Megillas Eichah

In Eichah 2:19, Yirmiyahu exhorts: “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart before Hashem (נוכח פני ה') like water. Lift up your hands to Him over the lives of your young children, who are fainting with hunger at the head of every street.” I present here a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on this verse.
Our Prophets and Sages told us that there is constant lamenting in the heavens over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the expulsion of the Jewish People into exile. This prompts us to ask: Why do the angels’ prayers and laments over the destruction and exile fail to help? Why doesn’t Hashem bring us back from captivity and re-establish the Beis HaMikdash? Why doesn’t Hashem answer the angels’ cries?
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. The prayer of main importance is the one we offer, and the prayer the angels offer is only an accompaniment. In this vein, the Gemara states that the ministering angels do not give forth song in heaven above until the Jewish People give forth song on earth below (Chullin 91b). Our song is the primary song. The song of the angels above serves only to beautify and uplift our song, so that it may rise up and gain Hashem’s favor. Similarly, the prayers offered above serve only to add beauty and splendor to our prayers, and to raise them up before Hashem. It is like bringing an offering to a mortal king in a pristine vessel: the prayers of the angels are just a receptacle for our prayers. Hence the prayers of the angels have no place until we pray first.
Thus, in the episode of R. Yose in the ruin (Berachos 3a), R. Yose did not hear the cooing voice from heaven until after he entered the ruin to fulfill his own duty of prayer. Only then was he enabled to hear the heavenly prayer. Only then did Eliyahu HaNavi come, as the Gemara recounts, to tell him what the Hashem exclaims hour after hour.
This insight serves to strengthen our hearts. We must not give up praying. We must not wonder whether our prayers are able to accomplish anything. We need only begin, and then the prayers offered in the heavens above will come to support us. This is reflected in the expression נוכח פני ה' in our verse. The word נוכח bears the meaning of opposite, which we can understand as meaning parallel. Yirmiyahu is telling us that our prayers should parallel those offered in the heavens above in content and form. We should pray over the destruction and the exile, for this is what they are waiting for in the heavens above.
I add here a thought from the Mabit in Beis Elokim, Shaar HaTefillah, chapter 17. We know that in past generations, many great tzadikim mourned over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and prayed fervently for its rebuilding, but the Beis HaMikdash was not rebuilt in their time. We might ask, then, given that we are of lower spiritual caliber than these great tzadikim of the past, how could our prayers be of any benefit. The Mabit gives two answers. One answer is that as we get closer to the final deadline that Hashem has set for the rebuilding, it becomes easier for us to hasten the rebuilding through our prayers. The other answer is that since the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash is such a major event, a large accumulation of prayer is needed to bring it about. Every prayer counts toward the necessary total, and when the total is reached the redemption will come.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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