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To Cry Like a Baby on Tisha B'Av

Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

To Cry Like a Baby on Tisha B'Av

Yechiel Shaffer

No one tells you that learning to sleep is difficult. When your a teenager sleeping comes to naturally and when your an adult sleeping is so desired, yet when your are a little baby getting yourself to sleep can be an insurmountable task. Young children often have difficulty falling asleep on their own.

There is much debate regarding methods of teaching best sleeping habits, and in all honesty it's an unusual discussion. Much like we take breathing for granted, it is reasonable to make the assumption that falling asleep is not a difficulty, especially when extreme exhaustion is involved! For many small children, sleeping is not so simple. Soothing oneself is a trait to be learned since babies are so reliant on their parents.

There are an array of suggestions in how to teach a child effective sleeping habits, the most famous being the 'cry it out' method. This method encourages the parents to have a bed time ritual (bathing, changing, reading a story), and then to place your child in bed and leave. In this method the parent should not return to the child under (almost) any circumstances. It is one of the most difficult, unnatural behaviors to practice but is supposedly very effective.

In Parshas Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41) we are told of the Jews desire to send spies to Israel before they enter the land. The spies are sent, with the consent of God, and return with a detailed report of their account. Two of the spies beg for positive attitudes towards the Promised Land, while the remaining 10 condemn any possibility of conquering the land. It is at that moment the Jews cry:

במדבר פרשת שלח פרק יד

א) ותשא כל־העדה ויתנו את־קולם ויבכו העם בלילה ההוא

1. The entire community raised their voices and shouted, and the people wept on that night.

The Talmud in two location (Sotah 35a & Ta'anis 29a) states that God decreed this night become a night of tears:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת תענית דף כט עמוד א

אמר רבה אמר רבי יוחנן: (אותו היום ערב) אותה לילה ליל תשעה באב היה. אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא: אתם בכיתם בכיה של חנם - ואני קובע לכם בכיה לדורות

Says Rabbah in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: On that night of the ninth of Av, the people wept. To them Hashem said that since you wept for nothing, I will cause you to weep for generations.

And, tragically, as we know to this day we cry on that fateful night. Tisha B'Av, the day where our holy places were destroyed, a day where hundreds of thousands of Jews lost their lives - to this day we cry over this. We lose sleep over this.

What is this cry for?

Perhaps we are learning to sleep. God granted us two opportunities to have a Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. Both times we became haughty, indifferent, and disconnected - both times we lost our most precious Temple. The generations of weeping are giving us the chance to cry it out - giving us the moments to understand that once we have learned of our own limited nature, once we have contemplated our complete reliance on the good will of God - only then do we deserve to build His home again in this world.

In a time where we have started growing up as a people, we have access to our Jewish home once more and the chance to worship at our sacred locations, Tisha B'Av is an opportuntiy to cry it out and understand that we don't yet understand how dependent we are and how distant we are.

This year we pray that God come sooth us and declare and end to our suffering, exile and distance from Him. It his been too long, too many tears and one too many cries.