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Cries of a Jewish Woman

Cries of a Jewish Woman

Her wailing captured the cries of a nation and delivered a message of hope.


I don't know who she was or what she looked like. But I will always remember the sound of her cry.

I spent hours this Tisha B'Av morning sitting in the front right corner of the men's side at the Kotel (Western Wall). As I rested my back against the mechitza (the partition between the men and women's sides) leaning against the wall, I recited the poems lamenting the destruction of the Temple, read some other related materials, and observed the masses of people who came to pray and touch the wall.

Suddenly, from right behind me on the other side of the partition, a woman began to sob. The sobbing built into a crescendo of wailing like I have never heard before at any prayer service or gathering. Was she a grandmother crying for the wellbeing of her grandchildren? Was she a middle aged mother pleading for her child to find a partner for marriage? Was she a younger woman unable to conceive a child? Was she the sister of a soldier killed in the IDF or a child of someone killed in a terror attack? I do not know. I did not turn around to look and her identity will forever remain a mystery to me.

But within her cries sitting on the floor right in front of the Kotel on the ninth of Av, I heard the collective cry of the Jewish people in modern times. I heard the cries of Holocaust survivors, I heard the cries of the thousands of Jewish mothers who lost sons and daughters during their service in the Israeli Defense Forces and in terror attacks, I heard the cries of Aviva Shalit, and I heard the cries of everyone who simply struggles with the challenges of life on a day to day basis.

Seeing Jews from all walks of life and backgrounds approaching the Kotel, these cries infused me with hope.

At first I was plunged into sadness and anguish over the sound of her wailing. And for the first time that I can recall, I shed some tears on Tisha B'Av. But then as I began to think about it some more, against the backdrop of seeing Jews from all walks of life and backgrounds approaching the Kotel for prayer, a kiss, or to insert a note, these cries actually infused me with hope. Her sobs became music to my ears.

I was reminded of the story about Napoleon who saw Jews praying and weeping on the floor in a Paris synagogue. He asked his aide for an explanation, and upon hearing that they were mourning over the loss of their Temple which was destroyed 1,800 years earlier, Napoleon remarked that these are a people who could expect to experience salvation one day.

The woman's cries reminded me that despite all of our suffering we have not completely lost our relationship with God, setting the stage for an eventual complete reunion. The fact that this Jewish woman was sobbing freely on the floor of the Western Wall, in the heart of Jerusalem's Old City in our homeland, demonstrates that despite all we have been through collectively we are on our way back to our former glory. Seeing non-observant, traditional, Orthodox, and ultra-orthodox Jews, born in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, North Africa, North America, and Israel converging on the Western Wall to mourn, with the sound of her crying in the background, demonstrated that her cries – and those of the Jewish people throughout the generations – are bearing fruit. There is real light at the end of the tunnel.

This coming Shabbat's Haftora captures God comforting the Jewish people after the destruction and promising that the time will come when our special relationship with the Divine will be completely restored. Through the cries of that mystery woman I already heard that message loud and clear, on Tisha b'Av itself.

August 10, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 20

(18) Rita Lewis, August 17, 2011 5:06 AM

I lost my husband some 20 years ago. At that time, my daughter whose husband was an Aish Rabbi was having a baby and I was in Jerusalem for the birth. I went to the Kotel not only to pray but to shout and scream with anger that my precious husband had been taken away from me at such a young age. I sobbed and sobbed there - asking questions to which there are no answers. A young woman I didn't know came and offered me a handful or tissues. She put her arms around me and held me tight as I cried to Hashem amid my stream of tears of pain. I think of her often and wonder who she was and I pray she will never have to cry at the Kotel for the same reason. I just want to add a rider. Just after I arrived in Jerusalem for the birth and this incident at the Kotel, the baby was born - a beautiful little girl. I wanted so much to perpetuate my husband's memory and asked my daughter if she and her husband would name the baby for her father. She replied that it was not the custom for them to name a child across the sex line. I was very upset as this was my first grandchild and I wanted this so much so much but it was obviously not to be. My mother phoned to wish us all mazeltov and asked me to ask my son-in-law to name the baby after her mother, Shava who was killed in the Holocaust. I passed her on to my son-in-law and assumed that it was a done deal. When we went to shul to name the name, I did not hear the name properly but it was definitely NOT Shava. On the way home, I asked my son-in-law why he did not use my grandmother's name Shava as requested by my mother. He replied that he had done that!!! He then said that the baby's name was Elisheva as that was my grandmother's correct name. Shava was her Yiddish name. My husband's name was Eliezer. Elisheva. . . Eliezer - you can't much closer than that can you? G-d works in mysterious ways but we must always trust and believe in Him.

(17) Anonymous, August 14, 2011 11:02 PM

I sobbed, I couldn't stop

I will never forget the very first time I stood at the Kotel five years ago. My heart was beating frantically in my chest as I slowly approached the wall. I stood before it, touched it, my hands caressing the cool, smooth stones tenderly. I pressed my cheek against the cool stones and listened. I heard a million spirits. The stones seemed to cry out to me of all the souls who ever stood before this wall weeping their cries saved inside these stones. I could feel the anguish. I can't explain the flood of emotion that overcame me but I sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn't contain my tears. I had so longed to reach this place, to touch these stones, feel them, be near them for an eternity. The release of emotion was too compelling. I couldn't stop myself. I don't know how long I stood there with my head buried in my arm as I leaned against the stones weeping.

(16) Anonymous, August 14, 2011 4:03 PM


Did you ask her why she was crying? If you weren't close enough, did you ask a woman you know to ask her and offer to comfort her?

(15) Cathy Vimpany, August 14, 2011 1:52 PM

I hear your cries and I sense your pain. However, dear ones, your God and redemption draw nigh. So many, there are, who love you and understand what you have endured. Hold on , Ha Shem is coming with His reward for His Inheritance, His People.

(14) Rachel, August 12, 2011 7:08 PM

How beautiful

As I found recently, sometimes crying in front of G-d can be the first moment you return. It take a moment of recognition to break down the walls between us and Him, and let the emotions pour forth.

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