle in halacha of batel b'shishim.  If this is true then why haven't the countless tears shed by Jews in their suffering in the last two thousand years nullified those paltry two and a half tears of Eisav and brought an end to our tribulations?
The Kotzker Rebbe answersby pointing our an important exception to the principle of 60:1.  Bitul b'shishim only works with two unlike substances such as meat and milk.  It does not work with two like substances, min b'mino.  In such a case we say min b'mino eino batel afilu b'elef, there is no nullification.
So how can we end Eisav's dominance over us if no amount of crying will end his oppression?
The Kotzker Rebbe concludes by pointing out there are two types of tears.  Eisav's tears were shed out of self-pity.  "I lost the beracha."  "I got cheated."  "I missed out!"  Selfish tears on a loss of good fortune and opportunity.
Such are the tears that we have shed since galus Edom began.  We have cried from pain, theft, bruising, burning and death.  We have shouted out "Woe is us!" so many times to Heaven hoping for an answer.  But such tears, as sincere as they are, come from the same source as Eisav's: Woe is me!
The Kotzker Rebbe thus reminds us of something Chazal note repeatedly throughout the Talmud and Midrash.  When Jews suffer, when Jews are lost in exile, when the land of Israel is not the centre of the spiritual universe, the God Himself, kibiyachol, is diminished.  His Shechinah is in exile with us.  His presence in the world and the shefa He bestows to it are limited.  As believing Jews we should be horrified by this.  It's one thing to feel sorry for ourselves.  Heaven knows we have enough reason for that.  But the Kotzker Rebbe says we have to go one step beyond that.  We have to feel sorry for the humiliation our sins have caused God.  We have to cry tears for the loss He has suffered through our being in exile and through the Temple remaining in ruins under foreign occupation.
It is those tears which are min sheb'eino mino and therefore the ones that will nullify Eisav's and end our exile.  As Elul bears down on us with all the subtlety of an enrage bull towards a matador we are preparing once again to arrange our prayers of repentance before the Ribono shel Olam.  Perhaps this years, instead of crying out for forgiveness because we're afraid of punishment we should have the overreaching kavannah instead that our sins need to be forgiven so the Shechinah can regain its proper place in our world.


Mr. Cohen said...

We Jews should indeed be horrified by the diminution of G_d’s honor in this world.

But from a psychological viewpoint, it is very difficult for most people to sympathize with G_d because we can never see Him with our eyes, nor can we hear Him with our ears, nor can we touch Him with our hands.

Only by studying Torah abundantly can we appreciate how awful the exile of the Shechinah is.

Atheodox Jew said...

Nice drasha about the different kinds of tears.

Technical point: The idea that min b'mino eino batel goes according to the Tanna R. Yehuda. The Chachamim say it IS batel - and with dry foods even "rov" suffices. Even Rashi who sides with R. Yehuda says eino batel is only in the case of liquids. But most rishonim (including the Shulchan Aruch) side with Tosafot that min b'mino is batel, and that's how we pasken. So I guess the Kotzker Rebbe was being somech on the minority opinion - at least for purposes of the drasha!