Devarim: A Time to Cry, A Time to Laugh



With the recent brutal murders of Leiby Kletzky and Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira – particularly chilling considering the fact that they were perpetrated by Jew vs. Jew – there doesn’t seem much to smile about these days. “What has happened to us?” many are asking? “What else is brewing beneath the surface?”

Crying seems like the appropriate thing to do during this time of the year – the saddest period in the Jewish calendar. At this time, we are keenly aware of the destruction that took place close to 2,000 years ago … the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem which we remember this Tuesday on Tisha b’Av … the destruction which led to the exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel … the destruction from which we have yet to recover. So it seems that we should cry …

Or should we?

A famous Talmudic story tells of four rabbis who saw the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple. Three cried, one laughed. What did Rabbi Akiva, the one who laughed, see that the others did not? Can we look through Rabbi Akiva’s eyes? Should we be crying today or should we be laughing?

This Shabbat before Tisha b’Av is called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of vision, referring to the vision of Isaiah who saw the destruction coming. But Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev says that on this day we each are shown a vision of the Third Temple. Which one is it: a vision of destruction or one of rebuilding?

This sermon compares the concept of Jewish time as a wave cycle of dips and crests, which a swimmer must learn to navigate properly, lest he drown. As King Solomon so famously said: “There is a time for everything … a time to cry and a time to laugh.” Crying and laughing are part of one cycle called life. If we don’t cry when it’s time to cry, we won’t be able to rejoice when it’s time to celebrate. When we are sensitive and weep when the situation calls for it, we will see it through and be sensitive and rejoice when the time comes to laugh. When we navigate the dips, we have the power to ride the crests.


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