An Excerpt from a Discourse Delivered by Maran zt”l in the Chazon Ovadia Synagogue in Rechavia, Jerusalem on the Night of Yom Kippur
It is quoted in the name of a great sage who made a play on words using the words of the Mishnah, “Did you tithe? Did you make an Eruv? Light the candle!” as referring to the Ten Days of Repentance and even Erev Yom Kippur having passed and now, it is time to light the candle of the soul! The Toldot Yaakov Yosef recounted that once, a cobbler stayed up very late fixing a pair of shoes. Someone told him, “It is already late!” He replied, “As long as the candle is still lit, it can still be repaired!” The rabbi derived a lesson from here and said that as long as the candle of Hashem remains lit within us, we can still rectify our actions through Teshuva!
Our Sages taught (Berachot 32b) that from the day the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, it as though an iron curtain stands between us and our Father in Heaven, as the verse states, “Even when I cry out and beseech, He has blocked my prayer.” Nevertheless, the Gates of Tears have not been locked, as King David said, “Hear my prayer, Hashem, and listen to my plea, do not be silent to my tears.” King David did not ask Hashem to see his tears, for Hashem always sees them. This is especially true regarding tears shed during the Neilah prayer of Yom Kippur, for at that time, Hashem sits and judges His children and if one cries and beseeches Hashem at that moment, Hashem will forgive him for all his sins, even the most severe.
It is recounted that in his youth, Rav Simcha Bunim, disciple of the Chozeh of Lublin, was a great merchant. He would open his store for several hours a day and spend the rest of the day immersed in Torah study. He became very wealthy in this way. Once, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, Rav Simcha Bunim went to visit his Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, to receive his blessing. His Rebbe told him: “Unfortunately, this year, you will lose all your wealth and you will barely have bread to eat.” Rav Simcha Bunim left a broken man.
On Yom Kippur as Rav Simcha Bunim served as Chazzan, he began imagining how it was that all of his wealth would be lost. He started weeping uncontrollably throughout all the prayer and he even swept along the congregation in his cries. After Yom Kippur, he closed his store and went to another merchant by the name of Tamar, who also had a big store. She hired him to oversee and manage her operations. After a month’s time when Rav Simcha Bunim saw that the business was growing by leaps and bounds, he came to his boss, Tamar, and requested ten percent of all future profits. She believed that this great success was due to the involvement of this righteous man and she agreed. A month later, the success was beyond imagination and Rav Simcha Bunim requested twenty percent. When Rosh Chodesh Shevat arrived, Rav Simcha Bunim thanked Tamar and told her that he would be leaving to restart his own business. He opened his store again and he was amazingly successful and became quite wealthy.
When he arrived at his Rebbe’s court on Erev Pesach, the Chozeh of Lublin told him, “Know that what I told you before Rosh Hashanah was entirely true. However, your tears were not part of the equation. Your tears pierced the Heavens and tore up the harsh decree!”
Indeed, the holy Zohar (Parashat Vaychi) states that tears can annul any harsh decree, for Leah was decreed to have married the wicked Esav. However, as a result of her copious tears, she merited marrying Yaakov Avinu instead.
Maran zt”l added that one should not only cry to Hashem for a source of livelihood, for this is tantamount to a child crying to his parents for candies and chocolates. Rather, one should pray to Hashem for anything one lacks and all of one’s shortcomings, for all the suffering one endures is because of one’s bad deeds, as the Gemara (Kiddushin 82a) states, “I have acted badly and blocked my livelihood.” As a result of one’s repentance and the tears that prove that this is coming from the bottom of one’s heart, the harsh decrees against one are annulled and these decrees are turned into decrees of mercy, for where repentant people stand, even the most righteous cannot. (Maor Yisrael, page 70)
May Hashem hear our prayers and seal us all in the Book of Life and Peace. Tizku Le’Shanim Rabbot Ne’imot Ve’tovot!