Shabbat Message: A Time To Cry Out

Posted on November 13, 2020 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

A Time to Cry Out [1]

Imagine if three or four jumbo jets were to fall from the sky in a single day. The crash of one mid-sized jet can dominate the news for days or weeks. Such is the magnitude of shock and grief when so much innocent life is tragically lost. 9/11 punched more than just craters in the ground of lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania. It tore a gaping hole in our souls as we witnessed thousands of lives mercilessly taken.

Yet, today – each day for more than eight months now – we are witnessing even greater carnage, as Covid-19 is allowed to tear through our country, claiming more than a thousand lives a day. This is the equivalent of the losses of 9/11 every two days. It’s like three or four jumbo jets crashing every day. In 2001, there was shock, outrage, collective grief, solidarity, and leadership. And today?

Today, it seems, we are paralyzed. More than quarter of a million Americans have died, and the silent suffering of our people is torturous.

Only a few months ago, when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, massive numbers of people took to the streets all around the country. The outrage could not be contained. It had to come out. It had to come out because the human spirit cannot endure such pain and maintain equanimity. Not if we are to remain vital and alive.

So now, we need to cry, to scream, to lament. We need to give voice to the pain that such enormous loss is inflicting upon us. We need to do this to remain human. We need to do this in an effort to find healing. Most of all, we need to acknowledge the fullness of the tragedy that is unfolding in order to save lives. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake. Silence is complicity. Failure to act is complicity. Failure to wear a mask and maintain social distance is complicity.

The matriarchs of our people taught us how to give voice to pain – to grieve and to lament. From barrenness to unrequited love, each knew hardship, and each expressed her anguish. Rebecca, in today’s Torah portion, endures a torturous pregnancy of twins that is tearing her apart and cries out, lamah zeh?! “Why is this?! Why is this happening to me?” And she did more than just cry. She went to seek – to demand – an answer, lidrosh et Adonai – to ask God and the priests, the authorities, to help her. [2]

The Talmud tells us that with the destruction of the Great Temple in Jerusalem the gates of prayer were closed but the gates of tears remained open.[3] Prayer was insufficient in the face of such tragedy. It was too little merely to hope and wish, or to offer words and sacrifices. The moment called for more. It demanded a total outpouring of the heart and soul to connect our people to the Source of life, to give them the strength to endure the depth of loss and do what had to be done to carry on and find renewal.

We are living in just such a moment. This is a time of chorban, of massive destruction and loss. And we must respond as our mothers taught us – to cry out, to pour out our hearts like water for God and all of humanity to hear. Talk to your family and friends. Call your elected officials. Protest. Make noise. Demand action. Vent your spleen. Do not be silent. Too many people have died. It is enough. It is more than enough! It is time to cry out!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Arnie Gluck


[1] Ecclesiastes 3:4

[2] Genesis 25:20-22

[3] Babylonian Talmud Berachot 32b