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What Is the Difference between the Gate of Tears and the Rest of the Gates?

Article No. 03, Tav-Shin-Mem-Tet, 1988-89

Our sages said (Berachot 59), “Rabbi Elazar said, ‘Since the day of the ruin of the Temple, the gates of prayer have been locked. Although the gates of prayer have been locked, the gates of tears have not been locked.’” People ask, If the gates of tears were not locked, why are gates needed, if they are not locked?

We see that when little children cry when they want something, or when a person sees children playing with games and one child snatches something from another and the child cries, when people pass by them, who pays attention to this? Everyone knows that although now they are squabbling, later they will make up. Therefore, no one pays attention to the weeping of children.

But when a grownup walks on the street and people see that he is crying, it captures the attention of those who pass by him to know why he is crying, because certainly, a grownup does not cry over nothing. Therefore, the crying of a grownup causes interest; perhaps he can help him.

It is likewise in the work. There are people who observe Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] with all the details and consider themselves complete and with fear. But since we must observe what our sages said, “Be very, very humble,” this causes them a lot of work since they must search within them for some flaw that will enable them to say that they are lowly.

For example, I heard of a person who asked a wise disciple how come he says that he is lowly and has transgressions, when he sees for himself that not many people in the world are as wise and God fearing as he. It follows that by saying that he is lowly, he is lying. He replied to him that he believes in our sages who said, “No person is saved from the dust of slander.” Therefore, he already has a flaw. A person like him, who knows about himself that he is a complete person, when he cries for the Creator to give him strength to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, is not crying over an essential matter—that the Creator will bring him closer to Torah and Mitzvot. Rather, he lacks some supplement to the completeness that he has. Although he cries bitterly, no one looks at his cries since he is crying over luxuries.

It follows that there are gates of tears before this person, but they are closed and do not let his prayer enter for the same reason as in corporeality, one does not cry over luxuries, but over necessities.

This is similar to the allegory about a person who came from abroad and went to a certain town or a small settlement. The secretariat of the settlement wanted to charge him, say, $10,000 in order to give him a place to stay at the settlement. But that Jew did not have the required amount. He went to the rabbi and poured his heart out. The rabbi promised him that on Shabbat [Sabbath], before the reading of the Torah [the highlight of the Shabbat service], he would speak to the congregants and they will certainly donate.

So it was. The rabbi raised his voice wailing about how a man tending to children came from Russia and suffered a great deal, now he has no place to live and no job, and we can save this person. The rabbi’s wailing impressed the congregants and they gave him the required sum.

Six months later, the rabbi came to the congregants once more and started wailing and crying out once more: “Compassionate Jews, now, too, I need $10,000. My wife was at a wedding and another rabbi’s wife came from America, and wore a diamond ring worth $10,000. Now my wife wants me to buy her such a ring, as well. The rabbi raised his voice weeping, but no one in the crowd would donate for the rabbi’s wife’s ring. As the rabbi began to wail more loudly, the crowd began to laugh at his weeping. He complained to the congregants, “Why when I came to collect money for an ordinary person, each gave according to his heart’s desire, and now that I am asking for money for a wise disciple, who is a rabbi, too, you are not helping me? Where is the glory of the Torah?”

The lesson is that when a person cries and his tears are over necessities, meaning that he cries out and wails to the Creator to help him be a simple person, not even a wise disciple, but simply a Jew who believes in the Creator, and to be able to observe “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul,” and that he will not be immersed in self-love, but wants to be a simple person, meaning to always want to love the Creator and not work for his own sake, yet he sees that he has no power to overcome the self-love, and everything he does is for his own sake, so what makes him be regarded as a Jew when he cannot even observe the Shema reading [a key section in every Jewish prayer], and when he says, “And you shall love the Lord your God,” he sees how far he is from it. He cries over this and sees that he has already done everything in order to be rewarded with anything that is true, and he has already been to all the gates with his prayer, but saw that all the gates are locked. Then, in his anguish, he begins to cry.

When these tears come to the gate of tears, he sees that this gate was not locked, since he is not asking for luxuries, for supplements to the possession of Torah and Mitzvot that he already has. Rather, he is asking only to be a simple Jew, to believe in the Creator and to love Him, and not be immersed in self-love. But since he cannot do anything for the sake of the Creator, he feels that he is simply not a Jew.

That is, he asks himself, “I believe in the Creator, and He is very great, yet He sees that I cannot relinquish my self-benefit before the benefit of the Creator.” Therefore, he yells and cries simply that he lacks faith, to truly believe in the Creator, and not as lip-service. This is similar to a person whispering that he is taking upon himself faith in the Creator, when in fact, he is not impressed when he says, “I hereby take upon myself the burden of the kingdom of heaven,” and he does everything for his own sake, and has no strength to work for the sake of the Creator. It is said that before such a person, the gates of tears were not locked, since he is asking for necessity and not for luxury, as in the above allegory about the wise disciple rabbi who asked to be given money for a diamond for his wife.

It follows that saying that the gates of tears were not locked, and we asked, “If they were not locked, why is a gate required in the first place?” The answer is that the gate of tears was locked before those who cry over luxuries. Their tears are as the tears of a child crying over nothing, or as in the allegory about the rabbi. This is not so for those who cry over necessity, which are things that concern every person who sees that he is standing between life and death, since he believes what our sages said, “The wicked in their lives are called ‘dead,’” since they have no Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator and are immersed in self-love, which is considered separation from the Life of Lives, and this is why they are called dead. It follows that he is crying simply to be given life. Certainly, one who prays for life, who is afraid of death, cries from the bottom of the heart, and his prayer is not mere weeping.

