What a heartrending parsha all of us in klal Yisrael are experiencing together these days.
From every corner of the world, Yidden have been touched, deeply moved, profoundly impacted, by the indescribable tragedy. All of us are in mourning, each in our own way. Some of us are crying copious tears, our eyelids heavy and swollen, our appetite gone. Others are numb, feeling emotionless and robotic. When we are struck by a calamity of such magnitude, the sun in our life seems to fade away. And yet, for each of us, this feels different. Even within ourselves, the emotions that come up may be unique to a particular moment. We could find ourselves deeply connected to the sadness at one moment, and then completely disconnected right after.
Is there a right way to mourn? A while back, a woman who had just returned from a heartbreaking levaya for a teenage member of her community who had passed away in very unfortunate circumstances reached out to me. She wanted to know, “What should I be feeling right now?” My answer to her, in brief, was that there is no one right way to mourn. Feelings have no rules. Feelings are feelings. They wax and wane even within us. If we just let it all go, if we let ourselves experience what comes up for us, we will experience what we’re really feeling internally. And that—going with what we’re really feeling—is the only way to properly process grief. It’s the only way to experience a catharsis, to make room for the chizuk we desperately need.
Very often, in our quest to do what’s right–a most virtuous endeavor—we erroneously put a lock over our hearts. If I feel pain, we tell ourselves, that means I’m not accepting Hashem’s will. It means I’m not a true ma’amin. It means I don’t really believe that everything Hakadosh Baruch Hu does is for the good. But what happens as a result is that we’re not only left with unprocessed emotions, with a deep grief that’s lodged in our hearts, but we’ve also turned the incredibly comforting concept of emunah against us. We’ve used it to spite ourselves, to feel even more frozen, even more disconnected from the essence that yearns to feel connected to Hashem, connected to the feelings of His love and security.
I take so much comfort in the Chazon Ish’s words on this subject, a sentiment that is expressed in countless sifrei mussar and Chassidus. In his sefer on emunah and bitachon, the Chazon Ish writes that emunah does not mean denying that we’re in pain. It doesn’t mean numbing our hearts. Rather, emunah is, “I am in so much pain, but I know and believe that this is for my good.” This is not only a vital element in enabling us to lead a most emotionally and spiritually healthy life, but is also a critical message we, as parents, must transmit to our children. When something hurts, it hurts. Ironically, it’s only when we allow ourselves to feel that pain, to sit with the anguish and cry from the depths of our hearts, that we can emerge to a place of understanding, a place of acceptance. It’s from this place that we can take on kabbalos, lead more inspired lives, to ensure that these sacrifices were not for naught.
Incredibly, the Rambam himself, the mechaber of the 13 Ikrei Emunah, the Ani Ma’amins that we recite every morning to reaffirm our faith in the Ribono shel Olam and His Torah, recorded that he was physically sick with grief for an entire year after the passing of his brother. Now, as we mourn for the 45 kedoshim, holy neshamos who, in the words of Rav Nachman Biederman shlita, “were invited by Rabi Shimon himself into his chaburah in Shamayim,” and we cry bitter tears for their bereaved families, we can do ourselves a great chessed and let ourselves mourn in our own personal way. By giving ourselves the space to feel what we’re feeling—even accepting ourselves for the questions that come up for us—and then doing what we can to strengthen our emunah, may we be zocheh to feel the sweetness and goodness of Hashem’s ways. Because, as hard as it may be for us to see it in this world, they are. At every single moment of our lives, we are showered with His love, embraced by His compassionate Hand. The clouds we’re seeing right now are a part of haMeichin la’aretz matar, Hashem is preparing rain—blessings—for the world.
When my family and I were driving up to Teveria on Thursday afternoon, from where we were to continue to Meron the next morning, our car was just one in what we called a “happy traffic.” At the stop at the gas station, hundreds of Yidden from all stripes were already rejoicing in great spirits. American yeshiva bachurim linked arms with dati leumi young men, dancing in euphoric anticipation for the exalted, uplifting night ahead. “This is the koach of Rabi Shimon,” my husband said to me as we made our way up. “The koach to bring all of klal Yisrael together, united by his love for a fellow Yid, his love for Torah.” Throughout the Zohar, indeed, we find references to the great love that Hakadosh Baruch Hu feels for klal Yisrael—and that’s the love that Rabi Shimon felt for all of us. His message was one of chizuk, one that encouraged us Yidden to see the good in ourselves and each other. Now, from all backgrounds of Yiddishkeit, we are in this together as a klal.
May all of us klal Yisrael merit to come together as one, in joy, with the coming of Moshiach, when all broken hearts will be mended and all our tears will be wiped away forever.