LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. Psalm 88:1
There is a Jewish song about a Holocaust survivor who lives alone in poverty, widowed and childless. As the story goes, the woman had plenty of reasons to cry and be depressed, but she never let herself. She maintained that "God's love is but hidden, in time we'll know why, but today there is no reason to cry."
The ballad continues to tell how one Friday, she had no money to buy food for the Sabbath meal. Still, the woman covered her table in a white tablecloth to honor the holy day. All she could afford was a small candle so that she could fulfill the commandment to light the Sabbath lights. She lit her candle with great joy and recited the blessings over it, but a gust of wind blew through a crack in the window, extinguishing her candle. The Sabbath had begun, so she couldn't rekindle the flame. The woman was crushed. She fought the tears but a small teardrop escaped from her eye. It trickled down her cheek and dripped onto the candle - causing the flame to miraculously reignite.
Now the woman really couldn't hold back her tears. They burst forth like water through a broken dam. She cried for the light rekindled by her tear, but mostly she cried out the pain held in for so many years. The song concludes, "God's love is but hidden, in time we'll know why, but the Heavens had told her it's all right to cry."
In Psalm 88, the psalmist cries out in pain, bemoaning the fact that he was alone, in danger, and nearly out of hope. However, unlike most other psalms that start out bleak and dreary, there is no turn-around by the end of this psalm. King David usually ended his psalms on a hopeful, even joyful tone, even if it began otherwise. But this writer ended just as sad as he had begun. The last verse reads, " . . . darkness is my closest friend" (v.18).
The message we can take from this psalm is the same as the one in the story it teaches us that it's OK to be sad and it's all right to cry. God doesn't ask us to keep our painful emotions pent up inside. Rather He wants us to turn to Him with our troubles. God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him knowing that He can save us.
Next time life gets you down, turn it into a time to grow closer to God. Cry out to Him and tell Him all your sorrows. Not only is it all right to cry, but crying out to God makes us all right again.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President