tears crying

Tearing Up

by Dr. David Sanders

“Tears are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis, intractable resistance short-circuited.”


The quote is from a photograph book of tears taken by Rose-Lynn Fisher (The Topography of Tears). It is common knowledge, but perhaps a myth, that tears taste different depending on their “source”. What Fisher was curious about was how tears, in reaction to differing circumstances  (joy or sorrow, empathy or overwhelm, or due to an irritant), look visually different, which they do.


Next week we will be celebrating as a community the 18th anniversary of Kabbalah Experience. In the count up to this day there have been many joyous reconnections and heartfelt remembrances. There will be tears that evening I am sure; sweet and bitter. One week ago I received an email from a long-time student who was letting me know how excited she was to be coming to our event. The very next day I called her and was devastated to learn that wasn’t to be. One moment full of life, a far cry from mortality. The next moment, an alarm of uncertainty, the wail of sirens and a torrent of tears.


Science has yet to provide an explanation for tears. It appears that amongst all the animals, only humans shed them as an emotional response. In Hebrew, the word for the human eye is Ayin עין which is also the word for a well dug in the ground for water. The Kabbalists saw in this double meaning a parallel between the unseen water underground and the unseen reservoir of tears coming from the depths of our soul. Whether from overwhelming joy or anguishing sorrow, tears well up and flow out of us and we feel the “spilling over into our consciousness.” With sadness it is often a rough topography and a torturous necessary climb. With joy a smoother terrain, a more ecstatic ascent. May we merit the words of the psalmist who provided us with the hope that seeds watered by our tears will be harvested in joy.


If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself. Call 9-1-1 if you need immediate assistance.

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