When the pandemic hit the world last year, I remembered reading in the “The Heavenly City” by Menachem Gerlitz, about a terrible plague that took the lives of some of the finest Talmidei Chachomim in the old Yishuv in Yerushalayim during the 1860’s. One of the great Rabbonim, Harav Meir Auerbach, zt”l, had a dream in which it was revealed to him that the cause of this terrifying punishment was their playing musical instruments at weddings in Yerushalayim. Since the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is in mourning while the Beit Hamikdash remains in ruins, playing live music near these ruins displayed great insensitivity to Hashem’s pain.
Consequently, Rav Auerbach and the other elders enacted a decree that no musical instruments should be played at Yerushalayim weddings. Within a few days of enacting the decree the plague ceased.
When our routine lives were upended by the severe restrictions, fear, tragedies and supply shortages associated with the pandemic, I wondered if Hashem was reminding us that we were insensitive to His great anguish while we enjoyed relatively comfortable lives without giving the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash a thought, except perhaps during the Nine Days.
I began to think about the pain of our Heavenly Father, His intense anguish that we cannot spend the Jewish holidays with Him in His home, the Beit HaMikdash and Yerushalayim. How much He longs for us to be with Him, to have His holy presence, the Shechinah, dwell among us. How can we understand Hashem’s pain and what is the nature of our responsibility to respond to His anguish?
Shir Hashirim (5:2) states: “I sleep, but my heart is awake. Hark! My beloved is knocking: ‘Open up for me, my sister, my beloved, my perfect one, for my head is full of dew, my locks with the drops of the night." The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 33:3), comments on this verse: The Holy One, blessed is He, says: For how long must I travel without a home? Behold, My head is full of dew. Please ‘make for Me a sanctuary’ (Shemot 25:8) so that I need not stand outside.”
What vivid imagery the Midrash portrays! Hashem, so to speak, is standing outside our door, knocking, “Let Me in. Look at Me - My head is saturated with dew from waiting outside your door all night (i.e., during the exile). Construct a Sanctuary for Me so that my interminable wait will end.”
If this Midrash does not paint a sufficiently clear picture, the Tanna Debai Eliyahu Zuta (Chapter 21) presents the following scene: At the time of the final redemption, the Jewish people, still stinging from suffering in exile, are hesitant to accept Hashem’s comforting words. To convince them, Hashem says to them: “My child, from the day that I destroyed My earthly home, I never ascended or dwelled in My heavenly home, but instead, I remained homeless. And, if you don’t believe that I never entered My home, place your hands on My head and see that it is saturated with dew, as is stated, ‘for my head is full of dew, my locks with the drops of the night’ (Shir HaShirim, ibid).”
The physical aspects of this awe-inspiring image are intended to allegorically convey Hashem’s powerful desire to end His interminable wait during the darkness of our exile, to enter our lives with the special closeness we experienced when His Divine Presence had a Sanctuary to reside within. Hashem’s anguish is as poignant today as the day when we were driven out of Eretz Yisroel by our tormentors who destroyed the Beit HaMikdash.
For over two thousand years since then, our Heavenly Father spends every holiday with “a hole in His heart,” so to speak, in such anguish because His dear children cannot “visit Him” in Yerushalayim and bring the Korbanot (sacrificial offerings) in the Beit HaMikdash. How much Hashem longs for us to come back to His home and enjoy the closeness that we used to have together.
I wanted to try, in my human feeble way, to imagine the pain of the Ribbono Shel Olam (Master of the World) as He patiently waits for us to make the needed changes to merit our ultimate redemption. What must it feel like for our Heavenly Father, Who yearns for us to return to Him, Who longs to rebuild His beautiful earthly abode for us to stream back and serve Him therein? I started writing a poem to try to imagine and relate to Hashem’s pain, as impossible as it may be for any human being.
As I started writing, I felt that no human being can understand the immense suffering of the Ribbono Shel Olam, more than the Jewish woman. I specifically refer to either a Jewish woman who struggles with infertility, waiting to be blessed with a child; or to a mother whose child is critically ill, who desperately yearns that her child be returned to her in perfect health, playing in the sprightly way he or she did before calamity struck.
We are facing yet another Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av without the Geulah (redemption). We cannot afford to be tone-deaf to the pain of the Ribbono Shel Olam and we dare not pay lip service to the plethora of Tefillot in the Siddur, daily, on Shabbat and holidays, Chaggim, with the theme of yearning for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Rav Shlomo Wolbe writes in Alei Shur, "This is the entire focus of all Tefillah – to plead that the Heavenly Glory (Kavod Shomayim) be revealed in the world."
I hope that the enclosed poem may inspire people to yearn more urgently for that which Hashem has been waiting for so avidly: Our return to Him, united in purpose to sanctify His Name and serve Him in harmony in His beloved city and the Beit HaMikdash. I hope that the imagery of the Jewish woman who pines to raise healthy children to serve Hashem, will resonate not only with women, but also with men who also can relate to the Jewish mother who has suffered enough throughout this interminable Galut.
Ribbono Shel Olam, our dear Father in Heaven,
Whose Shechinah remains in such anguish while we sit in exile,
You wait with such longing for the day Your children will return
To Your beloved city, to reunite with You, to reclaim the one happy family,
Which was torn asunder when Your beautiful home was burnt down.
How can I, a human being with such limited understanding,
Appreciate and comprehend the depth of Your anguish?
How do we perceive Your ache, waiting for Your children who tarry, so far away?
No human understands Your pain more than a Yiddishe Mamma,
Who sadly stands vigil at the bedside of her critically ill child,
Desperately pleading for the delight of her life to awaken from his frightful illness,
To return to her as the vivacious child who once brought a sparkle to her eyes,
Blinking away the tears in her eyes, hanging on to any sign of improvement,
And then, her sighs of anguish reemerge, the apprehension flooding, tormenting her,
Yes, she understands Your ache as You wait and long for us to return to You as we once were.
And who else understands Your anguish, more than a Jewish wife waiting to be blessed with a child,
Having expended so much energy and hopes; after pouring out her soul in so many Tefillot,
Yet, all the efforts seem so futile, the “natural” has become so unnatural,
It’s impossible to wrap our mind around such intense disappointment.
How much longer can she wait and yearn, each trip to the doctor,
Each trial, each failed treatment, each candle-lighting prayer that seems to go unheard?
Yes, Father dear, only You understand the pain of these Yiddishe women,
The anguish of crushing disappointment, the desperation of living with such uncertainty,
But, our Heavenly Father, we are here to tell You, that from now on,
Neither You, nor any Jewish woman, will ever again suffer alone,
Because we are all in this together, Your pain is our pain,
And the pain of every Jewish woman and mother is our own.
Dear Ribbono Shel Olam, we beg You, for Your sake,
Please bring an end to Your unbearable wait for Your children to return to You,
Remove the pain of all Jewish women yearning to be blessed with a beautiful child,
And end the suffering of all mothers pining for their child to be restored to perfect health.
Let us share the jubilation of all Jewish mothers when they see their dreams come true,
And help us rejoice with You when Your children return to You,
As one happy family in Your beautiful home in Yerushalayim, speedily in our days.