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    A time to weep – Chayyei Sarah

    Abraham weeps for Sarah, by Marc Chagall

    Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her (Gen. 23:2).

    The patriarch’s heart was torn, and he gave way to weeping.

    There is a lot of weeping in the Bible. There is a time to weep, says Kohelet (3:4).

    Cruden’s Concordance, first published in 1737, says, “The ancient Hebrews wept, and made their trouble to appear openly, in mourning and affliction. They were not of the opinion that courage and greatness of soul consisted in seeming to be insensible in adversity, or in restraining their tears. It was even looked upon as a great disrespect for any one not to be bewailed at his funeral…”

    Yet go back to Kohelet. There is a time to weep, so there must be a time not to weep. There are Biblical verses which actually command people not to weep.

    Many a time Israel is asked, “Why are you weeping?” Rachel, the embodiment of Jewish motherhood, is told, “Hold back your voice from weeping” (Jer. 31:15).

    It is natural to weep at tragedy, but there are times to move on from weeping.

    Weeping isn’t enough when there are things that can be done to ameliorate a situation. When there is an injustice, one should not just cry, but cry out and try to support the victim.

    When someone has died, sympathy requires not mere weeping but practical help for the family. When one is in distress, one may start with a good cry but should then quietly ask, “Is there a way out of the problem?”

    Even a Rachel who is weeping for her children can be urged towards faith and hope.

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