Ezra forced himself to go to the temple, but he could not go through with the ritual. Despairing, he rent his garments and his coat, threw himself onto the ground, and cried out in agony. Finally, he uttered a prayer that was also an accusation against the people of the land, as he had come to call them, those who had stayed behind and whose habits were so horrifying to the returning exiles.The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization
Apparently, when Ezra brought the Judeans back to Jerusalem after they’d been exiled in Babylon for a few generations, he was super upset that the Jews that were left behind in Jerusalem married and had children w/ non-Jews, and forgot to practice important religious traditions. Can you believe it?
I think that tearing your clothes (which were probably a lot harder to come by in 450 BCE) and crying out in agony is a dramatic way to react to people behaving exactly as you would expect them to. I bet he really got people’s attention though.