But on the surface, a person cannot tell if one is crying over nothing, the way children cry, or like the rabbi allegory. However, above, it is known what a person is asking for so that his request will be answered, since luxuries are not given from above, as he is certain not to keep what he is given and the Sitra Achra [other side] will receive it all. Therefore, if a person sees that his prayer was not accepted, he must go over the request that he is making and see whether he really needs heaven’s mercy, or if what he is lacking is a mere luxury. A person should believe that when he prays for necessity, his prayer will be answered, as was said, “The gates of tears were not locked,” when a person asks for his life to be saved and not to remain in a state of “The wicked are called ‘dead.’” Instead, he will be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator.

This is similar to what Baal HaSulam explained about the words, “When the gates of prayer were locked, the gates of tears were not locked.” That is, when were the gates of tears not locked? It is when a person has been to all the gates and saw that they were all locked before him. In that state, the wailing and the tears burst from his heart, when he sees that all the gates were locked and he has no hope of approaching the Creator. These tears cause the gates of tears not to be locked.

But mere tears, before a person sees that all the gates were locked, these tears cannot be accepted at the gate of tears. For this reason, before him, the gate of tears is locked, since he still does not have a real desire for the Creator to bring him closer. Rather, he thinks that he can approach the Kedusha by himself, as well. As a result, his prayer is incomplete, so he really needs the Creator to help him.

Accordingly, we can interpret what we ask (at the Yom Kippur closing prayer), “Open a gate for us, when a gate is locked.” We should understand why specifically when a gate is locked, we need a gate to open up to us. After all, we have been praying all day, so why is it not enough for our plea to be accepted, and we ask that only now, when a gate is locked, it will open for us, as though only now we can pray and before, our prayers were not enough?

The thing is that we should pray two kinds of prayers: 1) When a person comes to pray to the Creator for his needs, he still does not know what he needs. He might be crying bitterly to the Creator to grant his wish, but he is praying for trivialities, such as in the allegory about the children or the allegory about the wise disciple rabbi. Therefore, a person’s first prayer is that the Creator will let him know what he really needs, so he will know what to ask.

In the Rosh Hashanah [beginning of the year] prayer, and in the Musaf [supplemental] prayer on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], we say, “Be the mouths of Your people, the house of Israel, who are poised to ask for prayer and litany before You for Your people, the house of Israel. Instruct them what to say; make them understand what they will say; answer what they will ask; make them know how to glorify.”

It is known that in terms of the work, every person is a small world. Therefore, “Your people, the house of Israel,” means the person himself. “The messenger of Your people, the house of Israel” means that the person prays and asks that the Creator will save him. The one who prays is called a “messenger” for the person himself, and the person himself is regarded as “Your people, the house of Israel.” We must pray that our messenger will know what to pray for, since one does not know what he really needs. Rather, the Creator should notify a person what is important and what is unimportant, meaning what is regarded as necessity, and what is considered luxury.

This is why we are told to pray for those who pray, “Instruct them what to say; make them understand what they will say; answer what they will ask.” We pray that the Creator will let us know what to pray. At the time of the locking of a gate, we believe that we already have the knowledge, meaning we already understand what to pray for because we already know how to pray for the main thing we need.

2) At that time begins the second kind of prayer, where He sheds real tears, meaning for a real need. It is about this that we pray, “Open a gate for us when a gate is locked.” When a gate is locked, we believe that we already received the knowledge from above what to pray for. For this reason, we say, “Do not close the gate,” as though now, at the end of the day of all the prayers, we can ask on a real prayer.

By this we can interpret what we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, “And all believe that He answers the anxious, opens a gate to those who knock in repentance.” We should understand why we need to pray to open the gate if the gate is open. That is, why do we need to pray that He will open the gate if there is a very simple way—to shed tears in the prayer he is praying? It is known that the gate of tears was not locked, so a person has the option of crying and he does not need to ask for a favor, that the gate will be opened for him. Thus, why does one need to believe this, as it is written, “And all believe that He answers the anxious, opens a gate to those who knock in repentance”? After all, he has a good solution—that the person making repentance will cry with tears and that gate will not be locked.

However, a person must pray first, in order to know what he really needs. Then, he is notified from above that he does not need luxuries, but as The Zohar says about the verse “Or make his sin known to him,” the Creator makes him know the sin. At that time he knows on what he needs to repent, meaning to restore what he is lacking.

It follows that when a person knows that he is wicked, as in “the wicked in their lives are called ‘dead,’” when he has come to realize that the fact that he is placed under the control of the will to receive separates him from the Life of Lives, he knocks about this and wants to repent. That is, he wants to be given help from above so he can emerge from self-love and be able to love the Creator with all his heart. Thus, he feels that he is wicked, since where he should love the Creator, he loves himself.

It follows that his knocks, we understand that he does what he can to make the Creator bring him closer and take him out of the control of his own evil. This is called “real tears.” This is the meaning of what we explained, “Open a gate for us, when a gate is locked.” That is, since he sees that all the gates are closed, he begins to knock. It follows that at the time of the locking of the gate, when he has already prayed and was notified the reason for the sin, he begins to shed the real tears, meaning at that time he simply wants to be a Jew. At that time, his knocks are regarded as tears, and this is the meaning of “Who opens a gate to those who knock in repentance.”

Inapoi la pagina 1989 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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