Menachem Creditor

The Power of Tears

In the stillness of a moment, when the soul feels burdened beyond its capacity, tears come. Small, salty drops often seen merely as signs of sorrow also carry profound spiritual significance. Tears are not just a human response to grief or joy; they are the flow of divine energy itself, a primordial emanation of deep, flowing emotions, a profound expression of the collective and individual experiences of suffering, resilience, and hope.

In the Torah, we are reminded of the power of tears through the story of Hagar, who, in the wilderness, lifts her voice and weeps for her son Ishmael (Gen. 21:16). God hears the cry and responds with compassion, illustrating the sacred connection between human tears and divine response. When we cry, we are not alone; our tears are witnessed by the Divine. They become a medium through which healing and comfort can enter our lives.

The act of crying parallels the flow of divine energy described in the Kabbalistic understanding of Creation of the universe. In the beginning, God’s energy flowed outward to create the world, a process that then required a contraction, a Tzimtzum, to make space for Creation (Sefer Etz Chaim 1:2:2). This flow and contraction, this ebb and tide of Divine Presence, is mirrored in our tears. Just as the Divine contracted to create space for the world, our tears create a space within our hearts for healing and renewal.

Various sacred texts reflect the healing properties of tears and recognizes their capacity to deepen compassion, especially in times of collective suffering and turmoil. When we witness another’s tears, we are called to respond with empathy and kindness. In seeing and acknowledging their pain, we extend the flow of divine energy, fostering a community bound by love and mutual support.

May we be blessed to learn to see the sacred in our tears and the tears of others, to see the Divine in the seemingly ordinary – to feel deeply.

May our tears lead us to greater compassion, opening our hearts to dream again of the way the world ought to be.

And may we strive for a world where tears of sorrow are fewer, replaced by tears of joy and gratitude.

In this vision, may we find the strength to heal, to comfort, and to be comforted, knowing that in every river of tears, the Divine flows, guiding us towards wholeness and peace.

(This piece is an adaptation of Rabbi Creditor’s foreword for Julie Brandon’s new poetry collection, My Tears Like Rain.)

About the Author
Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation New York and was the founder of Rabbis Against Gun Violence. An acclaimed author, scholar, and speaker with over 2 million views of his online videos and essays, he was named by Newsweek as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America. His 31 books and 6 albums of original music include "A Year of Torah," the global anthem "Olam Chesed Yibaneh" and the COVID-era 2-volume anthology "When We Turned Within." He and his wife Neshama Carlebach live in New York, where they are raising their five children.
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