Ra’anana Community Kollel
To Cry or Not to Cry
Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
Although Rosh Hashanah heralds the commencement of the Ten Days of Repentance, the Sages clearly tell us that it is not a time to engage in regular repentance. We do not discuss our sins on Rosh Hashanah, and we do not dwell on our past misdeeds. In light of this, the Poskim debate whether a person should bring himself to tears on Rosh Hashanah. Some maintain that crying is not appropriate on Rosh Hashanah, as tears are a clear expression of remorse over one’s sins. Others maintain that crying is appropriate as Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Ten Days of Teshuvah which reach their climax on Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashanah is referred to in the Torah simply as a Yom Teru’ah, a day of blowing the shofar. The Sages however, interpret the word teru’ah as crying, meaning that Rosh Hashanah is a day of weeping. In fact, all of the various sounds that we make with the shofar on Rosh Hashanah are expressions of different types of cries. We blow a sound resembling a moaning cry and one resembling a cry of alarm. If the Torah is clearly telling us that Rosh Hashanah is meant to be a day of crying, how can some maintain that one should not cry?
The answer is that most people cry either out of sadness or out of happiness, but to shed tears that are simultaneously tears of sorrow and joy is very difficult for us. However, the “cry” of the shofar contains within it both the teki’ah, which is a cry of joy and the teru’ah, which is a sound of sorrow. The Sages teach that the shofar cry must resemble the cry of Sisra’s mother when she cried while awaiting her son’s return from the battle with the Jews. As she was uncertain whether to cry out of joy, for perhaps Sisra’s delay was due to victory, or out of sadness, for perhaps his delay was due to the fact that he was defeated and either injured or killed, she cried both tears of happiness and tears of sorrow.
In a similar way, we are also unsure whether to cry tears of sadness or tears of joy on Rosh Hashanah. On one hand, we should be crying tears of happiness, as we are crowning G-d as King over the entire world, while on the other hand, we should cry tears of sorrow, as we have failed to reach our true potential as servants of G-d and therefore we tremble as our fates are being decided. But as it is so difficult for us to shed such complex tears, we offer up our cries through the blasts of the shofar. May all of the sounds of the shofar be accepted by G-d, and may we merit a good and peaceful year.