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The Ocean of Tears

Topic: Well Being | Posted:June 28, 2011

One of the gifts the month of Cancer is the ability to be sensitive towards the pain of others. Usually, when we see somebody else in pain, we try to help a little bit and then we stop. We say to ourselves, “There’s not much more I can do.” However, when a person takes on the responsibility of saying, “There is something that I can do to alleviate the pain and suffering in the world,’ and he goes out and confronts the suffering, then there’s no limit to what he will do or how much he will push himself.

Growing up, there was a story my father and teacher Rav Berg often told that shows us the importance of being diligent in awakening compassion for the world.

“The Ocean of Tears”

In ancient times, two great spiritual masters, who were best friends, made a deal with each other. They agreed that whoever passed away first would return to the other in a dream or a vision. He would let his friend know where he was and reveal the mysteries of the afterlife.

Many years went by, and then one of the masters died. His friend confidently expected that he would appear, as he had promised, but several weeks passed without any dream or vision. Concerned, the friend decided to visit the deceased master’s son.

“We had an agreement,” he explained to the son. “Your father would never break his word unless something momentous had occurred.”

The son said, “I was equally concerned because I too expected my father to come to me. However, knowing the secret art of transporting my soul to the supernal worlds, I was able to visit the Heavenly Court last night and ask what had become of my father.

The angels replied, ‘He was here, but he did not stay. He continued walking.’ I searched every region of heaven and asked the angels if they had seen him. In each place, they gave the same answer: ‘Your father was here, but he continued walking.’

“Finally, I came upon a man who was sitting at the entrance to a forest and I said, ‘Have you seen my father?’

He too answered, ‘Yes, he was here, but he continued walking.’ Then he added, ‘You will find him on the other side of the forest.’

“I trekked through the forest for what seemed like days, and finally I reached a place where the trees ended. Stretching out as far as the eye could see, there was a vast, heaving ocean, whose waves were as tall as mountains. My father was standing there, resting on his cane, staring at the ocean. I approached him and took his arm. ‘What are you doing here?’ I said. ‘We were all worried because you did not return to us in a vision or a dream. We did not know what had happened to you.’

“Without taking his eyes off the ocean, my father said: ‘Do you know what this ocean is, my son?’ I told him I did not, and he went on: ‘This is the ocean of all the tears of all the people of the world who have ever cried from pain and suffering. I have sworn before God that I will never leave this ocean until he dries up all their tears. That is why I have been unable to keep my promise.’”

We have to take responsibility for everything that is around us. When we do this, then we stimulate our desire to bring about change. If, on the other hand, we remain cocooned in our own world, emotionally isolated from others, it is impossible for us – and the world - to grow out of our chaos.

True compassion for the suffering of others drives us to continue our work until everyone is liberated. Like the spiritual master who would not budge from the ocean of tears, I challenge everyone to persevere in your determination to confront pain and death wherever it may be. If we are to flush out the chaos from this world, there must be no end to our willingness to help.

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