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The Power of Our Tears

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Credit:Olivier Fitoussi

Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. — Genesis 29:17

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayetze, which means “and he left,” from Genesis 28:10–32:3.

Most of us were taught from a young age that crying is a sign of weakness. We might have been told to be strong and to hold back our tears. But as I learned from my father and other people that I admire, the ability to shed tears is a sign of strength. When we cry before God over what truly matters, the power of our tears can change anything.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the matriarchs Rachel and Leah. Scripture tells us that, “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel… was beautiful.” The Jewish sages explained that Leah’s eyes were weak from crying because she knew prophetically that her cousin Esau was destined to be her husband, while his younger twin Jacob was intended for her younger sister Rachel. Each couple was destined to give birth to six of the twelve children that would form the nation of Israel.

However, Leah also knew that Esau was a wicked man. He was unfit spiritually to be a patriarch of Israel and certainly not the man she wanted as a husband. So, from the time that she was young, Leah cried about her fate. She cried for herself and for her future children — and while she cried, she prayed that God would change her destiny.

Tears a Sign of Strength

God saw Leah’s tears and He heard her prayers. As a result, He determined that Leah would become Jacob’s first wife even though Rachel was more beautiful and beloved. This is the astounding power of tears. Leah’s “weak eyes” were actually a sign of great strength. Through the power of her tears, she was able to alter history and change her life.

According to Jewish tradition, the “Gates of Tears” are the only gates to heaven that are never locked. Even today, we possess the same immense power that Leah harnessed in her own life. We, too, can cry out to God with prayerful tears in order to change the course of our lives and greatly affect the entire world.

We must never underestimate the power of our tears. As one rabbi put it, “The Gates of Tears were never locked. What a shame if no one bothers to walk through them!”

Your Turn:

Whenever you feel moved to tears, turn your heart to heaven and turn your tears into powerful, life-changing prayers.

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