The Ocean of Tears, The Lake of Memories, and the Heart of Heaven

Tears are holy, and at the heart of Heaven, is the Ocean of Tears from Chassidic myth. Michael tends it, and I always grewing up calling it the Lake of Memories. Heaven is lovely, from Metatron’s library to Uriel’s beaches to Raphael’s nursery to the Tree of Life, but I have always found the Ocean of Tears to be the most holy of places, and it is the first place I met Michael at twelve. Neshama Carlebach set it to song, and I like to think the holy dead are on its shores. Scars like the Holocaust, which I as a German woman know all to well, and I like to think of the victims of it are in the forests and fields and beaches of Heaven, at rest with Adonai, at peace. The souls I have had the pleasure of meeting are, but there are tears in Heaven, and there is still sorrow even at the Heart of God’s Land.

“The time came when Reb Yitzhak died. His son Mendele kept expecting to hear from his father in some way, even if just in a dream. No message came so about a month after his father’s death Mendele went to visit the Kotzker Rebbe to ask why he had not heard anything. The Kotzker Rebbe said that he too had expected Reb Yitzhak to contact him from Heaven and when he heard nothing he decided to go to Heaven to find him. He looked in all the palaces in Heaven and found no Reb Yitzhak. Desparately he went to the angels and asked. From them, he learned that if he wanted to find his dearest friend, he would have to search for him in a dark forest at the farthest end of Heaven. He mustered all of his strength and entered the forest. Finally he came to the end of the forest and saw a huge ocean. Leaning on a walking stick, staring out over the vast sea, was Reb Yitzhak. The Kotzker Rebbe rushed to him, embraced him, and asked what was happening. Reb Yitzhak pointed at the ocean and said: “Don’t you recognize this ocean?” Kotz replied: “No, what is it?” Reb Yitzhak said: “This is the ocean of tears. In it are all the tears shed over the centuries by God’s Holy people, the community of Israel. I can not leave this dark place. I spoke to God about the countless people who’s suffering this embodies. When I left, I vowed to God that I would not leave this place until he has wiped away all the tears of our people!”

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