Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tears May Stay for the Night; Joy Comes in The Morning

Parashat Vayigash
Temple Shir Tikva
December 21, 2012 ~ 9 Tevet 5773

A little girl arrived home late one day.
“Where have you been?” Her mother asked.
“I saw my friend on my way home. Her doll was broken,” she replied.
“Did you help her fix it?” her mother asked.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t know how to fix it. I stopped to help her cry.”*

This little girl teaches us so much.  It turns out there is much that is broken in our world that we do not know how to fix.  But what we do know is how to cry.

It’s not an easy experience, crying.  It can be embarrassing.  Loud. Snotty.  Our faces redden as it rises from our chest into our throat - and out of our mouth cries of sadness, cries of joy, cries of frustration escape into the wind.  Sometimes we hope no one has seen  the tears falling from the corners of our eyes.  Sometimes we hope everyone has seen the tears falling from the corners of our eyes.  But its not an easy experience, crying.

It’s easier to be angry, to shout, yell, scream.  A full body experience, but somehow less vulnerable than crying - our brokenness hidden behind the maddened face of anger.

For we judge tears: as weakness, as inferior, less than.  “Don’t cry over spilt milk...” or “There’s no crying in Baseball,” Tom Hanks yells in the movie A League of Their Own.  “Big Girls don’t cry,” the Four Seasons intone...and Fergie reiterates decades later.  Our popular culture guides us against a tidal wave of tears.

Yes, resiliency is important, but crying is a gift. For in each teardrop, so much emotion, so much history, so much energy - so much can be released.  Around the world, there are people who for various medical reasons cannot cry.  There are people who cry, but have no one to comfort them.  There are people who cry and are punished.  There are people who cry and are laughed at, scorned.  We, who would prefer to do anything but cry, might allow some tears to fall, if only for those who physically cannot, for those for whom there is no one to wipe their tears, for those who are scorned and laughed at...

We might help them cry, we might cry for them, even if we cannot fix them.

In this week and past week’s Torah portions, we follow the story of Joseph and his dreams.  One of the most powerful in the land - Joseph is a symbol of strength and fortitude. And oh, his dreams!  But for as much as Joseph dreams, he often cries.  So much so, that of the 14 times crying is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, 50% of it is attributed to Joseph.  But Joseph’s tears are not often the focus of his story.  He is never referred to as Joseph, the Crier.  The musical is not called “Joseph, the Crier, and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

But Joseph cries...and often.

There is much in our world this week and in every week that cries out for fixing...but we can never fix it all.  For we are vulnerable to all the brokenness, we are vulnerable to all the emotion, that bearing witness to the world around us brings up.

Oh, to give ourselves permission to cry:
Cry over the spilt milk!  Cry in baseball, at work, cry at temple, at hallmark commercials!   Big girls do cry.  So do big boys.  Like Joseph the Crier, like our President the saddened leader, like Hagar, like Hannah...

Tears may fall at night, Psalm 30 cries out.  But if we let ourselves be vulnerable and present to the brokenness of the world around us, and if we help to fix it, and if we realize we can’t fix it all...  When those tears of relief, frustration, empathy, pain fall... when we cry or when, like that little girl, we help others cry, the Psalmist promises us: 

Joy comes in the morning.

*Story attributed to Franz Kafka