For these things I weep; my eye, yea my eye, sheds tears, for the comforter to restore my soul is removed from me; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed. (Eicha 1:16)
All the prophets do not prophesy whenever they desire. Instead, they must concentrate their attention [upon spiritual concepts] and seclude themselves, [waiting] in a happy, joyous mood, because prophecy cannot rest upon a person when he is sad or languid, but only when he is happy. (Rambam- Hilchos Yisodei HaTorah 7:4)
Here we have a living breathing contradiction. On the one hand, the Rambam tells us that for a person to achieve a prophetic state of mind he must be, “in a happy, joyous mood, because prophecy cannot rest upon a person when he is sad or languid, but only when he is happy.” The Book of Eichah, which we read on Tisha B’Av, was written by the Yirmiyahu not with historical hindsight, but rather with prophetic foresight.
While he is envisioning and prophesizing about the tragic events that would befall the Jewish People and all the terrible experiences surrounding the destruction of the 1st Beis HaMikdash he should have naturally fallen into a depressed state. That would have immediately interrupted the joyous state of mind required for prophecy and his ability to continue reporting on the future should have ended there as well. So how come that wasn’t the case here!? We see that he wrote the entire Megillah in a continuous state of prophecy.
This is a brutally true story. I was a witness to much of it! A friend, Reuven, years back was seated at the Pesach Seder, when his wife noticed something unusual on the neck of her nine year old son, Pinchus. She quietly pointed it out to her husband and after Yom Tov they went to the doctor. The doctor was alarmed by what he saw and he sent them for further tests to a specialist. The tests revealed the worst possible conclusion. The next few months were a medical nightmare for Reuven, his wife, and of course Pinchus. He ended up in the hospital in an increasingly serious condition. Reuven stopped whatever else he was doing to spend his all of his time and energies to be with his son and find a cure. He told me that he would stop off every night on the way back from the hospital and speak with Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl, the Tzadik of Monsey. He told me that Rabbi Schwab would give him encouraging words and then make some referral to another possible medical approach.
Reuven’s wife, while she was sitting that fateful night at the Pesach Seder, was six months pregnant. Three months later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The condition of their son Pinchus, in the meantime was deteriorating. Eight days later, while Reuven and his family were preparing for the Bris of their new child, they received the terrible news from the hospital. That Pinchus passed away. In the morning they made a Bris, celebrating the entry of this Jewish child into the covenant of Avraham Avinu, and in the afternoon, they buried their nine year old son Pinchus. I remember thinking that only HaKodesh Boruch Hu could have arranged that both doors of life be opened at the same time.
At the burial, Reuven, a big man, was held up by two Rebbeim, but at one point when the shoveling was concluded they thrust him forward to speak. He lifted his voice like a wounded beast and cried to the heavens, “Pinchus Pinchus I did everything I could for you!” Then he had to be held up again. Later at the Shiva he told me that now he understood why Rabbi Schwab was giving him medical referrals rather than empty promises. He knew that things don’t always turn out the way we want and we need to be able to say we did everything we could. No one can afford to be haunted by thoughts of “If I had only…”
The Chazon Ish says that for one person to possess in his heart both the extreme level of joy required for prophecy and at the same time to feel profound sadness is not a contradiction. I’m thinking, a negative prophecy, the Rambam tells us, as we see in the episode of Yona, does not have to be fulfilled. Maybe people will get the message and change. So Yirmiyahu, to forestall tragedy, was busy doing everything humanly possible.