This week I have been thinking a lot about crying – tears of joy, tears of grief and tears of confusion.
When the outstanding English women’s football team (the Lionesses) won the European Championship last Sunday, I was moved to tears. I felt like it was a wonderful moment for England, a wonderful moment for women, a wonderful moment for football and, actually, a wonderful moment for the whole world. For the first time it seemed that women’s football was being accorded the same importance and respect as Men’s. The sheer joy and disbelief on the faces of the Lionesses was a wonder to behold.
Earlier on Sunday I attended a pilot meeting of a group of men who are trying to set up a Jewish Men’s Group called “Get Men Talking”. The aim is to create a space for Jewish men to have meaningful conversations about the challenges they face in life, and to enable them to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and share their emotions and feelings. The type of feelings that are normally kept hidden out of shame or fear of being judged or seen as weak. Too often when men get together, they feel they have to default to “safe” topics such as business, football, politics, golf etc etc.
Too many men end up suffering from depression, anxiety or even taking their own lives because they don’t feel they have a space to say what they are really going through without judgement. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. Compared to women, men are three times more likely to die by suicide We want to end the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and help men through the power of conversation.
During the meeting I sat in a circle with 13 Jewish men of all ages. The youngest was 19 and the oldest was a retiree in his 70s. One of the questions we were asked was:
“When was the last time you cried?”
You could see the looks of concern and anxiety on some of the faces (including my own) as we thought about how to answer that question and how truthful we wanted to be. I have always found it difficult to cry because I grew up in a culture that very much gave me the message that “Boys don’t cry”. I know there have been times when I have wanted to cry but my defence mechanisms kick in and do all they can to prevent it.
This coming Sunday (beginning Saturday night) is the fast of Av. It is a time for mourning and crying. Our religious path mandates this as a time for us to cry. We are commanded to cry! We mourn on this day for all the tragedies that have befallen our people throughout history. We read the book of Lamentations (Megillat Eichah) that begins with crying:
Alas! Lonely sits the city, Once great with people! She that was great among nations, Is become like a widow; The princess among states, Is become a thrall.
Bitterly she weeps in the night, Her cheek wet with tears. There is none to comfort her Of all her friends.
And we are also invited to cry for the brokenness and loss in our own lives, the unfulfilled dreams and the paths not taken.
So please, do join us in our Edgware building on Saturday night, Sunday morning or afternoon, and you will have a safe place to share your tears.
When was the last time you cried?