The Tears of the Oppressed

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Re'eh 5771 Translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Many times I have encountered poor, suffering people, and my heart bleeds for them. I’m not talking here about those who suffer from injustices committed against them by evil people, but about those born with impediments that torment them. I am filled with resentment and anger over this. Why do these people deserve such suffering? I know I cannot receive an answer to this, but this is not my question. Rather I want to know if the very emotion I feel is legitimate. People have told me that it shows a lack of faith. After all, “G-d is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works” (Tehillim 145:9). If so, how dare I complain! Rather, I should remain silent and accept everything.
I do not understand this argument. Is it natural for me to complacently observe my fellowman’s suffering without feeling any resentment? Have I no heart? Have I no feelings?
Answer: Your feelings are justified and do not, G-d forbid, constitute heresy. Rather, they result from your honesty. King Solomon wrote long ago about the “tears of the oppressed” (Kohelet 4:1), and in the Zohar commentary, “Saba DeMishpatim” (Shemot 113:1), a very weighty claim is advanced for various types of oppressed people. Obviously, “The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a faithful G-d, never unfair” (Devarim 32:4). Yet since we do not understand the secrets of His behavior – “For My plans are not your plans” (Yeshayahu 55:8) – it is permissible for those oppressed people to weep.
Following is the Zohar: “‘Behold, the tears of the oppressed’ – all of the oppressed pour out tears, stating their case before G-d.” The Zohar elaborates on various types of oppressed people:
1. A boy thirteen-years-old and one day, sentenced to death in Rabbinic court for his sins, despite his being considered an adult for only one day, making him like a one-day-old infant. Despite his newness as an adult, the court can theoretically execute him. We will not pause to analyze this example. Rather, let us suffice with the Zohar’s conclusion: “Here are the tears of those oppressed. They have no comforter.”
2. A person who is classified as a “mamzer”, the product of an incestuous relationship. Such a person is outside of the fold. He cannot wed, although he certainly is not guilty for his parents’ sin. He is poor and unfortunate. He pours out his tears before G-d and complains, “Master-of-the-Universe! If my parents sinned, what sin did I commit? Surely my own deeds are reputable.” Of him it says, “Here are the tears of the oppressed. They have no comforter.” In other words, there is no answer to his argument, and there is no comforter and there is no
one who can say a word in response.
3. There are other oppressed people, and they are infants who died in their mothers’ arms, causing all mankind to shed tears for them. There are no tears more heartfelt than those, for all mankind wonder to themselves, “G-d’s justice is the truth, and it follows the path of truth, and here you have these poor infants who didn’t sin. Why did they die? Where is the truth in G-d’s justice here? Certainly they have no comforter.”
As noted, at first we know that G-d’s judgments are truth, but we do t understand why, and we cannot sense why. Therefore, there is no comfort for our tears. In the future, however, we will understand, and we will have comfort.
The World-to-Come is not like this world. In this world, we say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” over good news, and “Blessed is the true Judge” over bad news. In the World-to-Come, however, we will say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” even about bad news (Pesachim 50a).
Yet in the meantime, we are in this world. We do not understand and we cannot intuit the truth. We have complaints about the tears of the oppressed, and we have no answer. And we believe in G-d, and we love Him and cling to Him.