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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

There was once a great Rebbe who would cry profusely during the nine days and Tisha B’av.

His talmidim finally built up the courage to ask what he is crying about. The Rebbe answered, "That is it exactly. I am crying because I don’t know what I am crying about!"

This might be the feeling many of us have as we go through Tisha b’av after Tisha b’av. What exactly are we crying over? How can we feel bad over something that we never experienced?

Rav Elya Lopian zt”l in Lev Eliyahu (v. 1 page 163) brings a medrash that a famous Greek philosopher one asked this very question to none other than Yirmiyahu the Navi.

When Yirmiyahu was wailing through the streets of Yerushalayim after the Churban, the Greek philosopher approached him. “It is not appropriate for someone of your intellect and stature to be crying over mere bricks and mortar", he admonished the Navi. "It’s like crying over spilled milk!”

Yirmiyahu Hanavi responded, “You are a great philosopher; surely you have profound questions concerning the cosmos to which you have not found the answers. Ask me anything you wish!”

As the wise man fired question after question, Yirmiyahu answered each one as if it were fit for a first grader. Awestruck, the Greek asked, from where do you draw this incredible knowledge?

Yirmiyahu replied, “Now you know one reason why I am crying. All the knowledge and greatness that I have achieved was only through this House, now that it is gone, my source of new knowledge is cut off. As for the second reason why I am crying, this is something that you could never understand."

Rav Elya zt”l explains that the second reason is something that only a Yid could comprehend. The crying is not something we can explain rationally - it appears to be crying over spilled milk.

However, the Neshama of a Jew understands that the crying is the expression of a connection that we still have to Hashem. It is the longing to be close to Hashem and feel the Divine Presence in its fullness once again. And as our Sages tell us, through crying and experiencing this connection, we are actually strengthening it; and the crying itself is the process towards repair.

May we merit the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash speedily in our days!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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