Talmud this Shabbat: Machzor Full of Tears–What Does the Proliferation of Tears in our High Holiday Stories Say to Us Now?


Weeping is the leitmotif of our machzor, and that is a good thing because it speaks to our moment. Our beloved land is full of emotion. Our prayers and stories are full of emotion. Our own hearts are full of emotion. What do we learn from the Bible’s tears? And why is the machzor constructed to highlight those tears? You can’t make this up.

Hagar: “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears.

Hannah: “Every time she went up to the House of Adonai, the other [her rival Peninnah] would taunt her, so that she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah why are you crying and why aren’t you eating? Why are you so sad?”

“In her wretchedness, she [Hannah] prayed to Adonai, weeping all the while.”

Rachel: Thus said Adonai
A cry is heard in Ramah—
wailing, bitter weeping—
Rachel weeping for her children
She refuses to be comforted
for her children, who are gone.

These texts are from Rosh Hashanah. Our Yom Kippur Haftarah begins and climaxes with crying. Isaiah begins, first verse out of the box:
Cry with full throat, without restraint;
raise your voice like a ram’s horn!

He then offers the heart of his prophecy and says that if the Israelites get what he says, and does what he says:

Then, when you call, Adonai will answer;
when you cry, [God] will say: Here I am [hineni].

Click here for all texts.

See you on Shabbat morning at 8:30
Wes