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Tears that Tear

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Tears that Tear

We are taught that tefila stands at the pinnacle of the world (עומדים ברומו של עולם) but people treat it lightly.[1] Why is the term עומדים used? What does it mean that tefila stands at the height of the world?


The Gemara[2] says that from the day the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, the heavenly gates of tefila were locked but the gates of tears weren’t locked. The Divrei Yoel[3] explains that when a Jew cries when davening, the gates are opened and the tefilos of all those that are standing at the height of the world enter. This is why it says עומדים ברומו של עולם because tefilos stand and wait to enter, waiting until the tears of a person opens the gates. This can be compared to a door of a public building that is locked where when someone opens it with the key, everyone that was waiting there now can enter.

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When the construction of the men’s section of the Belzer Beis Midrash in Europe in the 1800s was completed, R’ Shalom Belzer[4] did not allow for tefilos to take place there until the women’s section was completed as well. He explained that since it is only “the gates of tears are not locked,” how will their tefilos ascend. They need the tefilos of the women because they have a proclivity for tears. Their tears will open the gates for everyone’s tefilla to enter.[5]

[1] Brachos 6b with Rashi s.v. Devarim. A rabbi once said that if you never talk to G-d outside of shul then it will be hard to talk to him inside of shul and if you never talk to him without a siddur then it will be hard to talk to him with a siddur. The shul and siddur are there so that you talk to Him even when you don’t feel like it. However, that is not the most authentic tefila.

This idea can be compared to a husband that writes a letter to his wife on her birthday. If he writes a nice letter on a napkin, that will undoubtedly cause cacophony, as that is disrespectful. If he purchases a birthday card and just gives it to her with the printed wording it came with, that will also go by unappreciated because there was no heart in it as it requires his personal wording. It needs to be on a card along with his personal writing. Likewise, the siddur is akin to the card (the universal, timeless template) and adding your personal tefila to it is like your wording on the card.

[2] Brachos 32b.

[3] Eikev, p. 67. Also quoted in the Beirech Moshe, Vayishlach, s.v. ויתבאר. R’ Baruch Ber Leibowitz once received a slap from his father. In the middle of his crying he went to daven Mincha. When his father asked him why he went to daven amidst his tears, R’ Baruch Ber answered, “since I am crying now anyway, I may as well use the tears for davening.”

[4] R’ Shalom Belzer, the first Belzer Rebbe, personally helped build this big shul. Dedicated in 1843, the building resembled an ancient fortress, with 3-foot-thick walls, a castellated roof, and battlements adorned with gilded gold balls. It could seat 5,000 people, and had superb acoustics. It stood until the Nazis invaded Belz in late 1939. Though the Germans attempted to destroy the shul, first by fire, and then by dynamite, they were unsuccessful. Finally, they conscripted Jewish men in forced labor to take the building apart, brick by brick. The Belz Beis Midrash in Yerushalayim today is an enlarged replica of the structure of this Beis Midrash of R’ Shalom Belzer. Like the original shul, which took 15 years to complete, the Belz shul in Yerushalayim also took 15 years to construct. It was dedicated in the year 2000.

[5] At the outset of the war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022, R’ Levitansky, a Chabad rabbi of a small city in Ukraine, related the following incident. A Ukrainian Orthodox priest that he knew told him that he tells his community that the miracles we are seeing (referring to the fact that the Russian army didn’t completely decimate Ukraine in the first few days of the war) are miracles that occurred only in the Bible. And the reason why we are seeing such miracles is only because the Jews around the world are praying for us.

Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français

Author of Four Books including the recently released “Amazing Shabbos Insights”

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