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Megilat Eicha: The Bereft Widow #1

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Megilat Eicha is the story of failure. Had we not failed it wouldn’t have been written.  So why I fact was it written? What is the point of going back to failure again and again every year? When the sages saw a fox emerging from har habayit, Rabbi Akiva laughed. He said if the curses have come true then I know the promises will come true too. We failed and we had to bear the consequences. But the fact that there’s the possibility of failure means that there’s the possibility of success. The statements of failure must be refocused to possibility. Our long history of suffering tell us that Hashem’s commitment to us is enormously deep. The megilah tell us that this is what the destruction was and that it only happened because we were destined to live. In the end there is hope.

The megilah begins, “How does she sit alone, the city that was once full of people.” The heavenly Yerushalayim built through our mitzvot was abandoned as we pursued other things. Yerushalayim was like a widow whose husband left her. In marriage, a man provides on all levels and a woman builds with it. Hashem’s constant providing stopped and this meant we couldn’t build anymore. We were like widows. We had to go back to the beginning and reestablish a relationship. Hashem stopped giving us because we were using everything he gave us to destroy. Rashi points out that it says k’almanah because she was comparable to a widow whose husband abandoned her and went across the sea. Perhaps he was alive but he wasn’t there for her. Similarly Hashem is always there but he makes his presence so distant and unobservable that we feel as though He has departed.

 Yerushalayim even in exile is still on a higher level than any other place in the world. But it’s still empty of divinity and of each of us seeking Hashem there. Our culture has become human driven like the other nations. There’s no higher authority or striving for more than one’s ego and desire fulfillment.

“She weeps at night and the tears linger on her cheeks.” Crying evokes a sense of mourning. We’ve grown up in exile and we’ve forgotten that feeling of loss. In the first beit hamikdash we lost our sense of mission, with the second we lost our sense of being a people. In essence we are so broken that we’re comparable to a body that’s bleeding from so many wounds  that the medical personall don’t know where to start.

The beit hamikdash was destroyed at night. The physical reality of darkness was actually a parallel to our spiritual reality. With light you can see the meaning and purpose of things. In the dark you are just groping around.  In exile, we’re blind. We have no prophecy, no sense of what to do. This goes back to the night the Jews wept in the desert when the meraglim brought back their report about Israel. The meraglim should’ve said we will never conquer the land without Hashem’s help. The critical exclusion of Hashem from our lives is what living in the dark is about.  When people use words like incurable or unsolvable, Hashem is not in the equation. Putting Hashem back is like putting the light on again. Everything becomes possible. Rashi quotes the Gemara that when you hear someone crying at night you feel like crying along. There’s such despair. This alludes to us. When we mourn at night, Hashem hears our cries and mourns with us. Tikun chatzos is an especially auspicous time when one can open doors that can’t be opened at any other time.

The tribe of Yehuda was expelled from poverty. On a simple level this means, the people were starving. They were exiled and they had no strength to fight anymore. On a deeper level it says there’s no poverty like the poverty of the mind. The physical poverty was a tragic consequence of what we had become in our minds.  “All those who pursued her caught up to her during the time they were besieged.” Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg quoting kabbalistic sources explains that all those who pursue the Shechina, who want to find Hashem, can find him during the period of bein hamitzarim, a time of hester panim. When you feel the pain of exile then you can ask Hashem to save you and He will listen. “The ways that lead to Yerushalayim are desolate and full of mourning.” Long before the destruction people stopped coming on aliya l’regel. It would take weeks to get to Yerushalayim and people were afraid to leave their homes and to stop working. People would neglect this mitzvah and that feeling of excluding Hashem and losing track of what gives simcha and what doesn’t was there.

There were thirteen gates to the mikdash, one for each tribe and a general gate for everyone. Each tribe was unique and had their own approach but the gates were destroyed because we lost touch of our individuality and did not respect one another. “The kohanim groan and the maidens sigh in despair.” Yirmiyahu rebuked the women about their noisy scented shoes. Having an identity in which innerness means more than outerness is what modesty is about. The times were such that we were losing our inner lives more and more. Sometimes we reach a point where our relationship to Hashem is so superficial that we think that by observing the mitzvot Hashem is robbing us of our autonomy and identity. This is tragic. The will for tzniut wasn’t there. This is what we have to reclaim.

Rashi says shaming Torah is the root of suffering. The repetition of the same sin creates this heavy burden. The rule is if you want to change something change a habit.

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