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Sorrow's Song

Sorrow's Song


Can you hear the song of sorrow? A chorus, a refrain, a solitary voice that emerges from the perpetual rhythm and pulsation of your life?

Can you let sorrow simply be, as a poem simply is? Or a painting? Or a sunset? Or a memory, a scent, or a cool breeze?

Will you allow sorrow to simply exist as part of your life, adding fullness to your voice as it chants praises to G‑d or expresses love to your beloved who has miraculously emerged when loneliness seemed your unremitting destiny and now you crave to express your gratitude and include the depth of isolation from which you have been saved?

Need sorrow be pain, or does pain only come from resisting the flow of sorrow as a natural consequence of love and the temporary nature of all things that insists on bringing loss as part of life? Thus sorrow need not be a punishment nor consequence, but simply a part of life. It comes only from the privilege of having loved and rejoiced in a world in which all things pass. Without resistance, life’s richness and beauty are enhanced not because of sorrow but as a complement to it, as colors have complements simply because of the way G‑d created the world — a way that seems to hold much beauty as well as its opposite and other things as well.

And beneath the wail of sorrow, can you hear the drum beat, the rat-a-tat-tat that signals our continual march with time — the march that makes heroes of us all as we walk in step to the rhythm — the rhythm of our own lives that reverberates against the perpetual and dependable rhythm of life itself, a rhythm that is the foundation of life and existed long before life presented itself for our participation and examination?

Participating in this march, with sorrow and much more as our companions, makes our lives heroic. In spite of, because of, or together with our sorrow, we continue to love and to reap, to harvest and bear children, to rejoice in life against a sometimes barren background of rock and dust and pounding sun with no tree in sight, no water nor shade and yet, feeling the pulse of life, while knowing its sorrow, we continue, with strength and courage and occasional collapse, to discover our destiny among what seems to be the chaotic, random and sometimes violent happenings of life.

Does sorrow need purpose as defined by us? Or does joy? Does love need such definition or explanation? Must we deny ourselves the fullness of life and of G‑d’s creation and continue to question His choice of color and harmony? Can we, instead, drop to a deeper plane and allow ourselves to know even a fraction of the depth and complexity of life as G‑d has created it?

Can you hear the song of sorrow? Shhh. Simply listen to the rat-a-tat-tat of your life, listen again to a deeper resonance that comes below even this. And know that beneath and containing sorrow there is a deep, constant, rich, melodious tone — a Source — defying judgment and classification — from which the sun rises, water bubbles from the spring, birds sing when the clouds part, lovers whisper their endearments, and mystics know G‑d.

Jay Litvin was born in Chicago in 1944. He moved to Israel in 1993 to serve as medical liaison for Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl program, and took a leading role in airlifting children from the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; he also founded and directed Chabad’s Terror Victims program in Israel. Jay passed away in April of 2004 after a valiant four-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their seven children. He was a frequent contributor to the Jewish website
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Anonymous August 13, 2004

Thank you, Jay. Life is always so different, in a good way, whenever someone (myself included), doesn't question G-d's 'choice of color and harmony.'